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July 2007 Archives

July 2, 2007

A Whispered Question

1 Kings 19:15-17 (NIV)
The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.

Conversations with God are interesting interactions. Elijah's hiding out in a cave. He hears the voice of God asking him what he's doing there. Elijah explains his situation. God responds by "passing by," and speaks to Elijah in a whisper. He hears again God asking him, "what are you doing here?" And Elijah gives the same response he did earlier. I feel like that happens to me; God asks me a question, twice, but I give the same answer. You'd think that if He repeats the question, we'd figure out we need to give a different answer. But I don't usually, and neither does Elijah in this situation. God gives Elijah an assignment.

The most interesting part to me is not the assignment to anoint kings. It's the directive God gives Elijah to find his own successor. First of all, who's want this job anyway? Elijah's hiding in a cave out of fear for his own life. Additionally, Elijah's in the "prime" of his career. I had never noticed before that in the "still, small voice," God gives assignments (e.g. Moses and the bush). To his credit, Elijah doesn't seek out the "glory" job first of finding kings. He went from there to find his successor Elisha.

My lessons for today:
- If God repeats the same question, I should give a different answer.
- When God whispers, it usually involves an assignment.
- Obedience is about finding successors before anointing kings.

July 3, 2007

Man Rule #1

While reading in 1 Kings today, I came across this cool piece of advice. It should be included in any set of "man rules."

And the king of Israel answered and said, "Tell him, 'Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off.'"
| I Kings 20:11 (ASV)

Some things are better in "ye olde english."

TRD Visit

I'm heading over to meet with a friend of mine who is a VP with Toyota Racing Development. He's going to take me for a tour of their facility. We'll get to talk about how come Toyota is good in the truck series and so bad in Cup :-)

Before Junior signed with Hendricks, there was a joke going around involving Toyota:
"Did you hear that Junior signed to race for Waltrip?"
"Yeah, I heard he wanted Sundays off too."

In the words of LTCG, "Now dat's funny rite dar! Git 'r done!"

July 17, 2007

Israel, Day 1

My tribe is holding this year's Convention in Israel. My wife and I are here for it along with participating in one of the tours offered with the package. I'm hoping to post each day for my personal record. It will also be fun to share it with my friends here.

The journey started on Sunday night. We didn't get to bed until about 11:00 PM. My son was nervous about us leaving, so he came in and woke us up about 2 hrs later. That wasn't so bad as we had to be up anyway because Super Shuttle was taking us to LAX at 2:30 AM. We arrived at the airport at about 4:30 AM for our 6 AM flight to Atlanta. From there we caught a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and then on to Tel Aviv. We arrived in Tel Aviv at 3 PM local time today, 5 AM PST. It's almost 10 PM now, so it's been almost 48 hrs with just a few hours sleep (it was impossible on the plane to get any shut eye).

When we got our first glimpse of Tel Aviv, we were amazed how much it looks like the OC. Mountains on one side, ocean on the other with this desert, man-made oasis in between. We loaded on buses to transport us to tonight's lodging.


Tel Aviv Sunset at the Mediterranean.
The ancient port of Joppa is over my shoulder.

The hotel is decent; it reminds us of a mid-budget, high-rise, condo complex off the strand in Myrtle Beach. The view is awesome as we overlook the Mediterranean. My dad, brother, and bro-in-law met up with us here. I'm excited to share this experience with Jayme and these important men in my life. After dinner, my brother and bro-in-law took a walk with Jayme and I along the coastline. We snapped some shots, and then jumped in. The water temp was warmer than the air (probably around 80-84 or so). We caught some waves, took a stroll, and headed back. After a much needed shower I'm ready to turn in as we've got a busy day tomorrow, heading north to Tiberias and the Galilee region with a stop in Capurnium - The ministry base for Jesus.

Some quick thoughts...
Lufthansa's seats are way too close together.
There's no food or restrooms inside the gate area at Frankfurt's airport.
The Mediterranean is really salty and really beautiful.
I'm really tired.

Out.

PS: To view all my photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 18, 2007

Israel, Day 2

Started early for a long but interesting day. Here's was the day's itinerary. I've linked to an informational site where applicable. the comments are points of interest for me.:

Ceasarea (by the sea)
Built by Herod the Great as the Roman capital for the region and to replace Joffa as the major seaport. Features a 15,000 seat theater (which has been restored but only seats a little over 2000 today). Was home to Pontius Pilot (a dedication stone was found here with Pilate's name on it). Peter visited Cornelius here. Paul presented his defense to Agrippa here. The aquaduct was cool to see; 2 clay pipes set on an elevated, arched ??? to transport fresh water over 4 miles. Each arch into the city was 1/4" smaller than the one before, so gravity did the work getting the water to the city.



