Footsteps of Paul

Before our final dinner together in a sixth century cistern restaurant, we gave thanks for a wonderful 3,200 mile (San Diego to New York) pilgrimage through Turkey, exploring the footsteps of apostles Paul and John, learning about the context of the early church and the impact of the early church fathers. 

It was a very special meal of Turkish food, laughter and stories. Pilgrimage in community is a powerful experience. We marked our days with prayer, scripture, sharing insights, traveling light, open to what God has in store for us and acknowledging those times of providence where we just happened to be there at just the right time and place. 

Amy and I thought it was awesome to be in Istanbul for our third time -- ferrying up the Bosphorus, crossing under the Sea of Marmara by metro, walking through the crowded streets, marveling at the sights lit up at night and sampling the baklava and dolma mussels.

I love introducing people to Istanbul because it is such a surprising city of contrasts. We saw a young, tall female guide with sunglasses and jeans leading a group of conservative Muslim women in long coats and scarves. The skyline includes ancient city walls, skyscrapers, and domes mosques.  Street food of roasted corn and chestnuts are on every corner.

Most importantly for our trip, this is where New Rome (Constantinople) became the seat of Christianity for 900 years. And Turkey is the seedbed and launching pad for the New Testament church.

•Many of the cities where Paul planted and encouraged churches were sophisticated centers of commerce, religion and power. 

•John's Revelation for the seven churches may have been as impactful to the first and second century church as the 1,000s of miles Paul travelled. 

•His heart as a pastor and the real life circumstances of the seven neighboring churches grounds his vision for hope and encouragement. 

•The terrain and number of miles Paul travelled was remarkable. 

•Paul's courage to proclaim boldly the simple message that Jesus died and rose again in the face of tremendous Roman power and spiritual opposition. •The early church was faithful against those same powers to be the authentic church, filled with the spirit, loving one another, their neighbor and their enemies.

•Church Fathers grappled with deep   theological concepts in the 4th century, shaping the foundation of orthodox doctrine.

•In Ephesus as few as 5% were free citizens and Paul's message of hope and freedom in Christ was great news to slaves who would be set free and redeemed.

•Turkey is a beautiful country.

•Baklava is amazing. 

We saw so much, and yet we just scratched the surface. Just as archeology is always discovering new artifacts, each visit to Turkey uncovers something new. The apostle Paul traveled to great cities with good news about a Savior and Lord who was not Caesar. Against the power and wealth of Rome, the imperial cult and persecution, the gospel survived and spread. 


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