The air crisp,
The sun bright,
As we enter the ancient city of the Ephesians.
Ephesus (Efes) located in Kudasai, Turkey is more than 35% uncovered. In 1st century B.C., it had a population of more than 250,000 which served to make it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. The city served as great importance to Christianity in 50 A.D. The evidence shown in this inscription:
We bounce over B.C.-marble with our 21st century sneakers and are ushered through several gate-like structures. We pass underneath a stone gate and I see the view. The city, the wide road and I begin to think.
I am reminded of Jesus words.
Words found in Matthew 7 about narrow gates and wide roads.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
Nobility took up residence in terrace homes along this wide Ephesian road. Cluttered with people, wealth, prostitution, and idols, many first century residents traveled the destructive wide road.
I put myself in ancient mindset for a moment.
This nice, comfortable yet crowded path was attractive and accommodating. But this isn’t the way of Jesus. This isn’t the path he designed for them, for us.
The stones cry out.
He beckons us down a hard road filled with amphitheaters of hate and walls of chains. Just like the Christians back then…
A long time ago.
I brush my fingers across divots in a stone wall.
There are too many to count. These divots held the chains of persecuted Christians. I could almost hear their cry. They hung in humiliation under a hot sun ~ overcome with sweat but soaked with determination. Determined and resolved to count the cost, to lose their life for the cause of Christ.
I kick the dirt in this spot and I think, “Why would I be so arrogant to think my road to travel would be any different…any less hard?”
I may not find myself in chains for my faith. I may not even be called to lose my life for it. But I can embrace my call as a disciple of Christ…and that is to share gospel and make disciples of all nations…and never stop.
These followers knew what it meant to walk the narrow path. They knew the narrower the path the greater the risk. But they also knew like the man who hid a treasure in a field that Jesus was worth being in chains for…because to live is Christ and to die is gain (see Philippians 1:21).
So here I stand in wonder. I wonder 2000 years later how far we as believers have wondered off this path. These devoted followers of a Jewish carpenter who was crucified show us that following Christ isn’t just praying a prayer, but a summons to lose your life.
This is the road I choose. The narrow, risky, unpopular one. The one that leads to life.
Which will you choose?
Ahhh traveling alone with the kids. Just the sound of it makes a mama cringe. Even the flight attendant began a spiel over the loud intercom, “If you’re traveling with kids, today well… we feel sorry for you!” I rolled my eyes as I handed out Hello Kitty coloring books and crayons to the three. So far things had gone quite well. No hair-pulling from in between seats, no frequent stops to the toilet, and no choking on honey roasted peanuts. Yep, had there been enough arm room, I’d of given myself a pat on the back. Yes ma’am things were going so well I decided to strike up a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me.
Interestingly, this man was from Thessaloniki, Greece. He said, “You know the Thessalonians from the Bible?” My reply, “Wow, Thessss-u-lun-iiiii-ca (imagine the southern accent)?” He corrected of course by saying, “No it’s Thessalon-ee-k-ee.” Oh okay, I say. I practice a few times.
Well, just about that time, my five year old tugs on my sleeve and says, “Mama, why are you talkin’ to him? You don’t even know his name!” She said it real loud and sassy! So… after proper introductions were made, we continued discussing how he (Michael) left his home in Greece and came to the United States, went to University, and married a Baptist preacher’s daughter in Tennessee of all places. We talked about our favorite dish at Cracker Barrel and then I asked, “Do you get homesick?” I’ll never forget his thick-accented reply. “I miss my family in Greece but God has me here and here is home.”
The conversation paused a bit and I began to think about home. On these little trips down south I usually get “home-sick.” I miss shooting hoops with my dad in the gym where he coaches. I miss my mother’s smile when I walk through the door. I miss splitting a Chick-fil-A Sandwich with oodles of mayo dripping down the side with my brother.
Where is mine really? I mean Tennessee doesn’t feel like my home but neither does Reno.
I guess missing things is a part of this life, because I can’t live in two places at once. But Jesus tells me my home isn’t in Reno nor Tennessee ~ my real home is in Him, with Him, in a place he has prepared for me.
Hebrews 13:14 says, “For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.”
“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it,” (1 Peter 2:11 MSG).
I don’t feel cozy in this world.
I don’t always feel comfortable either.
But according to the Scriptures, that’s a good thing. Honestly, the moments I feel at home are when I am in the yoke with Christ…when I am his hands and feet, when I am denying myself, when I am following him.
With Christ, I (we) never have to wonder where home is.
We will always know. But on days we forget, our Savior is there reminding us.
And that makes me happy.
Remembering who I am in Him is half the battle sometimes.
I get caught up in all that I think I should be in Him and get distracted and frustrated and condemn myself a lot. I beat myself up a lot. After all– I should be so far by now, right?!
I try to rush Him… to push His work in me. I move to to make change on my own and then get worn out and quit in defeat.
I forget that HE is my strength.
I need to return to the basics.
To go back to when I first received Him and just be zealous for Him. Trusting Him. Seeking Him. Finding Him. Loving Him. BEING STILL. Waiting on Him.
And… THANKING Him... for all things.
What I need… is to just live rooted.
So, we are just now watching The Bible Series put on by the History Channel. Last night we watched the shepherd David — soon to be King — take down Goliath with a sling-shot and a stone. And I was quite taken by David as he confidently picked up the stone and walked fiercely out to meet the giant while reciting the 23rd Psalm.
There was so much immense power and courage in His stride to victory. He felt no doubt that the Lord, His God, was with Him.
Now, I realize there was much artistic liberty taken in the making of this series and what David actually said to Goliath that day was…
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17 45-47)
But, I imagine His courage to be very much the same as it was depicted, for indeed, he did know that the Lord God was with Him.
This scene weaved in and out of my thoughts. And the question passed through me… do I speak and claim God’s Word for me with such courage?
Often the words of Psalm 23 come out in a moment of fear. They fall from my lips in a whimper as if to beg Him for His mercy instead of being sure of His love and watch care over me.
And the conviction wells up within… Where is my courage and my confidence in His promises to me?
It’s not as if the Israelites had it easy. I know some were fortunate enough to experience God up close and personal, but still they suffered greatly. However, as God’s anointed, Noah, Abraham, David, Paul and so many others remained courageous because of their great Faith in Him.
Father, bless me with such great Faith as these — I deeply desire to walk with Courage.