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Showing posts from April, 2014

Pisidian Antioch, Hieropolis, Laodicia and Aphrodisias

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We continued across central Turkey through valleys and farmlands, mountain ranges and lakes, exploring the ancient ruins of cities Paul visited.  
Pisidian Antioch is the first place in Asia Minor where Paul's preaching is recorded (Acts 13). We stood among the ruins of a 4th century church built on the sight of the synagogue where he shared the new and good news about Jesus.
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus." Acts 13:32-33
Many believed, but the Jewish leaders rejected them. This is the earliest example of "first the Jews, then then Gentiles."
It was all about breaking down walls of separation, welcoming the outsider, expanding comfort zones and being open to the new thing God was doing through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
It was a cold and windy day (we dressed for Sun), which made for a brisk, invigorating walk through the city where Paul and Barnabas were rejected bu…

Galatia

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We journeyed five hours today from Adana through the Taurus Mountains and the Cilician Gates, northeast to Konya, ancient Iconium in the province of Galatia. These steep hills were Paul's only land route between Cilicia and Galatia.

Along the way we stopped in Ulukisla to see a carvansaray, the three day way station for Silk Road caravans. But it's Monday and we crashed the bazaar. You'd think we were Martians. 

"Hello. Where are you from?" "California." "Oh, Americans!" 
What a surprise, and what beautiful produce and smiles.

Paul wrote his first letter to this region of Galatia, to the believers in Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. He was incensed about their following a different teaching and adamant about living by the spirit and not by the law. Circumcision, the major identifier for God's people, was the focus of Paul's letter.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith express…

Antioch

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Father Domenico carries on the 2000 year old tradition of the house church in Antioch where followers of the Way were first called Christians. A Franciscan, he has served as parish pastor 25 years, following a 20 year ministry in Smyrna at the Church of St Polycarp. 

He opens the courtyard doors to welcome all to explore the Christian story through paintings on the wall: Jesus died and rose again; we celebrate The Lord's supper in remembrance of Jesus' death; and the annunciation (also in the Quran) tells of the word of God, and giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. 

It's his joy to tell the Christian story in a majority Muslim country. "Dialogue and respect is the fountain of peace."
Against convention his Catholic Church has Vatican dispensation to celebrate Easter on the same day as the Orthodox Church. Both churches coordinate mass so believers can attend both. Icons are hung on the wall out of respect for the eastern traditions.

They are just a sliver of the p…

Tarsus

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We left Cappadocia and crossed the Tarsus Mountains through the Cilician Gate--a natural faultline which serves as the passage from Syria and the Mediterranean coast to Galatia. I was excited to experience this geographical aspect of Paul's journeys.

The rugged terrain of 13,000 foot peaks looks daunting. We passed through in our air conditioned motor coach, but Paul walked. No wonder he traveled with companions who could help defend from wild animals and thieves.

Paul's hometown of ancient Tarsus is mostly covered over by modern Tarsus, except for a portion of the main Roman road, Cleopatra's Gate (where she met Mark Antony) and Paul's Well, which is supposed to be the well in his childhood Jewish neighborhood. The well is 85 feet deep and still produces clean drinking water.

We took surprising detours: pictures with a bride and groom, tasted the pickled red carrot juice (that looks like it should be sweet), and local sesame cookies. We visited the Tarsus American Coll…

Cappadocia

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Amy and I have traveled to Turkey twice before, but this is our first time leading a group into Cappadocia. 

What an amazing way to start our 14 day pilgrimage on the footsteps of Paul. It feels like we're in a different world. The landscape is more like the moon or a scene in Star Wars. 

Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks all passed through and conquered. First century believers returned here after Pentecost and Peter wrote his first letter to encourage them in their persecution and suffering.
In the fourth century, Simon devoted 42 years of his life in isolation on top of a fairy castle, seeking time alone with God. People brought him food and were drawn to his way of life and stayed. The soft tufa volcanic stone allowed for monks and whole communities to create monasteries and homes hidden inside whole mountains. 
We visited a handful of those 365 churches (one for every day of the year) that once existed in the Goreme and Zelve valleys.  It strikes me that carving cave space…

Reflections on Palm Sunday

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(Guest Blogger Tom shares his reflections on Palm Sunday with words and pictures--he has a great way with both. th2hombre.com
I am such a knuckle-dragging Christian.  I revere Easter, and know that as night precedes the dawn, Palm Sunday precedes Easter by exactly one week.   But somehow or other this morning, I went to church clueless that today is Palm Sunday.  The day the Jesus entered Jerusalem astride a donkey, proceeding over branches and palm leaves, fulfilling the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. This is the beginning of Holy Week, or Semana Santa in Spanish.   
This morning's realization that this is Palm Sunday overtook me like a blessed breakthrough in the clouds, a fresh and gathering tailwind, a bouquet of sweet chaparral along a rough hilly trail. I've had a glow inside me ever since.  
And in the bargain, I've been chrono-transported to a Palm Sunday I relished four years back on a Cirrus getaway trip we took to Alamos, in mainland Mexico.  My wife an…

The Surprise of Love

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Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends... Love one another as I have loved you." John 15:13, 34

"There's a surprise inside," Amy said as she slipped the ring on my finger. Later, on the way to the reception I read "John" and wondered if they got the wrong name... Then I realized Amy had picked a verse for us, one that would challenge us for the rest of our lives.

Lay down your life... 

That verse has become more and more real to me as the essence of marriage, and the essence of life as a follower of Jesus. It's not a sentimental or sappy love, it's sacrificial. It's costly. It's not about me, but it's about living like Jesus.

As I have loved you...

Work hard to love each other, and love like Jesus? It's sacrificial, blessing, giving up something special, humble. It's building a bridge of friendship, compassion, hope.

For a church, it means caring for each, encouraging, li…