The Port and Hippodrome
The Crusader Fortress is also in the background


Mt Carmel
The meaning of the name of this range of mountains meant "God's ("el") Vineyard ("carm").
When entering the Jezreel Valley from the north (Phoenicia/Lebanon) it was the first "high place" to be seen. Until the 20's, Jezreel Valley was a swamp. The small brook that fed it was diverted and the area has become the breadbasket of Israel. Mt. Carmel was the location of the showdown between Elijah and Baal's prophets. I had the pleasure of reading the story to our group.

Looking across the valley are 3 other mountains; Tabor, where Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera (with the help of Jael), Moreh, where Gideon defeated the Midianites, and Gilboa, where Saul was defeated and beheaded by the Philistines. Amazing how events that took place decades if not centuries from each other happened so close to each other.

Tel Megiddo

The military base on a a man-made hilltop guarding the Via Maris (the main route between Egypt and Mesopotamia, was fortified by Solomon. It was one of 3 major chariot/calvary outposts. Also, overlooking the Jezreel Valley, one could see how this was a significant piece of property as a merging place for the African, Asian, and European continents. The Solomonic city was built on top of other cities. The earliest excavated was a Caananite city over 6000 years old.



Nazareth
The home of Jesus for most of his life is tucked into the hills of the lower Galilee. It's estimated that only about 20 families lived in the area during the time of Jesus (no wonder it was insignificant). Most interesting was the idea that Jesus, and his father Joseph were stone-masons, not woodworkers. The Hebrew word translated "carpenter" was more similar to "craftsman." Since the early translators of the scriptures were European, they defined the term by the trade they were most familiar with. There not much wood around Nazareth; its all rock.

The things that stuck with me...
- Standing where Paul not only gave his testimony to Agrippa, but the seaport from which he probably began many of his journeys.
- Looking to the west from Mt Carmel to the Med. I almost thought I saw a "cloud the size of a man's hand."
- The massive size of the Jezreel Valley. It's hard to believe that the scripture says it will flow with blood up to a horse's bridle.

Oh yeah, we're staying here tonight and tomorrow night before heading to Jerusalem for the remainder of the trip.

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 19, 2007

Israel, Day 3

Today was an easier day - not as much walking, but still long. Today's itinerary focused around Jesus' time in the Galilee. It was powerful. My favorite quote today was from a pastor who gave a devotional at the start of the day as we cruised the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee):
"Today we'll hear about many places where was supposed to have walked, but here on the Sea of Galilee, is the only place we can say for sure that He waked here."

Yam Kinneret (Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberias)

We began out day here with an early morning cruise in a "Jesus Boat" from Tiberias. Great way to start the day! The lake got it's name because it is shaped like a harp, "kiner" in Hebrew. Yam Kinneret is a fresh body of water fed by the Jordan which has it's head at the base of Mt Hermon and 3 springs feed it. The mouth of the Jordan at Kinneret divides the "us" section the Galilee (Jews) and the "other" (Gentile) Galilee, where the "decapolis" (ten Roman cities) were located (which is where the Golan Heights are today). Today's trips were all around the lake.

Mount of Beatitudes
This is the traditional site of Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5-7. It's thought that due to it's proximity to Capernaum. The Catholic church erected a beautiful chapel on the site. The interior of the chapel is an octogon in recognition of the 8 "blessings." This chapel is also known as the "Church of Mussolini" as it was built during his reign in Italy. Pope John Paul II visited in this site in 2000. Directly across the Kinneret you can see Mt Harbel (sp?), the traditional site of Jesus' all-night prayer vigil.

Dad commented during a group devotion at this stop about the beauty of the surroundings and the birds chirping. He then noted how in the message delivered here Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?...And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."(Matthew 6:25-34)

"The Jesus Boat"
We visited a museum that housed the nearly complete remains a of fishing vessel carbon dated to the 1st century. Quite mazing to find something like that intact. Cool thing was getting to meet the man who actually found the boat. He signed a book for me. Not much chance that Jesus actually was on this specific boat. Although, this boat could have sunk during a maritime conflict between the Romans and the Jews that took place on the lake in 66 AD.

"Mensa Christos" - Peter's Primacy
Ever since my friend Shawn Stewart visited here, I couldn't wait to make this stop. It's the likely location of Jesus' post resurrection breakfast with the fishing disciples, thus the name Mensa Christos - "the Lord's table.". The story is found in John 21. I had the privilege of giving a devotion to the group about Peter's interaction with the Lord and how Jesus removed Peter's shame and restored honor. My favorite place so far.

