Sunday, April 29, 2007


The following will speak for itself.

Tilman & Suzanne Geske and their three children

A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna
Dear friends,

This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, "Goodbye, son. I love you."Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well.

They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study. None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would concludewith their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord's presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as "seekers." No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts?
Today, we only have the beginning of their story.These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of "faithful believers" in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it's like a fraternitymembership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.The young men got guns, breadknives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o'clock.They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman's hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours*[Details of the torture-- * Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugur's stabs were too numerous to count. They were disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed. Fingers were chopped off, their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open. Possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured. Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.]Neighbors in workplaces near the printhouse said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.

Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. "We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there," he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone's background weeping and a strange snarling sound.He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, "Police, open up!" Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for thepoliceman, who entered to find a grisly scene.Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur's throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equalfooting as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targetted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public's attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to "buy their children's souls". Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked ("grinste") as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom ofreligion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, "We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here."It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras asher son was going to prison and said, "he will serve time for Allah."The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensivecare. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that "it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian." In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.Necati's funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.Necati's funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati's wife Shemsa told the world, "His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ. Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor."Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati's funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them. In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. "Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do," she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, "She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do."The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city.

The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead theleaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)
When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." (Acts 17:6)Please pray for the Church in Turkey. "Don't pray against persecution, pray for perseverence," urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya .all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong.We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.We don't know the details. We don't know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (24 April 2007)

Monday, April 16, 2007


I'm tired. It's a good tired, but I'm tired nonetheless. This has been the busiest four months of ministry I've had in several years. I've been with several you will know from the blog world. I've been in church meetings with Wade Burleson, Kevin Bussey, and Art Rogers, along with a number of churches and pastors you would be just as privileged to know. I've done four day conferences on renewal, week-end family life conferences, multiple day staff retreats on principles of staff relationships, and finally, a three day pastors conference in Denver next week as I preach a four day meeting at Arapahoe Road Baptist church for the fifth year in a row. It has been extremely enjoyable for me and, I trust, for the churches also. A measure of genuine renewal has taken place often. Not everytime, but often, and, I'm tired.

For the next forty days, ending around our forty eighth wedding anniversity on May 28th, I'm not going to post on my blog, prepare a sermon, write on any theological issue, debate any Convention problem, or generally do anything that smacks of my work. My tank is empty and to refill it I will need to do something exactly opposite to what I do in ministry.

I AM going to work my office into shape, [I've built a new office in my back yard] clean the garage and attic, take several friends to breakfast on me, [Chuck, Rick, Bob, Rob, Dennis, and others] take Mary her first cup of Starbucks coffee at her office each morning, [Her office has been moved to one three times bigger than where she was.] take her to lunch every day, and read lots of fiction books and very few theological ones.

I'm going to get my motorcycle ready for a two thousand mile trip the latter part of June, clean my truck up, and generally do little of any consequence to anyone except me personally. [It's not like I expect this to matter but to a few friends who read my irregular blog anyway.] That sounds like a bit of heaven to me right now.

Then I'll be ready. Ready for what? Anything. Blogging. Teaching. Going back on the road. In other words, I will have my tank refilled and ready to go. This is something I've learned through the years and, while pastors can't take forty days every year, perhaps they can take a couple of weeks and do the opposite of what they do in ministry. It's good for the long haul. It lightens the load and retreads the tires. It is just plain fun. I'm doing it again, and, at my age and station in life, I can do it a little longer. Growing older does have its perks.

I have followed the formula of diverting daily, withdrawing weekly and abandoning annually for several years now in order to keep things perking spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. [With Mary and others.] In other words, to avoid burnout. Burnout happens. Even/especially to ministers. The formula works. I'm sane, [I think] I enjoy life. Mary and I still fight but the real passion is used other ways between us and we're still together. I recommend that formula. I'm at the abandonment phase for 2007. That He is my life and rest is understood. This is just one of the practical ways He keeps me in the reality of His Grace.

At the risk of being blatently self serving here, if you have a need in your church or people for a specialized time or intensive teaching in a particular direction such as their walk with the Lord, family relationships, [marriage/parentings skills] prayer, warfare, or any aspect of the grace life that forty years of pastoring//learning/teaching would give some degree of insight into, [Perhaps more from failure and learning than anything and perhaps very little insight into some things.] let me know. I'm not an evangelist in the popular sense. I'm an evangelist to the evangelized. My message and ministry are for the building of the saints...of all ages. If you need this kind of thing let me know.

