Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Jesus Christ Himself is the Chief Cornerstone..."

What an amazing day we had...not only was the weather partly sunny and warmer, but the ruins we saw today in Ephesus equalled the number we had seen in total all week long.  Believe it or not, only 10% of the ancient city has been excavated, because of the lack of finances.
Ephesus was the crowned jewel and capital of the Roman province of Asia, and had the primary seaport of the region (think NYC).  The streets were lined with temples...the most famous was THE temple of Artemis (largest building in the Greek world), one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, now reduced to a lone pillar.  I was thrilled to hand a tract to a man at the site,  who was actually selling the same idols that the silversmith in Paul's day would have!  The sea, in that time, flowed up to the temple, but has receeded 2-3 miles.
Ephesus was the first of the seven churches to receive a letter from John, where a 30 ft wide stone paved and pillar lined road lead from the city to the sea.  We could just envision Paul walking those streets, praying for strength as he encountered opposition.  The main part of the city contained a theatre that seated over 24,000 people.  Our group of 800 were privileged to experience a non-denominational communion service in the very place where Paul's companions were dragged during a protest by Demetris, the silversmith, because his livelyhood creating statues of the gods was being threatened...The crowd shouted for two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians"...and it was here that we prayed and sang praises to the God of the Universe!!  Paul himself was prevented to enter by friends for fear of his life, because had told the people that these idols were not gods at all.  Thousands of people burned their idol worshipping belongings, in response to Paul's teachings.  He spent over two years here, making it his home base during his 3rd missionary journey.  The Apostle found opposition here like no where else...he mentioned being "pressed beyond measure".  Ephesus represented the pinnacle of Paul's ministry...his best season ever.  The Gospel went throughout Asia from here.
Aong with the other standing structures, was a stadium, the famous library whose facade is well known in history books and tourist guides, the agora, baths, and even terraced apartments for the weathy.  John brought Mary, the mother of Jesus here during the persecution of Jerusalem, and she lived out her days in Ephesus.
Timothy, during a procession for Artemis, courageously protested to the crowd, and was dragged away and beaten...he died soon thereafter.  John assumed the duties of elder/leader, and wrote his 4 epistles in this city.  I John pleads with the Ephesians to love one another...little did he know that a few years later, he would be writing from Patmos, giving Christ's Words to the church, commending them on their knowledge of doctrine, and protecting the flock from false teachers, but was reprimanded for "losing the love they had at first" for one another.  There was need for balance, and John had the sensitivity to speak out.
As I wandered away from the ruins, with the buildings of antiquity in pieces before me, I recalled the words of Paul to the Ephesians in chapter 2, verses 20-22.  "Jesus Christ...the chief cornerstone, in Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord...a dwelling place in which God lives."  Will our lives be built on Christ, and stand the test of time, or will it crumble as the temple of Artemis?  Who is your "Chief Cornerstone?

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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel