Ruins at Ephesus, an ancient city in Asia Minor, now part of Turkey.

Ruins at Ephesus, an ancient city in Asia Minor, now part of Turkey.

WND’s first-ever Roots of Our Faith Mediterranean Cruise will anchor at historic landmarks of the Christian faith, places where the Apostle Paul cast out demons, preached the gospel in synagogues and confronted Greek philosophers at pagan temples.

Places like Rome, Italy, Santorini and Athens in Greece, and Ephesus and Istanbul in Turkey, are all on the itinerary for this June 2015 trip that will mix vacation time with serious study of the Scriptures.

The ancient city of Ephesus is one of the most intriguing biblical cities and one to which today’s American Christians can relate.

Ephesus was the leading city in Asia Minor under Roman rule. It was a wealthy commercial center and home to a bizarre assembly of pagan magicians, priests, exorcists, temple prostitutes – a steaming pot of multiculturalism and moral relativism.

The great marble temple of Artemis was the pride of the Ephesians in that day, and a whole industry of money changers, authors, craftsmen, prostitution and other businesses grew up around the worship of Artemis, or “Diana” as the Romans called her, the ancient fertility goddess of Asia Minor. The temple of Artemis was one of the legendary Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Ephesus attracted people from all over the Roman world during its annual pagan festival.

It was into this grand fortress of pagan idolatry that Paul ventured in his third missionary journey. And those who sign up for the cruise, scheduled for June 8-19, will trace the steps of the great apostle, learning from expert guides such as Bill Cloud of Shoreshim Ministries, Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries and Joseph and Elizabeth Farah of WND.

Joseph Farah

Joseph Farah

During the voyage and shore excursions, you’ll have many opportunities to interact with the presenters and the Farahs.

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According to scholars, Paul did not go into Ephesus with any illusions of what he would encounter.

“[H]is missionary strategy seems clear: win for Christ in Ephesus and he could win anywhere. Ultimately, he would spend three years here, his longest sojourn in a target city thus far,” writes Paul Maier, professor emeritus of ancient history at Western Michigan University, in his book, “First Christians: Pentecost and the Spread of Christianity.”

Elizabeth Farah

Elizabeth Farah

Paul first preached his message to the local synagogue, a strategy he employed in every city he visited that had a Jewish presence. Opposition from the synagogue eventually forced him to withdraw to the “school of Tyrannus,” where he would teach daily for the remainder of his stay in Ephesus, according to Acts 19.

Paul’s audience consisted of a diverse ethnic mix, including Jews and Gentiles, Asians and Greeks.

The book of Acts describes how some itinerate Jewish exorcists were so impressed by Paul’s healings in Ephesus that they tried to mimic the apostle’s method of praying, using the name of Jesus for their own sorceries. Of course, that didn’t end well (Acts 19:15).

Cloud, an expert in the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith, said this will be his first voyage to Ephesus, and he is looking forward to the experience.

“I’ve been to Israel many times and you come back with a new perspective every time, so I’m anticipating the same will be true for places like Ephesus and Athens,” Cloud told WND. “When you walk around the ruins and you see and understand what the believers there had to overcome, you begin to understand on a deeper level the gospel message.”

Just as American Christians have seen their values shredded and mocked in recent years by an increasingly secular – some would say post-Christian – culture, the believers in Ephesus were surrounded by unsympathetic ears.

Bill Cloud

Bill Cloud

Yet, they grew in faith and in numbers.

“It was pretty outrageous,” Cloud said, in describing the type of lifestyles that were going on in Ephesus during Paul’s visit.

“And that accentuates all the more that how right in the midst of all that evil God is carving out a people,” he said. “Out of the most vile and corrupt and base elements of the world in that day, that’s where He sent Paul to bring people into His kingdom and transform them into this family.”

That’s the challenge in a post-Christian America.

“That’s why I say that those words that were written for the congregation at Ephesus, it’s very relevant for us today. As our country increasingly moves away from what our founders and framers intended and what they envisioned, it’s going to be harder for us as believers to identify as Americans,” Cloud said. “We’re going to have to make a decision at some point who are we going to serve? Will it be Baal/Artemis – whatever is the god of the day – or the Lord? Who are you going to be part of?”