Were you to desire to check out my methods, morals, or message simply e-mail any of the above mentioned men I've been with, OR, go to [Disregard the beard in the's long gone.] and see the possibilities. You COULD call Mary and ask her. You'd get the REAL scoop that way. You can e-mail me off that web-site if you're convinced I'm OK. It would be a personal delight to be with you. My calendar is NOT up to date at all, [and it won't be until AFTER the forty days]] so some dates [few] are already taken for the fall. But I'll bet we could settle on a date and, by the way, you can do that during the forty days since I'll still be checking my e-mails daily. I don't want to cut myself off from civilization.

But the meeting time will need to be the summer or fall as the next forty days are SCHEDULED. I'm going to take the time off. Why? I'm tired. [I think I've already mentioned that] :)

Paul Burleson

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Ben Cole has a great post up on his blog "Baptist Blogger." Ben Cole puts up a lot of great posts. I like Ben Cole. One may not agree with everything he says or the way he says it, but, one never has to wonder what he thinks or what he means. I like that too.

Someone might say..."yeah but, he has an ax to grind." Who doesn't? There are those grinding the anti-pentecostalism ax, the pro-baptist baptism meaning done by a group that holds to eternal security ax, and let's not forget the how much a church has given the cooperative program ax. I've got my own ax, or two, or three that I grind occassionally...or often. Whether or not one sees something someone says as "ax grinding" generally relates, I'm beginning to think, to how much the one reading agrees with the one writing. Like I said, I like Ben Cole.

What I like about his post, however, is his clear understanding of the difference between our beloved nation and our beloved bible. The two don't go together like love and marriage as he clearly articulates. He gives his reasons. I agree.

And...I want to add some personal observations. I think we are most fortunate to live in the good old USA. I'd fight for her and die for her as many have and are now doing. They are heroes to me as a citizen of this nation. I love them. I love our flag and our beloved Constitution.

But I don't love America because she is a "christian nation." She isn't. There were many of her founding fathers who were believers. Some were not. In fact, there is only one christian/holy nation on this earth today and it isn't Israel or America. It is the nation of 1 Peter 2:9. It is the Church. She is the ONLY holy nation on earth today.

That doesn't negate my love and appreciation for my country any more than it did Paul the Apostle when he chose to use the Roman laws as a citizen. It just enables me to keep a clear distinction between her and the Church of which I'm also a part and will render allegiance to both in a godly way.

Our nation was founded on common law which had it's genesis in England. It was originally based on natural law and certainly reflects the nature of God to the degree it can. But to say our nation was founded on the Bible, as some in our day do say, is to misunderstand the uniqeness of the political and the spiritual. It is good for any nation to adhere to common law/natural law in my books. This simply means our statutes are to be drawn from interpreting what has been seen in common law as valid and restating those conclusions without creating new offenses or beliefs.

Natural law, for example, has shown and, in fact, has been codified in our Constitution, with the idea that life is sacred. "All men are created equal...and have been endowed with certain inalienable [transfered] rights." Can't get more sacred than that.

Robert Bork was correct, in my view, when questioned at his failed confimation hearing, when he said that Roe vs Wade made a "right to privacy" statute lawful that was not originally codified in our Constitution. [Thus the far left waged a campaign out of fear he would reverse Roe vs Wade that resulted ultimately in the defeat of his appointment.] But it left out, he said in effect, the "created equal" principle that IS inherent in that document. I don't know where Bork falls on abortion,I can guess and I agree I'm sure. But, I know where he falls on common Law and natural law and I agree there also. But it is our Constitution based on common Law interpreted for our nation, that is our guide. May we return to the Constitution for the political well being of our people.

I believe many mistakenly see our founding fathers as christian when some were and some were not. But they DID see common law/natural law as the basis for our society. The God of the Bible is revealed partially in that politcal/philosophical premise and I'm grateful. But the God of the Bible is only fully revealed in Christ and His Cross. That is what makes one christian.

I would say our nation does not now nor has it ever embraced the Christ of the Cross. So I and all other believers will present the gospel to our nation as we would were we to be living in England or Spain or Russia or any other nation so that her people might turn in repentence and faith to the Christ of the Cross.

We in America can also be grateful for our heritage based on natural law which reveals much of the nature of God codified in common law and ultimately in our own Constitution. What a great system we have. But we must not confuse this with biblical christianity.


