506. Blessings from the Balkans

How One Verse of Scripture Transformed an Entire Trip
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
Last Wednesday I returned from two weeks in Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria andIMG_4975 Turkey. Four of us were preaching, encouraging the pastors, and finding ways to help meet their needs. We traveled along the Via Egnatia, the ancient road connecting Rome to Istanbul. We walked on the beach where Paul first landed (Neapolis) before going to Philippi. We visited the spot where Paul met and baptized Lydia as well as the impressive ruins of Philippi and the jail where Paul was believed to have been held. We saw Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great and the ruins of Heralcea. We walked through the ancient part (all Muslim) of Skopje in Macedonia and visited the ancient part of Istanbul where the famous Blue Mosque, the church / mosque / museum of Hagia Sophia as well as the Sultan’s Palace.

After one church service, people were coming to us to be healed from all sorts of things. As

Remains of Via Egnatia

Remains of Via Egnatia

we laid hands and prayed for them, one woman was delivered from a demonic spirit of fear. Another woman who was distraught over her husband’s unfaithfulness became flooded with God’s peace right before our eyes. One young man was searching for God’s will (direction) for his life. After we prayed that he would seek to know God with all his heart, he knew that then God would show him what to do.

We went with one pastor who was baptizing seven new believers who were former Muslims. This brought the total to 52. As we returned to the

Where Paul met and baptized Lydia

Where Paul met and baptized Lydia

pastor’s home we were stopped by a large crowd of Muslims from the village who had received word that “God’s people” had arrived. They brought their children to be healed. One infant had been afraid of people. Suddenly she was surrounded by all sorts of strangers who were laying their hands on her. The peace that came upon her dispelled her fear. She was a different child.

The pastor told us that a year ago he was asked to pray for a village that had not seen rain in two years. The

Ruins at Philippi

Ruins at Philippi

people were desperate. He told them they would have rain within fifteen minutes. Ten minutes later the village was soaked with a three-hour downpour that followed the boundary of the village. Everything outside their village was still dry.

AS I SEE IT
This is just part of the story. I was sick 12 of the 15 days I was gone. One of our team members (whom I hand not known) monopolized every conversation to the degree that I felt like a spare tire with no useful purpose. The leader was drawn to this fellow as if he were the source of all knowledge and began treating me as if I were a moron. As a result, for the first time in my life, I was crushed in my spirit. Despite the amazing things I had witnessed, I couldn’t wait to come home. I had felt abandoned and abused. I knew people were praying, but I felt nothing. I didn’t understanding what was happening.

Two days after returning home, I was telling my story at a men’s Bible study. Out of the

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

blue, one of the men said, “This sound just like Matthew 5:3; Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Then it hit me. That is exactly what had happened. I had been preaching on the kingdom of heaven and had just become poor in spirit. I suddenly realized that God had orchestrated everything to crush my spirit, so I would be absolutely dependent on Him, so I could see with fresh (although watery) eyes. Only from this position could I both see and enter the kingdom of heaven right here on planet earth- the kingdom where God’s will is done as it is in heaven-the kingdom where the New Covenant is lived out, where we walk in the Spirit, where the Sermon on the Mount is lived out, and we truly understand that we are citizens of heaven. Talk about a paradigm shift!

So, how do we get from where we are to the kingdom of heaven? Deny ourselves, take up

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

our cross, and follow Christ. He is leading us to a life far more exciting than what we have settled for. I have tasted and seen the goodness of my Lord. I want more. How about you?

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2 Responses to “506. Blessings from the Balkans”

  • Dr. Ian A. Says:

    I would like to use a photo of yours of the Egnatian Way in a commentary on Philippians to be published by Heritage Media of Heritage Christian College in Accra, Ghana. If permission is granted what credit info should we use.

  • edrodgers Says:

    You may use it simply by including the attribution “Photo courtesy of Ed Rodgers.” I’m honored to have you use it.

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