Sunday, June 30, 2019

Persevering in Pergamon

While my posts up until now telling about the early church study tour we're on might lead you to believe that there are only ruins in Turkey, I assure you there is more here than that.

Yes, despite the prevalence of Turkish coffee here, Starbucks has infiltrated the market! And yes, our bus made a stop here this morning.

Believe it or not, I wasn't in the mood for it and settled for a lemonade instead. 😃

With a couple of hours on the bus today before our first sightseeing stop, we got started on what will be an ongoing event the rest of our trip: the telling of our stories!

While we all know certain people on this trip, there are others that we don't know as well, and there are people that don't know us well! So it was fun to be the first ones up today, as the Patty family, telling our stories of who we are, how we came to faith in Jesus, and what our life looks like today!

Finally we arrived at our first location: Pergamon.

A powerful ancient Greek city (remember, that Ancient Greece had quite a far reach!), it was the northernmost of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation.

We first visited the Pergamon Asklepion  another word we keep encountering on this trip!

This asklepion was one of the most important healing centers, with baths, temples, a theatre, a library, treatment centers and latrines in its heyday.

They offered many different treatments, including mud baths, the use of herbs and ointments, enemas and sunbathing. Patients walked through this very tunnel to their sleeping quarters.

We gathered under the trees for today's teaching on the topic of "The Gospel under Pressure".

Imagine the Gospel being proclaimed in this place, where healing was done in the name of other gods? Can you imagine the pressure those believers were under? One of the things Dave talked about is how it's not our job to change the culture we're in, but rather that you stand your ground and not succumb to it.

The believers in Pergamon were under the pressure to compromise morally, as well to compromise in accepting unbiblical teaching (see Revelation 2:12-17).

He led us in thinking about how we are constantly under pressure in these areas as well, and that the key is always following God, entrusting ourselves to His Word, and being quick to repentance when we fail! When we do that, God will strengthen us and give resources to help us stand firm.

Yes! This is how I want to live!

Today is SO windy, yet sunny so you have to hang on to your hat here!

Again it's crazy to think that these healing centers, temples and gods that were once worshipped have all gone away. But the one true God has not!

We took a break for lunch and headed into the modern day city of Pergamon, named Bergama.

After lunch we tracked down coffee as I was finally ready for it. Guess what kind of beans they were using? 🤣

Couldn't get away from Starbucks after all! It was lovely to sit in the town square though with these two!

After lunch we headed up to the ancient city of Pergamon in a small gondola.

In this very spot was the Pergamon altar, which was unearthed in the 1800's.

Want to know what it once looked like up here? I've seen this in Berlin at the Pergamon Museum!

While those ruins aren't here today, there are some other fantastic sights up here...including these two cute ones! 😀

Claire with her goddaughter, Ginger

The spectacular centerpiece of the acropolis of this ancient city, is its theater. Built with seventy-eight rows of seats and divided into three horizontal seating sections, it is the steepest theatre of the ancient world!

It's hard to comprehend from a picture just how very steep it is.

Maybe this picture will give you a little bit better view! Imagine the labor it took to build this.

Rather than take the gondola down, we opted to hike it on this gorgeous warm day.

While I definitely feel respect for how these ancient cities were built and run, there's also a sobering impact on me as we see temple after temple, and hear about god after god who was worshipped by many instead of the Living God.

I'm thankful that believers before me paved the way by their courage, fortitude and perseverance to spread the Gospel. That is what we all strive to be about today!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Prevailing Faith

From the grounds of Ayasuluk Castle above the city of Selçuk, we gathered late this afternoon for teaching time with Dave.

Not only are we above the city, but from this vantage point we could see one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis.

Can't see it so well? That's because there's not much left of it!

If you look very closely you'll see a column to the right of the road. And if you "fill in the blanks", this is what it might have looked like in ancient times.

Believe it or not, this is a miniature replica of it at a park in Istanbul!

First built sometime in the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC), it was destroyed and rebuilt twice after that, and would have been standing during the rise of the early church.

In fact, the temple was mentioned in Acts 19 by a worried silversmith who thought there was danger to it because of Paul's proclamation's of Christ and how many were beginning to follow Him!

It is absolutely fascinating to me that despite all of the people who worshipped gods, goddesses and idols back them, and how prevalent that was, JESUS CHRIST PREVAILED!

So today, here we sit above the RUINS of that temple, studying the Bible and our God who is STILL alive and working today!

Today's topic was the Gospel and Relationships, written by Paul to the Ephesians, who lived just down the hill from here.

Dave went through the three pairs of relationships in Ephesians 5:20 - 6:9.

Husband/Wife: love and lead/submit and respect.
Father/Children: don't anger and bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord/honor and obey.
Master/Slave (or in modern terminology, employer/employee): lead in service to Christ and treat them kindly/obedience with a whole heart, as unto the Lord

I listened to this teaching through completely different ears today, understanding in a new way why Paul would have included this in his letter to the early church of believers in Ephesus.

Paul wanted them to know of the riches that they had in Jesus! He first talked about the blessings that were theirs (and ours!) in the spiritual realm in the first three chapters, and then focused on the blessings in the physical realm in the other three.

When you know the context of what you have in the spiritual realm, it makes a difference in how you relate to others in the physical realm, and that above all, we should follow these commands of responsibility because of what Jesus has given to us in the spiritual realm.

Now this teaching has an incredible "memory peg" for having heard it in the place where the people lived who received Paul's letter telling it to them!

We made our way over to the Church of St John, located up here inside the castle walls.

Once a grand church, built in the 6th century, it was in honor of the Apostle John, who is thought to be buried here.

He's not buried right here exactly! This is just a baptismal that was in the church!

After John's exile to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation, he returned to Ephesus and lived out the rest of his days somewhere near here.