Monday, April 02, 2007


I don't do a lot of just personal stuff but will today. This past week-end I had a rare open date in my schedule and was thrilled that it coincided with the fortieth birthday/anniversary of Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas where Mary and I were privilaged to serve as pastor for several years in the late 70's-early 80's. We were invited back to share in the celebration and we had the opportunity to hear Dr. Carroll Marr, the present pastor, preach the morning message. He is one of those rare pastors that is NOT intimidated by former pastors, in fact, uses me to fill his pulpit often when he's on vacation and he knows I'm free. He and his wife are two of the better leaders in any church anywhere.

There was an all afternoon Saturday reception for former staff and members with some pictures, displays and historical items of days past. The church was formed by a merger of two congregations, Westcliff and Evans Ave. Both pastors stayed to serve the newly formed Southcliff with Frank Minton of Evans Ave. serving as Senior Pastor and Frank Moore of Westcliff serving as Co-Pastor. This was, as you can imagine, a very innovative step for that time. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea in certain places today.

Southcliff was then served by Daniel Vestal, who was and to this day is, a very dear friend of mine. I followed Daniel and I was followed by Dr. Hal Brooks who is now with the Lord. Then came Charles Stewart and finally, some nine years ago, Carroll Marr.

I have to say that it was a good bit more fun than I felt it could be. The Sunday morning service was a GREAT celebration of those forty years and Carroll's message was a REAL challenge to make the future just as innovative and risk taking as the past had been. His passage was Matthew 28:19-20 the commission to all of us. It was a unique look at the birth/life/death cycle of not only people but churches. He showed how that decline/death cycle can be turned around to new life and growth when people are willing to be innovative and willing to take risks trusting God's empowerment for the task. Southcliff is already doing that under his leadership and I see nothing but real growth in their future. What a blessing to see.

As I've reflected on the week-end, one comment made to me stands out for this post. One of the ladies there those many years ago and still actively involved, as was/is her husband, said this and I'll try to quote it to get it before you. "The staff [present staff at Southclif] is so unified it reminds us of when you were here and everyone could see how much you guys loved each other and served each other as well as the congregation."

It got me to thinking. Were I to have to choose the biggest blessing of my fifty years of ministry, forty of which were spent in the pastorate, I would say it WAS staff relationships. I'm going to name some people who served with me at Southcliff as an example and, for those left out, know it is only the length of this post that won't permit listing all.

James Robinson, pastor of First Baptist, Durant Oklahoma was a youth minister at Southcliff with me. Dave Clippard, the Executive Director of Missiouri Baptist Convention was with me as Evangelism pastor. Rick Shephard, now with the Florida Baptist Convention, was with me. Ric Hunt, Charles Starnes, Mike Carlisle with NAMB, Jeanette Travis, Tommy Snelen, [who is also with the Lord now] and the list could go on.

Why list people on staff? To make this point. These people are family. These relationships go on today. They are as important to me as my family, because, in a real sense, they are my family. Were I to need them or they me, a phone call/e-mail would be all that is necessary for that need to be met. I remind you, these people have not been with me in a church setting for over twenty-five years.

But in honesty I must admit the greatest pain /disappointment I've faced in all these years of ministry is ALSO staff relationships. I've faced failure with staff that ranges from strife-gendering to adultery and almost everything in between. It is certainly true that a staff cannot lead a fellowship to where they ARE NOT. So it is obvious something happened with some that did not happen with others. Some shared a common bond that, for whatever reason, some others could not/ would not share. What is that common bond?

I boil it down to four attitudes to which a staff must be committed. Those are a positive attitude, a loyal attitude, a servant attitude, and a respectful attitude. It is the willingness to embrace these attitudes and hold each other accountable for them that enabled the relationships of the staff at Southcliff , and other churches we served, that have lasted through the years, to be what they are today. It is those attitudes that the woman was remembering, without being able to articulate them. And I might add, those attitudes are present at Southcliff today as well.

One of my real blessings of ministry today is passing those attitudes along in principle form, with definition, illustration, and biblical foundation, in pastor's conferences, church conferences, staff retreats, and other times. These have always been well received and, it appears at least, a real help in the present day, but the point of this post is, to go back to the place it all came together was a week-end worth celebrating.

Happy birthday Southcliff Baptist Church and many more to come for you and your fine pastor, Dr. Carroll Marr, and the great staff that serves with him there. Thanks for the invitation.