I had the wonderful privilege of waking up today and having my "devotions" in 2 of the actual places where these letters were addressed — in Smyrna and then in Ephesus.
I drove my rental car downtown Smyrna (modern day Izmir), the third largest city in Turkey and with the help of 2 words written in Turkey by the hotel receptionist and a somewhat inaccurate hotel map I made it with just one wrong turn in about 10 miles of city driving! I parked in a 6-story parking garage and took the first picture of the ruins of Smyrna from the third floor on which I had parked. The "agora" (market place) is what you can see and is the essential ruin of the ancient city that is left in the middle of a crowded somewhat modern city. The next picture is taken from the other side of the ruins and you can see the parking garage in the distance. As I read the Scriptures I wondered if there are any true believers in Jesus in Smyrna (now called Izmir) and if there are, I couldn't help wonder what sort of persecution they would undergo today just like 2,000 years ago. What a blessing to live where I do with the freedoms and protections I have.
Then on to Ephesus (the ruins lay a couple of miles outside a small town called Selcuk). I've got a couple of great sermon illustrations in how I got there (think toll road, no ticket, the place to purchase a ticket is on the other side of an 8 lane highway with a 6 foot fence in the middle!).
What an amazing place Ephesus is. Most say it is the best preserved of all the ancient Greco-Roman cities and it was something. The 22,000 seat theater (I was disappointed they don't allow a person to go past the lower 1/3 — I had been dreaming of taking a picture from the top row), the Celsus library that is so well preserved, the second theater, clay water pipes, clay roof tiles, houses, shops, places of worship and of course for the "foolish man who follows the seductive woman" (think Proverbs 5, 6, 7) an engraved stone to lead him to the house of ill-repute! Then I read from Revelation 2 concerning the love of the Ephesians that had grown cold. They were faced with an unbelievable ungodly culture all around them but still our Lord wanted and expected them to give him themselves completely and to love Him fully.
Then into Selcuk to the archeological museum, to St. John's the apostle's presumed grave (located in the midst of the ruins of a huge church that was build later), and to the disappointingly sparse ruins of Aphroditis (Diana)Temple (it was once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and now there is a single pillar that has been place where this structure [see the small model] once stood.
Then off to Miletus (where the Apostle Paul met with the Ephesian church elders) but this was prevented by the traffic jam you can see in the picture. I was under the impression for the longest time that there was a bad bicycle accident (there were police and an ambulance and helicopter) but my interpretation of Turkish was lacking I'm afraid. It was a major cycling race and they closed the highway for an hour! I decided I couldn't chance trying to get to Pamakkule (beside ancient Hieropolis) in the dark so I rerouted from heading to Miletus and drove through dozens of small towns (with stop lights) for the next 2 hours.
Now I'm here and I'm looking forward tomorrow to visiting a number of sites including Hieropolis, Laodicea, and Colosse (if I can find the last two!). By the way, the picture below is from my hotel room balcony. That is NOT snow. What is it?