Today was an incredible day. The theme was restoring identity.
We began in Aphrodesias, a city dedicated to Aphrodite. This city had a huge Sebastion with 180 5x5 depictions of emperors and gods in stone. It told of an identity found in power and control. Walking around the city, we saw many things built to honor Aphrodite, her temple being quite central. Here, Aphrodesians had everything: a giant pool for relaxation, a temple for Aphrodite, a giant stadium, a theater, wealth, and influence. They were clearly proud to be Roman. As we sat in the stadium (that is about 8 football fields long and holds 20,000 people), we talked about running the race with endurance and finishing well. We know there is a cloud of witnesses cheering us on to continue on in our pursuit of Christ and holiness. To demonstrate this, one of our guys was asked to run the full length back and forth. As he did, we cheered him on to the end. Though at first he had speed and was confident in his ability, as he neared the finish line, the exhaustion he felt was clear. That was when we cheered the loudest, pushing him to finish well and encouraging him to keep going. It was an incredible picture of what it is like to run our race set before each of us.
We moved on to Philadelphia, another church of Revelation. This is not an archeological site, but a city built over where the original site. There is a small block of small excavations where a 5th century church was, but other than that, no real way to know exactly where this church was. Philadelphia was the only church to receive only commendation. This city changed its name three times, was forced to move locations, and forced out of their jobs by Emperor Domitian’s order to burn half their vineyards. This city was struggling to maintain its identity. Yet, the church was steadfast in their faith. Though they were heavily persecuted here, they did not sway. Jesus tells them they have the name of God sealed in them and give them citizenship. He promises to fill every one of their needs. The church with no influence, money, and a lot of trials was the one Jesus encouraged. However, the one in Laodicea had everything it could ever want, but they did not pursue Christ the way they were called.
I wonder which church we are like?
Featured Signature Tour
Sep 3-14, 2023
Experience Israel for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.