Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saying Good Bye to Israel March '10

We got up this morning to a very solid rain coming down. An hour later the sky had cleared and the sun was shining down on Jerusalem as it usually does.
Today was our last day in Israel for this IFL March 2010 tour. We started off at the Garden Tomb for a Praise and Communion Service. What a way to start a day and to end a week and a half in Israel.
We also had a chance today to visit the Western Hill (today called Mt. Zion) where we saw the traditional place of the denials of Peter, then the Upper Room, the Jewish Quarter including Hezekiah's Broad Wall, the Roman Cardo, a great Jewish bagel lunch, before I sent the bus pilgrims back to the hotel to pack. Since Sharon and I don't leave until 10:15 am Friday, I spent a couple of hours in the Old City. I was able to help Dr. Dan Wallace make a good contact for possible future visits, I brought my wife a couple of gifts for next Christmas or some other good excuse to give him a gift, and then the Wallaces and I walked through the Muslim Quarter (Pati got some spices) and boarded an Arab bus back to our hotel. All this is quite a culturally stretching time for us as Americans and is something I've really come to enjoy doing.
Before I end my blog tonight I thought I'd add some pictures Sharon took yesterday. The first is of me in "Zedikiah's Cave." The next is of Steve Green in his concert last night at the Pavilion in Jerusalem (a church concert hall). I'm going to miss being here in the days ahead. I've gotten a couple of requests to return here to address Palestinian believers on a number of Scriptural questions as well as preaching opportunities. I'll be praying in the days ahead if this is somewhere I should be spending some time when my sabbatical comes up in 2011-12. Will you pray with me?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shopping in Jerusalem!

While this second to last day was not ALL shopping a lot of shopping went on during the afternoon. The morning was spent touring, not the ancient sites, but the Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea scrolls), the model of 1st Century Jerusalem, and YodVaShem (holocaust museum). We also went to the Garden Tomb (Gordon's Calvary) for a tour of what may be Golgotha and the burial tomb of Jesus (this site competes with the Church of the Holy Seplucher). Before shopping, as while our pilgrims were at the museum which we had viewed many times before, Sharon and I went to tour Zedikiah's Cave, a second temple period rock quarry that stretches from under the north wall of the city about 250 yards under the present Muslim Quarter. It was quite neat to view and is something I've wanted to do for years. The afternoon was spent allowing the pilgrims to shop, either in the Old City or on Ben Yehudah street (pedestrian mall area of West Jerusalem). We serve as guides and help the pilgrims get what they want. We usually take them to some of the shop keepers we've known for years and can trust to give everyone a fair deal.
Sharon left our camera on the bus tonight after returning from the Steve Green concert that was held in downtown Jerusalem so I have no pictures from today for my blog tonight. She has been taking most of the pictures that appear in this blog since we have been in Israel (thanks sweetheart). I'll stick in a couple of pictures from earlier days of this tour for those one you who like pictures! The two pictures at the top are of our guide Elon and our driver Eliazer.
Tomorrow we will all be together at the Garden Tomb for a communion service and then we will tour the Jewish Quarter. This tour will all come to an official end sometime after lunch. I can't wait to get back. Right now I think I have two future tours coming back to the Land so I won't be too sad leaving since I know (Lord willing) to return again.
It would be great if you could join Sharon and I on one of our upcoming tours.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The lowest place on the face of the earth!

Today we went to the lowest place on the face of the earth, about 1300 feet below sea level. You get 10% more oxygen, bromide in the air, and you don't get sunburned as easily since there is more atmosphere. It is quite relaxing. The Kingdom of Jordan is about 6 miles across the sea. But more than that, there are four exciting things to do down there. First, the Dead Sea is 10%+ saltier than the ocean and feels like you are bathing in salad oil dressing! (I'll spare you the pictures of me in a bathing suit!) It is something like you have never experienced just to float so easily in a sea.
Second. the community of Qumran and the location for the Dead Sea Scrolls are on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
Third, En Gedi (the Springs of the Wild Goats) is located mid way south on the shore of the Dead Sea. This is where David often fled from Saul and found water and security in this area (notice some of the many caves in this area as I give a devotion from 1 Samuel 24).
Fourth, Masada, the stronghold, where Harod the Great build a tremendous palace in the desert, and the place where in AD 73 the last of the Jewish zealots chose to die rather than to surrender to the Roman 10th Legion. This may be the place that David regarded as "the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61).
We got back just in time to have another all-you-can-eat buffet with just fabulous food on it. After dinner I walked out into the hotel atrium and there was a Yemenite Jewish wedding being conducted. The most interesting part of the wedding was when the groom can to the back, looked at the bride to make sure she was who he thought she was (no Leah replacement for Rachel!), then he pulled her thin veil over her face, went back to the front and waited for her to come up the aisle! The marriage contract was read aloud during the ceremony (in Hebrew of course) which a wedding guest later explained to me. He said this man would have to think very carefully about divorcing this wife because the contract called for him to pay a big monetary payment if he ever did so! Now back to our room (a great two room suite over looking the old city of Jerusalem) and a good night's sleep. We heard of an answer to prayer this morning for something Sharon and I have been praying for for some time. Praise the Lord! I'll share it in a future post.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The City of David

