Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Israel-Day 8

Thankfully we had a much more relaxing day but not without some unique experiences. We checked out of Christ's Church in the morning and started off for Galilee. Our first stop was the Jordan river at the traditional sight of the baptism of Jesus.  It was quite crowded as there was a Coptic group rededicating themselves in the water.  We watched them for a time and then the Coptics were interrupted by an American middle age group that rushed to the water shedding their clothes to dip themselves.  I must say that I never expected to see half naked middle age women at such a holy sight. Some literally threw their tops off to quickly change. Can't make this stuff up.  We next drove around the Lake (Sea) of Galilee.  It is Thirteen miles long and 6 miles wide. It was calm today and quite beautiful as the sun struck it at different angles.

We had good drink and good conversation as we agreed that what the Jewish people do so well to maintain their identity is to be proactive at redeeming time and celebrations together. Christians need this type of identity in the home first and then in the faith community. Much more to be said!   We love the new hotel where we will stay two nights. Please pray we get home safe. Peace, Pastor Eric

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Israel-Day 7

We started with the former Temple now known as the Dome on the Rock. Did you know? 1) The Muslims do not believe Mohommed ascended into heaven from said spot. 2) The dome was designed by Bysantine Christians and it looks like a Byzantine Christian Church. 3) The gold color was added much later by the Jordanians using American money. 4) While the Jewish state tried to compromise with the Arabs by offering to take what was below the ground and let them have what was above ground the Muslims secretly built a mosque below ground as well. 4) The Muslims deny the Jews ever had a Temple built on the spot of the Dome On the Rock.  Neither did I.

Bobbi Lynn and I spent lunch with Rev. Walter And Nelda Banek walking up the Mt of Olives and then to the possible place of the garden of Gethsemene.  There are trees there that date back to the days of Jesus.  Very powerful to imagine what transpired there.  We also viewed the pool of Bethesda and imagined the lame man being healed!  Again, it is a great privilege to take in.  Peace, Pastor Eric

Monday, January 18, 2016

Israel-Day 6th

We both had a good night sleep last night so we were ready for the day. We started at the Tower of David which has nothing to do with King David.  Israel can be confusing like that. Archealogical evidence shows that the foundation was Herod's palace where Jesus was likely convicted and flogged. It has had several walls built around it since then and now serves as a museum of Jerusalem.

We were greatly helped to understand the story of Jesus' time in the Holy City by hands on topography maps and models that showed the relationship between important buildings and areas within the city walls. I very much look forward to trying to describe it all to others.

Our next stop was the Church of the Reussurection or Holy Sepluchre, whichever you prefer.  There is so very much to take in  there because of the many traditions that lay claim to the spot.  Our guide is very quick to dismiss "Protestant propaganda" so my questions were almost ignored. Both Bobbi Lynn and I waited to touch the rock on which Jesus may have died.  It seemed like a necessary thing for a pilgrim to do.  Finally we took a quick trip to Bethlehem where we saw our first Palestinian soldiers. Their Prime Minister was in town to celebrate the Armenian Christmas. Because of the celebration we only got a glimpse of the believed spot Jesus was born.

There is much in dispute about these sites but there are too many witnesses very close to the days Jesus spent on earth allowing us to trust in the respective traditions.

Anyone who would come to these places and question the historicity of Jesus is a fool. Well, he is a fool even if he never comes to the Holy City.   Peace, Pastor Eric

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Israel-Day 5

Holy Communion service for Christ's Church began at 9:30 so we had a little extra time to relax in the morning.  The service was a mix of contemporary and low church liturgy.  The message covered the first miracle of Jesus in John 2.

Because of possible inclement weather our schedule changed to take advantage of the beautiful day given to us and we began by walking through the Jewish quarter, followed by the southern wall excavation and finally to the western or wailing wall.  The tour was helpful to set us up to understand how the second Temple era started in 538 BC to 70 AD which was a new way to consider it for me as I learned that the Jews did not accept Zerubbabel's rebuilding as a legitimate Temple.

Another lesson learned was that I had always thought that the Western Wall was the only wall of the Temple left standing.  Actually much of the Southern Wall is left as well and it was magnificent touch the southwest corner and gaze up at the massive structure while imagining what it once was.  The privilege was to step on the very steps that Jesus and his disciples would have stepped on to walk through the Southern Gate.  This is what makes for a true pilgrimage.

Most men decided to go into the section gated off to get to the Western Wall but I stayed behind the fence.  For me it was sad to watch so many devoted men rocking, praying and hoping for a deliverance that had come 2,000 years ago and who was and is the True Temple.

We finished with standing on a roof top in the evening to see the Holy City.  It is a honor to be here.  Peace, Pastor Eric

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Israel-Day 4

We started off early again (7:47 am) and enjoyed a much needed Morning Prayer service together on the bus.  Our first and longest stop was Masada.  I wasn't looking forward to this part of our journey because it is not a biblical event.  But the fortress itself is something to behold.  Our guide took us to each of the Jewish building built while occupied and discussed the benefits of Jewish practices.  A "elephant in the room" question stays with us, "Why should we be impressed with devout Jewish practices when they missed the Messiah?"  It is sometimes acknowledged but most of the time it is overlooked.  I do care about what the Jews did whether it be cultural or religious but only because I want to better understand how and why Jesus acted toward them the way he did.  There is too much more to discuss on the issue so I will save it for later teaching times.

