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, wow...it brings so much more meaning to what we are reading and experiencing.