Saturday, March 13, 2010

20 feet from Jordanian Border Guards

The last two days have been fabulous. Friday was our "northern Israel" day and we visited Dan, Caesarea, Golan Heights, and finally a baptismal service on the Jordan River. The picture on the right is Sharon and me in front of the Dan Spring. It is from here the Jor-Dan river begins. In Dan is the Jeroboam altar foundation that the king of the northern kingdom developed and where he place a golden calf. Behind the altar and under an ancient oak tree, I'm sharing a devotional to those on my bus on "Being Content with God's Gifts." We also saw a 4,000+ old Canaanite mud gate that would have been here when Abraham came by Dan seeking to rescue his nephew Lot! And we think things are old in North American if they are a couple of hundreds of years old!
Saturday (today) started at Tiberias and ended at Jerusalem! We started with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The boat is owned by a friend I have made over the years here and is named "Faith." The people really enjoyed as Daniel led us in a number of worship choruses before we met up with the other boats and heard Steve Green sing and Chuck Swindoll preach. Then it was on to Beth Shean where King Saul's dead body was hung on the walls after he was slain on nearby Mt. Gilboa. Dr. Reg Grant, a good friend of ours for the last 13 years performed a wonderful drama concerning a man from Jabesh-Gilead who came to rescue the body of Saul and take it back across the Jordan River. It was extremely powerful in its message. The picture on the right is of Reg performing in Israel's largest ancient Roman theater. After a wonderful lunch and touring Gideon Spring (En Harod) and a short devotional there, it was south down the west bank of the Jordan River. Our lead guide Amir had arranged to have the Israeli military escort us down to a newly build site on the Jordan River where ancient churches indicate that John the Baptist baptized here. Right across the river was Jordan (the border is in the middle of the river) and I was able to greet the guards there in Arabic. The interesting thing was I had just been on the opposite side this past June looking into Israel at this exact spot! It was probably right here that Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan after God miraculously stopped up the water. Then up to Jerusalem!!! More about Jerusalem tomorrow.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Today We Walked where Jesus Walked

Today we walked where Jesus walked. We started off at the Mt of Beatitudes where Chuck Swindoll preached a great message on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. Then it was off to Nazareth Village, a reproduction of village life from the first century on a piece of land within the present city of Nazareth. We saw shepherds with their sheep, the watchman in his watchtower, a young women weaving, a carpenter working his trade, all as we were guided around by a young Arab man who had married at DTS grad after she had volunteered at this place a few years ago! He gave great teaching, especially as we were sitting in a synagogue just like Jesus would have attended when he lived here.
After a St. Peter's fish lunch (notice I've learned to order mine without the head and tails and bones!) I spoke from Mark 5 about how Christ can heal a man (from the story of the Gadarene demoniac at a steep bank that leads down to the Sea of Galilee (remember the deviled ham!). We then went to Capernaum and saw so many great things there and heard about the great miracles Christ had done here. Off to see the 1st century "Jesus Boat" and then back to the hotel for a great buffet dinner on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Just in case we hadn't gotten enough to eat we walked into downtown Tiberius for Sharon's traditional coconut ice cream and my bubble gun ice cream cones! Some things are just good!
Tomorrow we'll see some amazing things including Lebanon and Syria!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caesarea. Mt. Carmel and Megiddo

Today was our first day of touring with the IFL Israel 2010 tour. We had a great day that started off with a worship service with Chuck Swindoll preaching, Steve Green singing and an appearance of King Agrippa I (Dr. Reg Grant; see picture to the right) at Caesarea on the coast. What a great service.
We also visited Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal so that everyone could decide who truly was the LORD, the God of Israel. The picture to the left has me standing in front of the statue at the site. You can see that Elijah has his foot on the neck of a false prophet of Baal and in his hand is a sword. No fooling around with false teachers of Israel!
After a great outdoor lunch at Megiddo, we toured the site. The picture to the below left has Sharon and I standing in front of a Late Bronze Age (15th-13th Century BC) gate. This was probably standing here when Joshua conquered the land and specifically Megiddo. On the top of the tel (which has approximately 20 levels of human occupation representing the time from the Canaanites to Solomon and beyond) I had a chance to give a devotional about Armageddon (Rev 16:16). In the background of the picture below you can see a small part of the Jezreel Valley where the kings of the world will gather for the final battle. It is a moving experience to read Rev 19:11-16 and to explain that despite the mass of forces arranged against God, Jerusalem, and his people, One will show up whose names is "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" and He will be the Victorious One!
Tonight we are in a hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee with a full day planned for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Today after an orientation meeting with Chuck and Cynthia Swindoll, a number of us walked down to Joppa — the port to which David and Solomon brought cedars from Lebanon so they could build their palaces and of course the Temple, the site of Jonah's ship flight from God, the location of the raising of Dorcas by Peter and of Peter's vision which challenged his long held beliefs of what God wanted from him. I had a short devotional there in which I challenge those present to open their eyes to see all that we would observe during this tour, but especially to open their eyes spiritually to see all that God wants us to understand in the 10 days ahead as we walk this land.
Tomorrow we start early to travel 35 miles north to Caesarea just like Peter did when he traveled to see Cornelius and open the Christian church to Gentiles and not only Jews.
It has been an unusually warm (hot) day today in Israel for March. They recently received a couple inches of rain so everything is wonderfully green Hope your spiritual life is growing too.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Where a professor takes his wife on a date in Israel!

