Friday, January 16, 2009

Mount of Beatitudes

2,000 years ago in Galilee the greatest sermon ever preached was preached by a man named Jesus of Nazareth. On a beautiful hillside, over looking the Sea of Galilee. this Sermon is recorded in Matthew 5-7.

I shot my first video on this site. As you will see I'm not a professional.

From this hill side you could see the "city on a hill" referenced in Matthew 5:13-16. It was at this place that the fact that I was actually in the place where Jesus walked, talked and healed finally set in. He did so much ministry in such a short span of time. I pray that all of us will have as productive of a year as He did.

"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." Matthew 7:28-29

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Many Israel Lessons

There are numerous lessons that I learned while I journeyed around Israel. I will use my blog to share these with you. I have many pictures and video that I look forward to posting as I reprocess through my notes and thoughts.

Lesson #1: Difference in Coffee

I met Craig on this trip, he's a pastor in Alabama. He offered to buy me a cup of coffee one day in Aroma Espresso Bar, like Starbucks in America. He ordered two cups of black coffee and we learned a valuable lesson. Turkish coffee is like French Pressed coffee, except there is no press. Both of us took a huge sip before all of the grinds had settled. I had to chew my coffee before I swallowed. From then on, we made sure to specify that we wanted them to put the coffee grind in a filter before pouring our cup.

If you would like to make Turkish Coffee yourself, just put a couple of coffee beans in your mouth and chew them. Then just add some spit and you'll have Turkish Coffee.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 10: Having a blast....

Some pictures from the day:

My friend Vaughn and me riding a camel on the Mt. of Olives, this would be painful for a long distance trip.

Genesis 22:4 tells us that Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place where to sacrifice Issac from afar, Mt. Moriah. This is the view that he had of Jerusalem in this verse. The Dome of the Rock marks the place. My original view of Jerusalem was also from this spot on night 7.

2,000 year old olive tree in Gethsemane where Jesus prays for one hour before going to the cross.

Visited the tomb today, but no on was home. He is Risen indeed!!!

The Eastern Gate is on the right. When Jesus comes again he will enter this gate, which has always been closed. Tony Merida believes He will then go and kick off the Dome of the Rock like a football. It'll be game time for the conquering King of Kings!
Jesus' death on a cross defeated evil.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 9: Amazing Day, in a different way

Today we saw two main sites that were very humbling.

We started the day @ the Holocaust Museum which was so saddening to see the horrible things that were done to people. One fact to share with you. The population of Jews in Israel today is 6 million people, this is the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. As we walked through this memorial, the joyous thing to see was the way God worked through people. Many even sacrificed their own life so that others might live. (I was not allowed to take pictures)

The second site was probably a good candidate for the highlight of the day. We visited Caiaphas' house, who was the high priest. Jesus spoke out about the way in which they were using their work in the name of God to abuse widows and poor so that they could get richer. We saw several houses today from the religious leaders in that day and they were mansions. The Gospels record that Jesus confronted and condemned them, which is why they decided to get rid of their little problem.

Arrested in Gethsemane Jesus is then led to Caiaphas' house. Until today I never really knew how far of a distance this was. In the picture to the left my head is under the Garden of Gethsemane, where I'm standing is an overlook at Caiaphas' house. As I stood there I could only imagine the things that were done to Jesus while he was led away.

I also wondered what went through Jesus' head. My best guess is that He did a lot of praying. Tony Merida showed us today that Jesus' ministry was marked by constant prayer with the Father.

I walked down the exact same stairs that Jesus walked up to enter the part of the house where He was mocked and beaten.

Caiaphas' house also had a dungeon where Jesus was held that night. This was a deep hole in the rock, like a cistern. Jesus would have just been thrown into this place after he had been beaten to await the time when the religious leaders would take him to Pilate.

I also saw the room where Jesus was flogged that night. Paul and John where also possibly held in this area, or at least one like it, in Acts 4. The next day they powerfully proclaim: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Finally, today I got a chance to stand in a very special place. The location where the upper room was located is now a church (go figure). But below are still the first century walls of a synagogue which is where the disciples worshiped after the Resurrection. Around this place is also believed to be the place where Peter preached on the day of Pentecost in Acts 3:14-41. The stones in the picture below were there when the church started about 2,000 years ago.
Everyone of our churches today are a continuation of these men and women that fearless proclaimed the message of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. The early church leaders took the Gospel to the ends of the earth no matter the cost, hopefully we, the church today, will do the same in 2009. May all the nations praise God! (Ps. 67)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 8: Walking through the Holy City

Well, here are some pics from my day in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock

This is looking eastward. The left side of the picture is the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. The road you see would be where Jesus made his triumph entry on Palm Sunday. When He comes the second time this is where He will come to and enter Jerusalem. He'll come as our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

We walked the stages of the Via Dolorosa. Some of the places are not the actual site, just churches build to remember a certain stage. One that is for certain is the place where Jesus stood before Pilate and was tortured by the Roman Soldiers. This was a special place that we walked down under the city and visited. In the picture I'm knelt on the original stone that Jesus stood on before Pilate. It was here that Jesus being fully God silently stood while they beat and tortured him, like a sheep before her shearers (Is. 53:7). The Roman Soldiers actually played a game called the King's Game to decide what to do to him next. This game is still visible in the stone and includes everything mentioned in scripture.

