Friday, May 30, 2014

Churches of Revelation....Divided or Having an Open Door

It was another beautiful morning that we woke up to. Some of us have been quite tired and struggling a bit with jet lag but it is so all worth it! :) There is time that we can rest on the bus between drives to the 7 churches. On this day we are visiting three.

Our first stop is Thyatira, the divided church, the church that was more tolerant than God (Revelation 2:18-29). They were tolerant of all sorts of teachings and the acceptance of sexual immorality...sounds like the church of today. Again there was so much that we learned from this church....and remember, the church is not a building. These letters were not written to a building but to the people in this area but they also speak to the churches of today. God knew exactly who He was talking to when He gave these letters to Jesus who had given them to the Apostle John to write....both then and now. Only Jesus has the right to say what is wrong or right and the church is God's church. Here in this church, Jesus commended their actions but He corrected their doctrines. The church is always tempted to compromise but we need to repent of it and stand strong in what God stands strong in. As we stood here and looked at the few ruins left, we were also encouraged by words of Jesus in this letter...."hold on to what you have until I come..." What promise that yes He is coming back and we are to continue to follow Him with great affection and conviction and love...until He comes again. Amen!

When we arrived at our 2nd stop of the day, that's not always including our washroom breaks :), we saw that Sardis, the dead church, was much more excavated once again. It seemed ironic to me that the churches that did not receive the most encouraging letters were the ones that 'appeared' more glorious and had been more preserved. Doesn't that say something about this world to you? I know it does to you....but I know we haven't seen "the best one" yet as I've heard it to be said that Laodicea is the 'icing of the cake' of the 7 churches and that is the church that God said he would spit out of his mouth because they were lukewarm....but we will get to that one yet, first we will focus on Sardis, the dead one. The synogogues ruins here were beautiful and the auditorium was large and standing strong. It was neat to see the village and the different shops that we could imagine through these ruins. Jesus called this church to repent, this church had a reputation of being alive but they were dead, and if they were not alert, He would come like a thief in the night. We were encouraged that a few had not defiled their clothes and they would walk with Him in white because they were worthy. Oh Lord, may we be worthy and not defile you and just as You told these few followers in this church, that their names would never be erased from the book of life....May it be said of us as well.

We were told to keep our expections very low for the Church of Philadelphia as there was very little left of this was the least 'glorious' in the worlds eyes today and we didn't spend much time here because it was not 'worth' to see. Oh but isn't that the way of God, choosing the 'the least of these' to be most powerful and lifted up. This church didn't give up or give in, it was the church of the open door and Jesus knew of their works. They had limited strength but had kept the word and had not denied His name, they had stood strong to the very end and Jesus only had words of encouragement for these people. In 1342, Philadelphia was the last church to fall of the 7 churches. They refused to compromise, tolerate, become dead to the word, deny Jesus or be legalistic or dry or false. History tells us that they were slaughtered in their own church, they were murdered within its own walls because they refused to deny Christ. Oh the Devil has done such a horrible thing in Turkey, it is one of the least Christian places on earth. We need to pray for the Christians here and pray for more workers to be sent out into the field here, and also pray for those who are planting churches here. Right now we don't find a whole lot of believers in Philadelphia. It was over 1,200 years ago here that the church was devoted, they stayed faithful and they kept rebuilding after every earthquake, and they kept planting other churches. May we take that example, may we keep rebuilding and never giving up or denying Christ. When Jesus told this church that He would open a door that no one could shut, it speaks to me of how this church planted churches all over, even in India - one of the first churches there. No one has been able to shut the doors of the Christian church from the very beginning..amen!!! I also found it precious that a dear elderly man takes care of the gardens here all by himself and so when he came out to sell us some books and postcards, I had no problem purchasing some from him. Bless his heart for caring for this place on his own.

