Today was quite cool compared to what we have experienced so far. We hit 39C one day in Israel compared to around 20C today. A nice break. And then rain! It rained on and off all day, especially at the end of the day. We actually saw a little town flooded waist-high on our way back to our hotel with people scrambling to divert the water coming down the mountains. It kept us from doing everything on RVL’s list, but it was still another high impact day.
We started in the ruins of Priene, a city not far from Ephesus that I had never heard of and is never mentioned in the Bible. But the site was remarkable for a number of reasons. And because it’s not a major site, it gave us plenty of time to linger in the main parts of the city.
Priene was known for its beautiful temple to Athena (pictured below), built by the same architect as the Parthenon, and so we learned a lot about ancient temples and temple worship. Then we discovered that this was also the place of one of the earliest Christian house churches. A missional community. It was both inspiring and convicting to think about this little community being built by God into His temple with Jesus as the gate–a temple that He intended to outshine the best that humans could ever build. RVL reminded us that the words, “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit” were plural to singular and that His temple is always most effective as a Body in community. As our Texan friends said well, “All y’all are the temple”. At one point, the group gathered around Bill, the other pastor in the group, and I to pray for us and our churches. I will never forget that moment.
From there, we traveled to Didyma, which is a popular tourist destination, for good reason. It is the home of a massive temple to the Oracle of Apollo, which functioned for 2000 years until around 500 AD – one of the largest ever built during the Greek or Roman periods.
We learned about how people would access the oracle in order to determine their future, a religious practice which was clearly demonic. We were in awe, standing in this massive temple which took 300 hundred years to build and was active for 2000 years – meant to fill a human hunger for truth that God actually met through the gift of His Word. RVL ended the day in front of the temple, challenging us to immerse ourselves in His Word through daily reading and memorization – “hiding the Word in our heart.” It is something he models so well. I have never met anyone who has more Scripture memorized than RVL.
Our group continues to do well. It’s very fun to hang out together in our new mishpagah/insula/family. Lots of laughs and tender moments. Tomorrow: Ephesus!