Capernaum
This "city of" ("capher") Nahum" (the OT prophet) served as Jesus' ministry base in the Galilee. More is recorded in this one location than any other. It's here that Jesus lived, even possibly with Peter. The remains of the Peter's house are here. They are fairly certain this is the actual location because the long tradition of this being the site that has been held back in from the end of the first CE. This was that largest city in the area due to it's proximity to the Via Maris. It housed a tax collector (Matthew) and a Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus healed. In his gratitude, this Centurion build a synagogue for the city whose foundation has been excavated and a 4th CE AD synagogue was built on top of it.

Despite the many miracles Jesus did here, healings of Peter's mother-in-law, the woman with the issue of blood, a leper,and Jarius' daughter who was raised from the dead, Jesus eventually cursed the city because of it's unbelief. It is the best excavated location in the Galilee.

The Jordan River

There was a baptismal service in the Jordan River to end the day. I wish I had known ahead of time that I could have participated. My brother-in-law Tim did, and it was really cool. Jayme and I did place wade into it, and as minnows nipped at our feet, we prayed for God's spirit to be poured out on us in a fresh way.

My thoughts from today...
- If ever I lead a tour in Israel, I would go to Mensa Christos before breakfast for a devotion, and after lunch, do another while cruising the lake in the afternoon. I'd end the day in the Jordan like we did today.
- While looking at the pebbled shore at Peter's Primacy, I was reminded that Jesus said to Peter, "Upon this rock, I will build my church..." I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me that each one of those little stones on the shore were lives He wanted to use to build "the Church" on, but people are so burdened with shame that they can't see themselves as being worthy. If Jesus has not confronted Peter here, Peter (who did truly love the Lord despite his denial of Christ earlier) would have served God's purposes out of the obligation of shame and not the freedom that comes with having one honor restored.
- 10 Jewish men constitute a "synagogue." It's not a building, it's a gathering. It was in Capurnaum, in the shadow of the building that Jesus was partly responsible for it's construction via he Centurion Jesus changed the requirements when He said, "where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

Funniest line from our tour guide..."You know, Peter denied Jesus because he was still mad that Jesus healed his mother-in-law." :-)

Tomorrow we head for Jerusalem...

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 20, 2007

Israel, Day 4

It's 5:15 AM on Saturday as I sit down to write. I normally post after dinner each day, but my brother, bro-in-law,and wife were sitting out on the patio of our room (we're staying here for the rest of our time in Israel) taking in the view of the Mt of Olives and the Church of the Ascension on our left to the golden dome of the of the Dome of the rock on the temple mount - Mt. Moriah. I guess I begin with the end of the day first, our arrival into Jerusalem. I was not prepared for how stirred I was by my first sight of the old city. I was listening to "Lift Up Your Heads" by Tommy Walkers as we entered the Jerusalem and saw the old city. This son was based on Psalm 24, one of the Psalms of Ascent. The tour guide took us to another of the surrounding hillsides, Mt Scopius, and we could see the Eastern Gate to the city of David which has been closed, will will be where the King of Glory will enter the city to establish His kingdom. There's something about Jerusalem that I can't explain, but that resonates in the heart of everyone who visits here. But that's just the end of the day...

I woke up yesterday early, like today, and stepped outside on the balcony of our look, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. On the lake I saw a small boat headed towards the dock below our hotel. I thought, "there's no way...," but it was what I thought. The boat pulled up and the two men began to unload thier night's catch of fish. That's my last picture of the Galilee...so cool. We boarded the bus and set out for the day.

Golan Heights
Originally part of Syria, this hillside along the eastern shore of the Kinneret was where Abraham would have first seen the promised land. It was taken by Israel during the Yom Kippur or Six Day War in 1967. At one point, we were only a few miles from Damascus. From there we drove along the Syrian-Jordanian-Israeli border.

Bet She'an
This amazing place was another important settlement on the Via Maris. This city has the most extensive excavation work done in all of Israel. The Roman city on site, Scythopolis, was one of the decapolis ("ten cities") of the Roman Occupation. Most of what has been excavated is from the time of Jesus, but there's a tell that's knows to be the site of at least 20 cities dating back as far as 5000 years, including Jewish, Caananite, and even Egyptian rule.

Biblically, this is the site where King Saul and Jonathan's bodies were put on display after the defeat by the Philistines. Jabeth Giliad is the hillside across the valley from where the Jews came an got Saul and Jonathan's bodies and returned them for burial.