Today was a day just for Sharon and I to relax, get over the jet lag, and do something in Israel that we won't get to do on the IFL tour. So at 8 am this morning I was at Budget Rental Cars in Tel Aviv to get the car for the day.
Where should I take my beautiful wife for a day she won't soon forget? Why not . . . start the day by trying to get to the significant site of Gezer, one of the three major cities that Solomon fortified (1 Kings 9:15) but we were stopped by a muddy river bottom that we couldn't go through! So why not . . . to the Emmaus the traditional site where Jesus revealed himself to two disciples who recognized him in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:13). . . then a drive up the Aijalon Valley all the way to Beth Horon on the Beth Horon ridge route (we had to stop at the more modern Jewish Beth Horon and take a picture down to the Arab village and beyond to the Aijalon Valley since this area is part of the West Bank [see the picture to the right]). Here I read Joshua 10 that I had preached last week at Waterbrook Bible Fellowship. Sharon and I were literally standing between Gibeon [where the sun stood still 10:12] and the Aijalon Valley [where the moon stood still 10:12] as I read about a day like no other in the history of the world (10:14). Then . . . on to Zorah the birthplace of Samson (Judges 13:2) . . . to the Sorek Valley where Samson lit the Philistines grain on fire (Judges 15:5) . . . to Tel Beth Shemesh the place where the ark came to rest after the Philistines sent it on its way on a cart pulled by two milk cows (1 Samuel 6:12) . . . then over a ridge to the Elah Valley where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2) . . then back to our hotel on the Mediterraean Sea! In the middle of what I would consider a great date, I stopped with my wife at Aroma Coffee for a fresh sandwich and chocolate coffee (and a stop to at Canada Park)! What more could a wife ask for on a date with a professor!
For me, to travel and stop and read the Scriptures about the sites with the one I have loved for almost 35 years now is an amazing experience. Sharon is having a short rest now before we greet the 13 other professors who are arriving shortly or I'd give her a chance to express her feelings about the day. For any ladies reading this, if she is somehow disappointed in such a "biblical" date, I promise you I will buy her some jewelery in Jerusalem!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Do you know where your parents are? Joppa, Israel!

About a half hour ago the clock tower in Joppa (Jaffa) struck nine times for 9 pm. Sharon and I looked at each other, smiled, and then I said, "Kids, do you know where your parents are — right now?" We used to worry about our kids. Now our kids are probably wondering what their two middle-aged to slightly older parents (Sharon celebrated her birthday last week) are doing wandering around in Joppa at night, holding hands as they walk along the Mediterranean Sea, talking about Jonah, Peter, Dorcus and what God can still do for people today! We arrived in Israel about 4 pm on Sunday afternoon after leaving Dallas about noon on Saturday. We are about 8 hours ahead here so it really wasn't too long a flight. The picture to the left was taken of the Med Sea from our balcony just after we arrived at the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv. We had a shower, a great buffet for dinner and then did our little one mile each way walk to Joppa. In the Old Testament Joppa was the seaport for Jerusalem. It was here that the timbers for the temple were taken out of the sea after being floated down from Lebanon. Then they were taken up the Aijalon Valley (right past the airport!). This valley was where the sun and moon "stood still" in the time of Joshua.
Joppa was the place where Jonah caught his "international one-way cruise away from God" boat. Joppa was the place where Peter caused Dorcus to come back to life through the power of God and Joppa was the place where God caused Peter to bring Life to the Gentiles 35 miles up the coast at Caesarea.
Tomorrow is a "date-day" for Stephen and Sharon before the 14 busloads arrive. Where will Stephen take his wife for a date? Check in tomorrow. Just a clue — its not the usual place a guy takes a girl for a romantic date!