For Jews today the Wailing Wall is the most important place in the entire world. The temple is not standing, but there is a several hundred foot stretch of the western wall of the original temple mount still available to come and pray at. Behind this wall was where the Holy of Holies use to be located. In the picture the Temple would have been in the top left corner.
For them to pray here is to be as close to God as possible. Today I stood here and watched many men cry out to God to send the Messiah with tears coming down their face. Some pressed their faces into the wall, others read scripture while others wept for deliverance.

As I watched this my heart broke like Christ's heart broke for the city which is full of people still waiting on the Savior. God has delivered us, through a man named Jesus. He was the Christ (God's anointed one) sent from God to pay the price. I spent time asking God to open their eyes and bring the entire country of Israel to salvation.

I also wrote a prayer and put it in the wall. These papers are cleaned out periodically and buried in the Mount of Olives.

The sadness was combined with joy as several young boys were celebrating their Bar Mitzeah. They are becoming a man which means they now get a copy of the Torah to read. It looks like a beast to carry. I'm glad we have thin line editions.

Dr. Kelly share an amazing point with me the other day that came very clear today. Christianity does not hinge on a particular place, but a specific word... The Word of God. Places change, but God's Word stays the same. I understand this more after seeing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the site of Calvary, but sadly it has an ugly idolatrous church over it with hideous images all over the inside and in scent burning. We had to stand in a line to reach our hand down on the rock where the cross was place and then were rushed out. I stood in the tomb for about two minutes before I was asked to step back out. One of the most specialist places in human history is not worshipful or reflective at all. This was disappointing.

Tomorrow we will travel to more places in Jerusalem. But the prayer for tonight is that the Praises of God would echo throughout this land that Jesus Christ Saves!!!! (Ps. 67)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 7: We are in Jerusalem....

It is 6:30pm on Jan 7th and I'm in the hotel less than a mile south of Jerusalem. The excitement I feel is unbelievable. Quick pic, sorry you can't see anything. It's dark, just trust me. Behind me is the Holy city, temple mount, mount of olives, etc. I'm off to dinner and will write more later about the last few days. I've experience amazing stuff.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Day 3: Spent the day in Jesus' mission field....

Again I write to you from a Kibbutz (hotel) in Galilee. I’m sitting in my spot in the lobby and drinking a cup of Israelite coffee. It’s no Starbucks, but it does the job. I’m really tired after today because we spent the day going to places where the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ walked, lived, ministered and poured himself into to thousands of people. We are staying close to the city of Tiberias. Jesus did most of his ministry on the Northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s amazing to see that Jesus, who is the greatest missionary in the history of the world, worked in such a small territory in comparison to what we try to do today. The lesson I saw was that Christians should seek God’s call for a place, maybe just one part of a city, then plant their life there and devote everything that they have to reaching everyone in that section. It’s the model we see from Jesus.

Today (Saturday) is the Sabbath in Israel. They do as little work as possible. Breakfast was a very lite compared to yesterday. There were several different types of raw fish, I didn’t try any. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that yet. The orange juice here is AMAZING!

First thing on today’s agenda was taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. On the way to the ride I climbed a Sycamore tree and saw a boat that they have recovered from the Sea of Galilee that dates to the time of Jesus.

On the boat they played the USA national anthem, I feed the seagulls and some even crapped on Tony Merida. The president of NOBTS, Dr. Kelly and his wife joined us for the day. I sat next to them on the boat. Dr. Kelly is a living hero of the faith and always shares nuggets of truth that are so insightful. We stopped in the middle of the Sea and had a time of devotion, singing and prayer. Then a modern day fisherman tried to catch us some lunch. Sadly, he didn’t catch a single thing.

We docked at Capernaum and loaded our bus headed to a place called the Mount of the Beatitudes. This is the site on which Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever, The Sermon of the Mount. His words are so rich and have such depth that we will probably never grasp the full meaning this side of heaven. I shot a video here so that you all could experience a little of what I did. The connection is low so I will have post it when I get back.

After the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-11) Jesus talks about a city on the hill (Matt 5:13-16), which you can see the exact one that He was talking about behind you when you are on this mount. Being here changes the way I read this section of scripture now. As a group we prayed the Lord’s Prayer where it was originally prayed. This left me awestruck.

From there we headed to a city called Korazim. I had no idea what this city was before we got there, but after our trip it became so meaningful for me and my ministry. This is a 1st century town that is mentioned in Matthew 11:20-24 (Chorazin). This is a place that Jesus visited and taught at. The people did not repent so Jesus denounces them. I would love to share several important things about our time here. #1- we saw the tree like the one from which Jesus’ crown of thorns was made. This was probably the first time it sunk in that I was where Jesus had been. I touched thorns like the ones that pierced the head of Jesus while He was paying for my sin.