In Jesus' day, this probably was the most important Roman city (next to Caesarea on the coast). It was a metropolitan city like this, with the bath-houses and brothels, and pagan temples, which Jesus would have referenced in the story of the Prodigal Son. This could have been where Jesus told the demoniac to go after he was delivered to "tell the Gentiles." This city was destroyed in October of 79 AD after a massive earthquake. It was also one of the locations used during the filming of Jesus Christ Superstar. To view some photos, click here.

Ma'ayan Harod - Gideon Springs
This was a beautiful spot! This small creek is fed by a spring inside a cave. This is the location where Gideon's army was separated by God according to the men who either lapped the water face down or cupped their hands and brought it to their mouths to drink. The Mideanites were camped only a few hundred yards away from where this took place.

From here we drove through the West Bank, known in the scripture as Samaria (the woman at the well, the story of the Good Samaritan). Because these areas are under Palestinian control, we were not able to visit Jericho. We were passing through on our way to our final site of the day.

Quamran
This is the site of the most important archaeological discovery in all of Israel, the Dead Seas Scrolls. On these hillsides (which look like the Mojave Desert and are just as hot! It was 100 degrees plus today) overlooking the Dead Sea, that multiple scrolls of the the Old Testament were found in these caves carved into the mountainsides. We'll see the scrolls as we visit the museum where they are housed in Jerusalem.

My thoughts...
- Never bring a tour in July...IT IS SO HOT!
- The Jordan Valley is very beautiful farmland, like the San Joaquin valley at home. Where the river flows there is life.

There's much more to say, but we leave for the Dead Sea and Masada in a few minutes...got to go.

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 21, 2007

Israel, Day 5

To sum up today: I hiked up Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, and I'm now ready to go to bed early.

Masada
Built by Herod the Great as a defensive fortress against a possible Jewish revolt, Masada became home to Zealots when they fled Jerusalem under the persecution of the Romans.It became a memorial when those who were there committed mass suicide rather than be captured by the Romans. Parents were forced to kill their own children. They did so by taking them in their arms while the children were sleeping and suffocated them by hugging them. It's a very important place in the Jewish psyche. Officers in the Israeli Army are commissioned there with the vow, "never again."

One of the things I wanted to do here is to hike the "snake trail" up the side of the mountain fortress. My brother and I completed the 2 mi, 1300' elevation gain in 30 min. When we started at 9:15 AM, it was already over 90 degrees. We were sopping wet from sweat when we finished, but we finished. Because of it's proximity to the Dead Sea, which is the lowest point on earth, we reached sea level when we got to the to of Masada. While touring the fortress I was thinking about Psalm 9:9, "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."

En Gedi
En Gedi is an oasis in the Judean wilderness. A waterfall flows down the cliffs from an underground aquifer. Quite a contrast for the Dead sea which this small oasis sits next to. It's here that Saul and his army camped in his pursuit to kill David (here's the story). As Saul slept in a cave to escape the heat, David has the opportunity to kill the king and take his place. Instead, he cut a piece of the king's robe and displayed his honor to the God's chosen and God's word.

This would have been a great place for a devotion about how we like to help God fulfill his word in our life. David easily could have killed Saul and taken his promised place on the throne of Israel. Instead, he showed restraint, understanding that God's promise will be fulfilled by God's process. Any shortcuts of that process can have tragic and long-lasting implications (as we do today in this this region of the country between the descendants sons of Abraham).

On a near hillside we saw a nubian ibex, a gazelle type animal that could have been the "wild goats" mentioned in the 1 Samuel 24 story.

Dead Sea (or Salt Sea)
A burgeoning resort area is developing around the dead sea. Problem is (and it's a big problem), the dead sea is shrinking...fast. Nevertheless, our tour group jumped in for the traditional "float." It is a trippy experience. The water is very viscous. And my skin did feel smoother :-). It would be OK with me if I only did this once in my lifetime.

Reflections...
- Hiking up Masada was a great accomplishment for me. It's another lifetime memory I get to share with my brother (like Game 1 of the '88 World Series in Dodger Stadium).
- God promises. I obey and commit to the process.
- I will never travel without an iron ever again. Each of the hotels we've been at has an ironing room with only one iron for the hotel. This is a drag (I'm sitting waiting in line to use the iron right now).
- It was hot again today!!! It is a little cooler here up in Jerusalem than in the Judean wilderness for sure. Still warm.

Tomorrow we head into the old city for the first time. Convention starts tomorrow night. Should be great!

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 22, 2007

Israel, Day 6

There's so much to say about today I don't know how I'm going to write it all down, but I'll try...