Our next stop was the Qumran where the Essenes left their scrolls and where so much of our Old Testament content is revealed.  Consider that before these scrolls were found the latest archaeological evidence for the Old Testament were 900 A.D. scrolls.  These were 100 B.C. scrolls and virtually identical to the 900 A.D. scrolls.  Add to this evidence that Malachi was written 300 years before the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jeremiah just over 200 years before Malachi and we have the high likelihood that what we have today is a the Word of God.

Our final stop was to take a deep in the Dead Sea and it was worth the wait.  There is literally no effort needed to stay afloat and no sting to the skin.  Another once in a lifetime opportunity.

We ended our day here at the Christ Church guest house and what a blessing it is.  It is in the Old Jerusalem right across from the Tower of David.  This will be our home for the next four days.  Peace, Pastor Eric

Friday, January 15, 2016

Israel-Day 3

Israel-Day 3

The day started with a visit to the home and memorial for Ben-Gurion.  He was a modern prophet for the state of Israel as he became instrumental in establishing the contemporary Jewish state.  If your education was like mine or if you simply remember yours like I remember mine we thought Israel became a state because the UN felt sorry for them after WWII and Holocaust.  Not true.  How Israel came to be a nation and why they face the animosity they now face is found in their beginnings.  Too much to discuss in this blog.

We next went to En Avedat where we took in spectacular views and realized just how difficult it was to get across the dessert region called the Negev.  We went down the ravine and then we climb up 100 meters by way steps, trails and 90 degree ladders.  A picture of us at the top is on our Facebook page

A wonderful outcome of such a trip is found in what it meant for Moses to hit a rock twice for water to come out.  I had always thought of it as a simple big rock in the dessert but when you walk the ravine and see water seeping out of canyon walls and understand that it was an old shepherd's trick to hit such rocks causing them to de-plug and for water to come forth, you know why God told Moses to speak and not strike.

Finally we went to Makhtesh Ramon a crater that was not on our agenda but was a beautiful view of God's creation as we meditated on the view reading Psalm 104.

This journey with Old Testament references is such a fantastic way to anticipate following the steps of Jesus and entering Jerusalem.

Please read Bobbi Lynn's comments below as she is keeping a woman's perspective along with me.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Israel-day 2 Walking in the footsteps of Abraham

Happy Birthday to my dear sweet wife! I wouldn't say that to her until it was the 14th in the states.  Our first stop today was at the "supposed" well of Abraham. Evidently the Bedouins claimed it as Abrahams well in the 19th century but archeologists cannot age it past 1000 years. We took pictures there anyway.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Israel-day of travel

The plane was scheduled to leave at 10:50 pm. While waiting we spent $40 on sliders and pita with hummus at Newark Airport.  Israel has an additional search before you board which we preferred. I was curious regarding the many Orthodox Jewish men on board. They were dressed in accordance with the rabbi they follow. Most were in all black with different curls for sideburns and different top hats. They prayed, recited and rocked together at certain hours even on the plane. Some people might have respect for their devout life styles but I struggled watching them. It was not their ritualism that bothered me. It was not even that they trusted in their ritualism. It was the fact that they have rejected Jesus as their Messish.

Our group Evening Prayer followed the lectionary reading from Ezekiel 3. There the prophet is told by God that the people of Israel will not listen to the prophet because they will not listen to God.  To hear that while being present in the land of Israel was surreal and gave me a deeper appreciation for the courage of the prophets.  St. John records Jesus saying that the Jews did not know him as their
Savior because they did not know the Heavenly Father. As Christians we can have respect for devoted Orthodox Jews but they need Jesus as their Savior. No exceptions!

We arrived at The Leonardo hotel in Beer Sheba at 7:30 pm (12:30 est).  Had a good meal and now wait to fall asleep so that we don't wake up at 3:00 am. Tomorrow we look at the land that Abram walked. Peace to you, Pastor Eric

Friday, January 8, 2016

And yet another problem...

with the "Jesus and me only" doctrine is how it seriously limits a believers ability to understand the covenant of salvation God has made for His people.  When Abram looked to the stars at God's instruction he was not only to understand the number of "seeds" that would come from him but also to see the immensity of the covenant God had made with him.  When Abram believed God's promises and it was accounted to him as righteousness the specifics of those promises would not be realized by Abram.  And it didn't matter.  The faith Abram had was not about him.  That cannot be said by those who think that their personal testimony to ask Jesus in their heart is the crux of their life.  That is why they bounce from church to church.  It is why service to the Lord is conditional and convenient.  It is why they can treat other Christians in a non-loving manner.  But it is never "Jesus and me only."  Believers are part of an immense covenant that God has made for our salvation.  Just look to the stars!