#2- One of the assignments for my class was a group project that we would present for 48 people sometime on the trip. My group was assigned to present at this place. We dressed like the disciples and acted out a skit from Mark 6 when Jesus walked on water. We did this in the same synagogue that Jesus himself taught the citizens of Korazim. Standing in the same place that Jesus had been I debriefed the scripture and applied the text for the people in relation to our trip so far. I basically preached in a place that Jesus himself had over 2,000 years ago. The two other girls also shared other scriptures that related to our lesson and led us in a time of prayer. If I had to pick a highlight of the day, I would probably say this would rank very high.

#3- I sat in a Seat of Moses. In the time of Jesus, the preachers of the day sat down in these chairs when they taught. I sat in the one for the Synagogue in Korazin, with my handlebars still on my face. HA!

Lunch was a Falafel, which is like the Israelite hamburger. It was delicious.

We spent 5 minutes at the place of the feeding of the 5,000. We did this so we could spend the rest of the afternoon at two very important places. The first place was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus reinstates Peter one morning after cooking him a fish breakfast. Maybe I should have had some of the fish this morning at breakfast. This encounter is recorded in John 21. One of the pastors on the trip gave a quick devo about this. It was very powerful. I shot a video and will post a blog later on my thoughts from this site and the devotion that was given.

The last stop of the day was at Capernaum. This is a very important city. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, but moved to this city sometime before his ministry. This was his home base from which he launched to minister to people all over the northwest shore. Peter actually had a house here, which is the site of where the men dug through the roof and lowered the paralyzed man which Jesus healed. (Mark 2:1-12) I also sat in the Synagogue in Capernaum which is where Jesus told us that He is the Bread of Life. (John 6:22-59) A majority of his miracles happened in this city. Again I made a video and will post it along with thoughts later.

Today was a big day and I just posted a long Blog. Thanks for reading it because what you are reading is my journaling and fleshing out of what I saw today.

Until tomorrow, live fully in your “today” which you have been given by God.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 2: Covered many centuries both BC & AD....

Greetings from the region of Galilee, as I post this blog it is 10:45pm Jan 2, 2009. I’m sitting in the lobby of our hotel we will be in for the next four nights, a man is playing the piano and I’m very tired.

I arrived in Jerusalem at 5pm on Jan. 1. This was after I enjoyed some food on the plane; most notable is the Kosher Chicken. This didn’t taste any different. At the Airport ee boarded a bus and head south to Beer Sheva. We stayed in a hotel in the Negev desert, which is where the children of Israel wandered for forty years. It was dark so we could see anything. We ate dinner and headed to bed at 10pm. Since I’m a night owl I awoke at 3am and was wide awake. I debated just getting up, but decided to go back to sleep feeling that I might need the rest. I was right. On our first day we cover several centuries in the span of three hours.

I got up and showered at 5:30am, fixed Israelite instant coffee and ate an orange. The sun rose at about 6:30, I walk to a water tower on the hotel campus. The view was stunning; I looked around 365 degrees and saw for the first time a true oasis. The compound where we were staying was surrounded by desert, absolutely nothing. This settlement southeast of Beersheva was the first one of the nation of Israel in 1948. This is when they became a state.

We left at 8 and headed to Tel Arad. Here we saw a Canaanite city. There was also a Biblical Arad, which dates to the 11th Century BC. There was a small Temple here to the God of Israel. Solomon centralized worship in the 10th century BC. I stepped into the Holy of Holies where only the priest worshipped God that close so long ago before the real Temple was built in Jerusalem. WOW! Now, because of Jesus we can all have a face to face encounter with Him, daily.

We left Tel Arad headed to Masada. The route we took was most likely the route that the wise men took after visiting Jesus (Matthew 2:12). See, told you we jumped centuries real quick.

Masada was a huge place in the early church history. Here Jews settled after the Temple was destroyed in 70AD and the Romans set up a siege. This was a huge mountain in the middle of the desert. The Jews ended up committing suicide so that they would not have to be slaves to the Romans. I’ll write more about the importance of this when I get back. We took a chair lift to get up but about ten of us walked the 450 meters back down. WOW! That was my work out for the day.

From there we went to Qumran, which is where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. We saw cave 11 where they found a complete scroll of Isaiah. It is this scroll that helps solidify the Hebrew Bible, since it was written before the Canonization of the Old Testament. God preserved His word for about 2,000 years and now we have evidence of what we thought for many years.

Last we went to the Dead Sea. As a tourist this was the highlight of my day. I was the only one out of our group of 48 people that took a swim in the Dead Sea. Well, actually I floated because you can not sink in the Dead Sea. There is so much salt. I also took a mud bath, which is what people come from around the world to do. The mud under the water acts as a lotion, really healthy for your skin. My left arm feels so smooth right now. One of the girls shot a video which I will post later, so check back. This was an amazing experience because I’m sure there are many people throughout the history of this region that have done the same thing.

From here we made a 2 hour bus ride to the north where I now sit on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We had a jam packed day and I’m sure tomorrow will bring more of the same.

I’ll try to post another update tomorrow.