Mount of Olives (Just added, a Google Map of Jerusalem)
Beginning the morning here, I was able to get a geographical sense of all the "mountains" noted in the Scripture relating to Jerusalem. To begin with, out hotel is on Mt Scopus. It was where the ruler Titus and the Romans watched over Jerusalem. Next to it on the south side is the Mount of Olives. Directly in front of the Mount of Olives (west) is the Temple Mount, Mt. Moriah (the traditional site of Abraham's offering of Issac, the threshing areas purchased by David for the the sacrifice, the site of Solomon's and Herod's temple, and now the covered by the Dome of the Rock). To the South is Mt. Zion and the city of David (Solomon built on Mt Moriah). The Kidron Valley or the "valley of Jehoshaphat" ("God will Judge") runs along the eastern wall and around the southern steps where it meets up with the Hinnom Valley. The KV separates the The Mount of Olives from Mt Moriah (inside the wall). HV runs along the back side of Mt. Zion. BTW, what is enclosed behind the wall is only about 1/2 of what it was during Jesus' life. The original walls of the city included the city of David and Mt Zion. You could imagine these canyons echoing with songs and prayers during the holy-days, the gathering for which Jerusalem's poplulation could swell to over 1M people.

From the Mt of Olives there's an amazing view of the eastern wall of the city, specifically the Eastern Gate, which has been sealed up (fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel). Behind the Eastern Gate was another gate that gave access to the TM (temple mount). It was the gate called "Beautiful" (where Peter and John healed the lame man). Only on Palm Sunday did Jesus enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate. The Temple would have been behind the Gate Beautiful, facing east. The main entrance to the TM was through the Southern Gate, which I'll get to later.

The hillside of the MoO that faces Jerusalem has been a cemetery even before Jesus' day. It is related to the Messiah's return on the MoO, and the belief that at that time, the dead will be resurrected. This hillside is completely covered with gravestones. My brother pointed out that those were what Jesus referred to when he said, "if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." On the anniversary of the death of loved one, they would visit the grave, pray over it, and place a stone on top of it. This is reference to the Pharisee's belief in the resurrection of the dead and a direct messianic announcement to them. On another occasion, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being "white-washed sepulchres." They knew exactly what Jesus was referring to as it could be seen from the MoO.

During a devotion to begin the day as we were to walk down the path Jesus followed on Palm Sunday I heard something interesting (I'm documenting here for my own future study). Jesus held the Jews accountable for not "knowing the time of thier visitation." Why should the Jews have known that the Messiah had come? Using the "69 weeks" from Daniel 9 as a timetable and calculating from the historically accurate date the decree was ordered to rebuild Jerusalem (March 14, 445 BC), it was 173,880 days (69 weeks X 7 days X 360 days in the Jewish year), we're able to determine that the day this falls on was a Sunday that would have been during Jesus late adult life, possibly even of the very day of his welcome into the city (a little Chuck Missler for you).

Gethsemane
"Geth" = olive press, "Semane" = oil. The place of the pressing. Some of the oldest olive trees in the nation are in this little garden on the hillside of the MoO.

Jerusalem
The "Old City" has 4 parts: Armenian, Jewish, Moslem, and Christian. The "OC" has about 25K residents, 20K of which are Arabs, 2K Armenian, and only 3K Jews (since they couldn't live in the "OC" until after the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt in 1969). We entered through the Zion Gate through the Crusader Wall. The only gate that's still in place from the temple period is the Damascus Gate on the north side. We did see a 2CE Roman "Cardo" that would have went from the Zion Gate to the Damascus Gate which was 60' wide and would have been covered - an ancient "mall." We also saw a solid gold menorah that I would estimate to have been 6'+ tall and span the same. Amaizing thing is it was carved from a solid piece of gold, not melded. The rest of these sites will be in the OC and around the temple mount.

The "Wailing Wall"
I offered a devotion reading from Solomon's dedication of the 1st temple before we went down to pray at the most holy site for today's Jew. It was a meaningful time getting to pray there.

The "wailing wall" is part of the Western Wall, the last remaining section of the retaining wall which surrounded the temple mount during the 2nd temple period. In the ongoing excavations near the SW corner of the wall, they have found a street that Jesus would have likely walked on is last day in Jerusalem from Caiaphas' house to where he would have appeared before Pontius Pilate. This western side of the TM would have been where the priests lived and would have entered the TM from the gate of this side.

Another interesting thing is that then the trumpet would sound from the TM to signal the start of a festival or the sabbath, the sound would trigger signal fires to be set on a range of hilltops that would go all the way to Babylon so Jews, wherever they lived, could live thier lives as directed by what happened in Jerusalem.