What an incredibly moving day, to be in this place where so much history of the early church took place.

It's also sobering to see how little is left today of vibrant Christian faith like the early church experienced and lived out.

However, Christian faith has persevered through the years and never been snuffed out! Even though there is just a tiny population left in this country, may there one day again be a vibrant and true witness to the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ!

Afternoon Break

After experiencing the amazing ancient ruins of Ephesus this morning, we were ready for a break and lunch in Selçuk.

But first, a walk through the marketplace!

I'm not an expert in tomatoes, but I think these are pretty good looking ones! I said to someone that I was walking with, "What I'd give to come do my fruits and vegetable shopping in this market!!"

Our wonderful Turkish guide, Aydin, led us to this restaurant run by friends of his.

He's been guiding for 25 years and has made friends everywhere in the process! We were the ones to benefit from his expertise knowledge as he explained what was on the "menu" at his friend's place!

Starting with appetizers of vegetables of all different sorts, we could have been satisfied with just that for lunch!

But, for me, the best was still to come! My very favorite: lamb shish kebab!!

If I'd had room in my stomach, I would have had another round of what was on that plate! 🤣

But I settled for another walk around the market, totally satisfied with my favorite lunch so far!

There was SO much to be seen and experienced in this market. But for me, I could do all of it just with my eyes.

Plus, when the sign says, "Genuine fake watches", it didn't make me want to buy anything! HAHA!

Next time around though, I just might have to buy a fresh lemon to stash away for some good lemonade!

Amazing Ephesus

Heading across the way to breakfast, I was thinking curiously about what the first full day in Turkey held for us!

We're staying in the city of Selçuk because it’s the gateway to the ancient city of Ephesus!

Arriving early on this hot June morning, we headed into this ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC!

There are so many new words I'm already learning on this study tour of the early church; words like "agora" are becoming commonplace! What is the agora?

It was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is "gathering place" or "assembly". The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life in the city.

While there is much to be seen and understood here, for now I'm just soaking in the fact that these are truly ancient ruins that have existed for a very long time! Excavated in the mid 1800's, here you can see the original white marble of the agora from 2000 years ago.

We saw so many other fantastic ruins that were unearthed, such as this theatre where government meetings were held.

The darker stones were reconstructed to show what it would have looked like in ancient times.

But then, we rounded the corner and I literally felt like my breath was taken away.

To say I was surprised at the enormity of this ancient site hardly captures the reality of seeing it in person! I had no idea at all that this existed!

Imagine unearthing all of this, as John Turtle Wood (a British architect, engineer and archeologist) did in the mid-1800s!

The magnitude of Ephesus is quite stunning as you walk from ruin to ruin, seeing the extent of this city that once held perhaps as many as 225,000 people!

Today its only residents are cats. Lots and lots of them!

We continued down the marble road, and got our first glimpse of the famous library of Ephesus,  completed between circa 114–117 A.D. Built to store 12,000 scrolls, it also served as the burial place for the Roman Senator that it was built to honor.

Before heading to see it, we took a left and headed into another fabulous site: the terrace houses.

This is an unbelievable complex of houses built 2000 years ago!

These luxurious residential villas occupy an area of about 2500 square meters and consist of private houses, built on three terraces. The most prominent building is called a domus that is a villa inhabited by wealthy individuals and several houses belonging to the middle-class citizens. The beginning of the complex dates back to the first century AD, and the houses were inhabited until the 7th century AD.

This is the ultimate puzzle for someone who loves that kind of challenge: putting together the marble that once adorned these walls!

This complex is truly mind boggling. Not only were there spacious living areas, beautiful mosaics, and hand crafted art that was found, but also plumbing for running water, and bathrooms equipped with bathtubs! This was ancient day luxury at its finest.

When we asked what kind of people would have lived here, our guide, Aydin, said that for sure it would have been those involved in business ventures as they were the wealthy who could have afforded such luxury.

All of this has been put under an enormous covering in order the protect it, and allow for continued excavation and exploration of this amazing sight. Honestly, this was simply amazing to see and we are all in awe of this incredible ancient city.

The interior of the library of Celsus was likely destroyed in an earthquake and fire in 262 AD.  But it's remarkable that some of it is still here to see today!

Dave began to read in this spot from Ephesians, Paul's book to the believers in this city, sent by him when he was first imprisoned in Rome. Amazing to think he knew this very spot!

As if I hadn't seen enough, we headed down the way to one last magnificent sight here in Ephesus.

This is the very place where Paul was seized, after he'd proclaimed that the people of Ephesus were worshipping gods made by human hands (Acts 19:26). The silversmith, Detmetrius, who made silver shines of Artemis (one of the main gods being worshipped there) called together the people to protest against Paul who has convincing large numbers of people to follow Christ.

Imagine Paul somewhere down in front as 25,000 people chanted "Great is Artemis of Ephesus!" The Bible says Paul wanted to address the crowd, but his disciples wouldn't let him (for sure they feared for his life).

A rational man, a city clerk, quieted the crowd after two hours of chanting and said to them, "Fellow Ephesians, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her imagine, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash..."

He went on to say that there was really no reason for the rioting, and that if they truly had a grievance that they should take it to the courts. He dismissed the crowd, and Paul, after encouraging the disciples there in Ephesus, went on his way to Macedonia.

Seeing this place with my own eyes, the pressure and setting Paul and the early church lived in the midst of, was eye opening. It was NO SMALL THING to proclaim the one and only living God in a place where many gods and goddesses were worshipped.

It was no problem to proclaim another god. It was a HUGE problem to proclaim that all those gods were in fact idols, and that there was only one TRUE God.

What Paul and the early believers did in this place is nothing short of amazing! They stood firm in their conviction and faith that there is only one God to be worshipped - the living God in three persons!!