Cloud said he will also teach how Paul offered the Gentiles across Asia Minor, Greece, Syria and Rome a choice, an opportunity, that they had never had before.

“As a Gentile, you were cut off and you had no hope, but now the Messiah is giving you hope, and you need to consider yourself part of his family, not cut off any longer because Messiah has grafted you into the Olive Tree,” Cloud said. “If we’re going to follow God, if we’re going to live according to His Word, more and more we’re going to be seen as the outsiders, the trouble makers, bigots, hate mongers, all the things they like to toss out there. It’s just going to continue to increase.

“It’s almost as if God allows this to happen because it pushes us into that place where we have to make a choice, and here’s a group of people, the Ephesians, who brought all of that with them, that heritage, that baggage, and Paul was saying you’re not that person anymore. God has transformed you into that image that He has crafted for you.”

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Paul also had to address some of the Ephesian converts to Christianity who were secretly dabbling in the occult.

“That’s the issue that keeps affecting God’s people throughout the Bible – wanting to serve God but also wanting to play with these other things as well,” Cloud said.

The June cruise will begin and end in Rome, where Paul wrote to Roman Christians while a prisoner. Next is Santorini, Greece, scene of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions ever and home to fabulous beaches and natural beauty.

From Santorini, the participants will sail on to Istanbul, Turkey, one of the world’s most fascinating cities and home to such landmarks as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar which offers one of the world’s most unique shopping experiences.

The Hagia Sophia was the grandest of Byzantine cathedrals, but the church in Istanbul has been converted to a museum and Turkish government has been transitioning the structure into a mosque.

The Hagia Sophia was the grandest of Byzantine cathedrals, but the church in Istanbul has been converted to a museum and Turkish government has been transitioning the structure into a mosque.

The city has only been known as Istanbul since the 20th century. Previously the city was known as Constantinople, the center of the Byzantine Empire before the Islamic invasion.

Following Istanbul, the cruise will move on to Ephesus, which has been marvelously reconstructed thanks to archaeologists.

The tour will continue on to Mykonos and Athens, two of Greece’s most famous and beautiful destinations. Known for its shopping and natural beauty, Mykonos is popular with travelers and is famous in Greek mythology for being the site of the battle between Zeus and the Titans.

Athens is the site of Paul’s famous sermon to the Greeks from Acts 17. It is a melting pot for commerce and philosophy, and along with nearby Corinth, was an important destination for Paul’s ministry.

Before returning to Rome, the ship will make one final stop in Naples, the gateway to the Isle of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. It is also home to famous pizza and stately buildings, and the ruins of Pompeii are also within reach.

Pastor and author Mark Biltz

Pastor and author Mark Biltz

This cruise will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime event for Christians desiring to get closer to God and the roots of their faith, said Biltz, who is author of “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs.”

“Many love to research their family roots because in getting back to our roots we find great meaning. We often find out we have ancestors of notoriety be they heroic people or scoundrels,” Biltz told WND. “All of our ancestors from every side have had an influence on who we are today.”

He cited Hebrews 11 as the master list of heroic ancestors, the heroes of the Christian’s faith family.

“On this cruise you will be digging deep into the roots of your faith,” he said. “We will be going back not only 2,000 years to the roots of the Christian faith but going on an adventure that goes back 4,000 years. You will rediscover the original fathers of the faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and who they really were. You’ll hear about both the heroes and the scoundrels as you visit the places some of them visited.”

Imagine the riding the high seas with the Apostle Paul, also known as Rabbi Shaul, as he goes on his many great sea adventures on the Mediterranean Sea. Encounter the ancient sites where he spoke and traveled. Travel back in time visiting Ephesus and imagine the roar of the crowd as they worshiped Diana for two solid hours until they were able to dismiss them.

Stand on Mars Hill and hear the words of Paul as he tries to out philosophize the philosophers of his day. Discover how much of the Christian faith was influenced by the early Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Realize how Paul both lived and was schooled in Tarsus, which had the greatest school of philosophy, even outdoing Athens or Alexandria. Paul even quoted in Scriptures the Greek poets, prophets and philosophers who lived hundreds of years before him.

“Find out why he gave up on Greek philosophy yet within the Church today it is still incorporated,” Biltz said.

Are you interested?

Find out more at WNDcruise.com or by calling 877-768-2784, extension 107.

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