The Southern or "Teaching" Steps

These are the actual steps that would have been the public entrance to the gates which almost all people would use to access the TM. These steps were where the rabbis would hold classed and teach their disciples (like Gamaliel did with Saul). Jesus would have used these steps as he came over the MoO from Bethany, and would have taught there as well (in fact, it's probably where as a child, he stayed behind and talked with the priests who were amazed at his understanding, while his parents searched for him). These steps were carved out of the bedrock of Mt Moriah, so many of the original steps remain. Many scholars believe this is where Peter gave the message on Pentecost, and because of the many ritual cleansing pools on the way up to the steps, where the new believers were baptized. This was a cool site. Interesting note: The Jews believe that it was on Pentecost that ,the law was given to Moses and that David was born and later died on this same day.

The Shepherds' Fields
We left the OC and our guide took us to a special overlook. Bethlehem is another city we're unable to visit as it is in Palestinian territory, but we stood on a nearby hill and saw the stone and olive tree covered hillside where the angels appeared to the shepherds announcing Jesus' birth. I really was moved by seeing this site and the hard life these humble shepherds would have had., but the announcement of the Christ's birth was given to them. wow.

Tishah B'av - Remembering the destruction of the Temple
Tomorrow is the 9th of Av, a national day of fasting and mourning for Jews all around the world to remember all the tragedies that have happened to them as a people. It was on this day that the Temple was destroyed twice centuries apart (which is why a glass is broken at the end of a Jewish wedding, to remember the destruction of the Temple). Napoleon once observed Jews on this day and commented that a people who mourn for their temple will never be conquered for they will never forget their past. I find it interesting that we would be here on this reverent day. May God return his glory to Jerusalem and to his people.

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 23, 2007

Israel, Day 7

Today was the first day of the convention, so today, tomorrow, and Weds, we'll be at the convention in the AM, tour Jerusalem sites in the afternoon, and back to the convention in the evenings.

Today we entered Jerusalem through the "sheep" or "lions'" gate, on the eastern wall in the Muslim quarter. Today's journey on the "Via Delarosa" (the way of suffering) is in the Arab section of the OC (as are most sites to tell you the truth).

Pool of Bethesda


The name of this location is actually Bet Hesed, which means "house of mercy." It originally was outside of the city walls in Jesus' day. It was a water reservoir, collecting rainwater for the water supply of the city.

As a Christian, I'm most familiar with this site being the placed where Jesus healed the lame man. Jesus healed the man while in Jerusalem for one of the feasts (I need to research which one it would have been). I can't imagine how packed this pool would have been as people made a special trip to this site during the feasts and brought their sick and lame loved ones to this location where the "waters are stirred", to this "house of mercy."

St Anne's Chapel
Next to the Bethesda site, this chapel has the most amazing acoustics! We sang a worship song here and gave praise to the Lord. These very few minutes were some of my favorite on the trip.

Antonia Fortress - "Ecce Homo"
Home to the Praetorium and the Roman garrison, this is the site where Jesus, beaten and with the crown of thorns on his head, was presented to the crowd with Pilate's announcement, "Ecce homo" ("Behold the man").Pilate's announcement to the crowd, "Behold the man." We visited what is a very viable location for the actual site of his scourging at the hands of the Roman garrison. We were able to stand on the actual street that existed at the time of these events. The fortress would be at the northern end of the western wall.

The High Priest for Israel (Caiaphas at the time of Jesus), was appointed by the Roman governor - another means to control the Jews by the Romans. The garments for the priests were actually kept here at this military location. Interestingly, the symbol for the Praetorium garrison was a scorpion. It was carved into the stone here. This brings a different perspective to Jesus words found here. Snakes symbolize satanic oppression. Scorpions could be referring to political oppression.

At this site, I was impressed with Jesus' fearlessness contrasted by Pilate's cowardly capitulation to men and Caiaphas's fear of his power and position being threatened.

Via Dolorosa

Developed by Franciscans in the 14th CE, this walk which supposedly follows Jesus route from Antonia's Fortress to Golgotha is now entombed by shops and merchants (and even an internet cafe). This is a tradition only as any route would have been destroyed many times over with Jerusalem itself.

There is debate about the actual location of Golgotha or "Calvary." Most scholars would agree that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This "church" (which actually houses 4 different congregations) has a memorial which one can enter and walk down into the site of where Jesus was crucified and buried.

Although most evangelicals prefer the aesthetics of the Garden Tomb area (I'll describe it after visiting it tomorrow), most scholars believe tCotHS is authentic location. This area was once a quarry and would have been well outside the city walls at the time of Jesus.

Today was a "no shorts" tour day. Many of the "holy sites" in the OC require the knees to be covered as well as women's shoulders. It was another hot one. It made me wish I has bought some of those capris for men (even though I know how stupid I would have looked in them).

That's it for today...When I get home, I'm going to think about how I would put a tour together. I'd like to bring a tour here in the fall of 2009.