Today was a great day. The morning was the City of David while the afternoon was the Via Delarosa or the Walk of Christ to the Cross.
The picture to the left is of Stephen standing in front of the entrance to the city where David once ruled. (The unsightly bare legs are in preparation for walking through Hezekiah's water tunnel.) Sharon is standing in front of the harp, symbol of this city. One thing I had never seen before was a 30 foot deep shaft down to a water cistern. This would have been just like the one the Prophet Jeremiah was placed at various times in his ministry. We saw a 3D movie about Jerusalem, toured the sight, descended down through the water shaft and then the group divided into two. Sharon and most went through the dry Canaanite tunnel while Stephen and 8 others braved Hezekiah's water tunnel for 30 minutes.
After lunch at a kibbutz, we spent the afternoon in the northern part of the old city, walking the Via Delarosa, the way of suffering. We had been this way before but what was different was the presence of the Jewish police throughout the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem. I took some pictures from the bus window to show you their presence. No one seemed too tense and nothing happened that I know of today. The dedication service of the rebuilt synogoge in the Jewish Quarter is tomorrow. We will be out of the city and down around the Dead Sea area. The weather has been unusually warm for this time of the year but that is about to come to an end! The temperature is dropping and while is was over 100 today at the Dead Sea we are hoping for 75F tomorrow. The time for our tour ending is appearing on the horizon. But we still have 3 great days left.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Walking in Jerusalem

Today we sat on the southern steps of the temple mount where Jesus must have entered the temple numerous times. The disciples taught here and right near here over 3,000 were saved at Pentecost.
Today we prayed at the western wall of the temple mount where Jews come to pray from all over the world. At the right is a picture that Sharon took in the woman's section. Notice the tiny pieces of prayer pushed in between the stones. Aren't you glad that with Christ we don't need to leave a note but we can come boldly to the throne of grace? We walked through the old city, stopping at the remains of the Pools of Bethesda and singing in St. Annes Church. We began to notice an increased presence of Jewish police and soldiers throughout the Old City. Perhaps you have been hearing something on CNN about the increased tension in Jerusalem. It appears the Jewish authorities are trying to impress upon any Muslim who might decide to riot that this would not be a good idea. The reasons for the tension are varied but they include the dedication Tuesday of a rebuilt synagogue in the Old City, a rumor that the Jews are going to tear down Al Aksa mosque and rebuild the temple, and the recent announcement that the Jews are going to build 1.600 new apartments in East Jerusalem, the section of the city where most Arabs live.
In the afternoon we sat at the top of the Mount of Olives and learned about the city of Jerusalem. I taught here concerning the resurrection and then we walked down "palm Sunday road" to the church that commemorates the time when Jesus wept over the city. The pictures below are of me teaching and then Sharon in front of the Dome of the Rock and (closed) Eastern Gate to the temple mount.
We finished the day at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent a night in prayer preparing to do His Father's will — "not my will but thine be done."
Then back to the hotel for a wonderful meal and then a great time of fellowship with some new friends (Mike and Renae) who are members of some of our old friends Ian and Connie Lawson from Alberta, Canada. The Christian community is small sometimes!
If you are reading this I'd ask that you spend a moment in prayer praying for the peace of Jerusalem and for good safety tomorrow as we tour in a city with a little tension within it tonight. I do not feel afraid at all, just concerned that the touring pilgrims will get to see all the sites in the City of David tomorrow that I have come to love. I'm hoping to walk through Hezekiah's tunnel tomorrow morning. I'll let you know tomorrow if the security was such that we were able to do so.