Our next stop was at Colassae, where nothing remained here but the sign and the cold water stream. It was still wonderful to be here as it was a place of much significance. Paul had taught here as well and had written the book of Collosians to the church here. We have much to glean from this book in God's word as well. This is also where the cold water was brought up to Laodicea, but it was lukewarm by the time it reached to that place, so it was great to see and stand In the stream for some on the tour. I didn't :) cause I was busy taking pictures and eating fresh mulberries off the mulberry tree. :) Yes! A mulberry tree...we even sang the we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush... :)

Before arriving at our gorgeous hotel, we hopped off the bus to see this amazing site of a 'snow white' covered mountain. :) Hieropolis is an amazing sight and a unique place of pools of water and hot springs which turn the hillside white. Wow!! The next day we got to go way up there but for now, we stood here just to take in the sight. This is where the hot water was brought from to Laodicea, and of course by the time it got there, the water was lukewarm. Such significance!

Well my friends, I don't have time to post pictures right now, but I will post some hopefully from the cruise, as well as get caught up on the couple of days that I am behind in writing this blog of our journey. :) Gotta go have breakfast and catch my cruise....Whoohoo!!!!....and I will have to post photos at a later date too...

.....but as you can see now, I have posted pictures for you :)  The wifi has been not good at the hotels and very slow, but now that I am in Athens, sitting at a sidewalk coffee shop having some down time, I can catch up with posting photos and blogging :)  SO nice!!!   And the cruise was cool too....LOVED going to Patmos and Crete and Santorini!...and I will tell you more about that in a couple of blog posts...first I have to tell you more about this Hierapolis place and Laodecia...  :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Churches of Revelation.....Dead or Alive

It was a more restless sleep and I knew I was highly anticipating the next part of this journey. I have been waiting for along time to come here and I could write a whole lot about the time with each of these places but it will take up too much of your time and I do not have the time at the end of each long day. :) Perhaps at a later date I can go into more depth but right now I will give you a brief overview of these churches with some photos. We had long driving times between each location but so much to see along the way. My eyes got tired at times but I was too afraid of missing something and really did not want them to close. :) I love watching the people, being in a different culture to learn and to deepen my level of compassion/love for those who are different than me. It helps so much to know the history and to understand where others are coming from to see what is going on today. Being here and seeing these churches has helped to do this.

Pergamum was our first place we visited and after the long drive, we had to take a cable car up to the top. It was full of ruins of altars/temples where many gods were worshiped, no wonder Jesus refers to it as where Satans throne is. As beautiful as the area was, this was a dark place and I felt the heaviness of it and it made me weep. The events that happened here were horrific, how could they not be when God is not a part of it. But the letter to the Church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-18) has hope...there were a remnant of those who held on to Christs name and did not deny their faith. This hope was shown in the abundance of wild flowers that were growing on the hillside and in the rocks. No matter how dark a place is, or how dark a place you have been, there is always hope found in Jesus, who gives new life to anyone who seeks Him. Today there is no church in this whole surrounding area so we need to pray for the people here. Jesus is calling people to repent and to turn to Him and to accept His love, forgiveness and gift of salvation and eternal life.

Smyrna was our next stop and Jesus had many encouraging things to say to this church. He knew their affliction and poverty and those that slandered them (Revelation 2:8-11). But He did not want them to be afraid. This applies to us today very much!  He called them to be faithful until death and He would give them the crown of life. Today, the church here is still alive and growing. We drove by the one where Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church gave a sermon on this letter to the church in Smyrna (which is modern day Izmir) and we visited the old church of Polycarp which has survived many earthquakes. It has incredible paintings in it and is standing strong. It was such a blessing to be here and to read Scripture and sing in this beautiful church. Polycarp is such an incredible example for us today to not deny Jesus and to stand strong until the very end, even if it means death, because beyond death we know there is new life in heaven.

It was a full day with much emotion and much blessing! From the beginning of the day when we got on the bus and began with a devotion and a prayer to the end of the day with Scripture, song and prayer. So much that we learned from these churches, from the people around us on this tour, from our guide and bus driver and from the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God does come ALIVE and when we read it on these sites, brings so much more meaning to what we are reading and experiencing.