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 24, 2007

Israel, Day 8

Its a little before 6AM and I'm sitting out on the balcony of our room overlooking the city. The Church of Ascension on the Mount of Olives on on my left, the Dome of the Rock is center, and a church with a large bell tower stands atop Mt Zion. I have only 19 hours left before we head to Tel-Aviv to catch out plane which leaves in less than 24 hours. It's amazing to watch the sun crest the hillsides as it rises behind the Mt of Olives and begins to wash the whole city. I'll never look to the eastern sky again without thinking this view and the coming of the Messiah and how his glory will wash this city and the whole earth...Maranatha! Here's a look back at yesterday's tour.

The Israel Museum
The Israel Museum has 2 significant exhibits for the tourist. The first one we saw was a accurate scale model of the OC during Jesus day. Just moved to the IMJ in 2006, it's a huge model that really gives you a perspective of what the city and the sites we have visited. I asked the guide why we didn't come here first as an introduction. He said that he's tried that before, but the guests don't have a reference point for what they are seeing. He's right. This was the best way to do it (and he would know after doing 15-20 tours a year for 35+ years).

From this model we get to see how Jerusalem expanded as a city from the little Cannanite town that David over took and the hill next to it that he purchased to offer a sacrifice (I'll insert the bible references later), to the influential city it was before it's destruction in 70AD. Some interesting things that I learned yesterday...
- The Kidron Valley and the Hinnon Valley meet at the far southeast corner, where the "Dung Gate" to the city is located. This area was called Gehenna ("the burning place") as they dealt with the city's refuse here. Before that, the Canaanites offered thier children to be burnt alive in the same place as sacrifices to their god Moloch. No wonder it is an accursed place.
- Herod built a memorial site for David's Tomb on Mt Zion as a way to gain favor with the Jews, although no one actually knew where David was really buried. The "Upper Room" where Jesus had the last supper and the beginning location for the events in Acts 2 happened nearby this location (see v. 29).
On the Day of Pentecost after the pouring out of the Spirit, the disicples most likely would have walked from this area down to the temple. It was on the walk between the two that they we're likely to have been heard praising God and the crown gathered at the southern steps where Peter would have given his message and the 3000 were baptized in the micvahs (ritual baths) there.

- The two disputed sites of the cruxifiction and burial was rock quarrys just outside of the city walls from Antonia's Fortress; one to the south which is where the CotHS is, and one to the north where the Garden Tomb and Golgotha is memorialized (more about this site later).

The most important exhibit, and the most important archaeological discovery ever made in Israel (and possibly the world) is the Dead Sea Scrolls. The "people of the book" have built a shrine to the book. This was a great exhibit. Jayme and I got to see a portion the the DSS when they came to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana a few years back.

The Garden Tomb
Outside the city.near the Damascus Gate and the Jaffa Gate is this site. More aesthetically pleasing for most evangelicals, the Garden Tomb site has an actual tomb and over looks a hillside that looks like a skull. Knowing that most scholars give little validity to this site I was a little skeptical. When I entered the location, it was so beautiful I felt like this was a christian "disneyland," to good to be true. But as we sat to look out at this rocky hill outcropping, I was intrigued. This site was near the intersection of two major roads - to Jaffa and Damascus, along which the Romans would have carried out their public form . It already has a reputation as a location for punishments as many stonings (possibly Stephen's even) took place here. It was moving.

Then as we saw the tomb location, and got to walk inside, I couldn't help but be moved. Pastor Jack Hayford said it best when he said it may not be the actual location, but it's where the spirit of resurrection power resonates in one's soul. So true it was for me.

Last night for our service we saw an amazing performance by the International Christian Embassy of thier production, "The Covenant." It's a musical journey through history, from Abraham through recent history, that ells of God's faithfulness to His people the Jews. Very powerful! Wow!

I was telling Jayme last night night that I was thankful I had not gotten to come to Israel before now. I told her I was glad for the opportunity to first love Israelis and my Jewish friends, so that I could fully love this land.

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 25, 2007

Israel, Day 9

It's 7:30 PM on Wednesday, July 25th here in Israel. I'm where I started the day, on the patio overlooking the city. I'm still overwhelmed by this visit. Our guide, Doron, was AMAZING! He's been doing this for 35 years and although he's a secular Jew, he has an incredible grasp on the NT Combine that experience and knowledge and it makes him the best (at least that's what David Jeremiah,& Charles Swindoll have said, and, he was handpicked by Jack Hayford to be the guide for his Israel School of Pastoral Nurture tour which begins tomorrow). Even our driver David was outstanding.

Some of the culinary highlights that would have not gotten and props and easily forgotten are: the falafel up the street from the hotel at French Hill Falafel (it will be my "last supper" here), how bad the hummus was here at the Regency, and how creamy the Magnum dark chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bars were, a life saver on these scorching hot days. Believe it or not I couldn't find a bagel and cream cheese anywhere in Jerusalem.

This morning's commissioning service was awesome. I'm proud to have my service to our movement on the Board of Directors conclude with this wonderful convention. As always, Tommy Walker was amazing. The Holy Spirit really spoke to me through Glenn's message today, but that an entry for another time as it continues to get processed.

We leave for the airport at 1AM this morning to get to Tel-Aviv for our 5AM flight. There's supposed to be a strike of the transportation union, which would shut the airport down tomorrow at 6AM (the buses weren't running today). We're praying for a heavenly intervention. Now on with today final sites...

The Upper Room
This Crusader period room was built on the traditional site of the birthplace of the church in Jerusalem - the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. John 13-17 is one of 3 major discourses we have from Jesus, and it took place "in" this room. Later, the disciples returned here to "wait for the promise of the Father." As the did, the Holy Spirit was poured out. This was one of 5 sites (Mt Carmel, Mensa Christos, the Jordan River baptismal site, the Garden Tomb, and here) where I most sensed the presence of God.

David's Tomb
Near to the Upper Room is the traditional site of the tomb of King David. I forgot which early century it happened, but 2 Jews were found praying at this location and said it was the site of the tomb. A few Jews have always lived in Jerusalem, so the tradition passed down of important spiritual locations is fairly accurate.

Caiaphas' House (and St. Peter in Gallicantu)
This site is the possible location for Caiaphas' home and judicial quarters for the temple. The church commemorates Peter's denial of Christ which would have taken place in the courtyards. Excavations have revealed long set of steps which would have led down to the path from which you could go along the western wall to the priests' entrance to the TM.

There's also what looks to be a dungeon, with a hole in the ceiling to raise or lower prisoners in and out, and a place to administer punishments. It's said Jesus was beaten and held in this dungeon he night he was taken from the garden before he was taken to stand before Pilate. My friend Sam Rockwell gave a tender devotion in the dungeon from Psalm 88 about Jesus being alone. I began to think what a difficult time, having been alone in the garden and his friends not supporting him, on trial and Peter denying him, and on the cross separated from the Father...what a lonely night. Jesus knows what it is like to be all alone. He identifies with the lonliness I, we, feel at times. What a comfort.

Yad Vashem

We ended our time in Jerusalem at a spiritual site of another kind. The Holocaust Museum was moving. I looked at the names typed on the actual list prepared by Oskar Schindler. I saw Corrie Ten Boom's tree in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. Actually, it was an appropriately reverent ending to a life-changing trip.





It's time to pack and make one last trip to French Hill...I'll be processing more and making adjustments to the entries over the next few days, adding more links and giving special attention to some Google Maps of the areas I've visited. But as said by Jews all around the world at Passover, these words echo in the place that Israel now holds in my heart..."Next year in Jerusalem."

PS: To view all of our photos from today, CLICK HERE

July 31, 2007

Hope Revived

2 Kings 4:32-37 (NIV)
32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

What happens when your hope dies? Sometimes it's hard to believe in the promise that God gives you because the disappointment of it not coming to pass would be disheartening. So imagine how devastating it is when what God promises does happen, only to be seemingly taken away. That's the story of the Shunammite woman. Because of her hospitality to Elisha, he prophecies that she would have a son after having been childless and her husband is now too old. She even tells Elisha not to tease her like that - it's too painful (my paraphrase - 4:16). Yet she conceives and gives birth just as the prophet said. But some years later the boy becomes ill and dies in his mother's arms.

I have felt that kind of pain. Not the same circumstances, but the same ache when something God gave life to dies in your arms. You scream, "I told You not to even do this, but You went ahead anyway, only now to have it taken away...why? Why?" I don't know why this happens with God but I do know occasionally it does. I don't think they are tests. If they were, they would make God some kind of masochist. I just think it happens.

Elisha's approach to the dead boy is interesting. After praying, he lays on the boy and covers him. After doing this a couple of times the boy comes back to life. To me it's a picture of how God's graces covers my hopes and dreams. Even those that seem to have died can be resurrected when they are covered by God's grace. The promise of God once cold and lifeless warms when covered by his grace. Even when I can't believe because of the pain of my despair, it's possible for the dreams and desires of my heart to breathe again.

Lord, thank you for Your favor that covers my life.

About July 2007

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in July 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2007 is the previous archive.

August 2007 is the next archive.

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