Archive for November, 2010


Hanukkah 2010


Many have been asking me if we as Christians should celebrate Hanukkah. This blog is in response to those questions and will hopefully whet your appetite to begin this observance for yourself and you family. Those of you with children will find that your kids can especially appreciate it: they get eight days of gift-giving instead on one.

7669hanukkah-posters

History

In 167 BCE the Syrian-Greek emperor, Antiochus, set out to destroy Judaism by imposing a ban on three of their recognized laws and customs. All three maintain Jewish cultural integrity and were thus threats to the Greek culture.

An Israeli leader named Matityahu and his five sons, known as the Maccabees, started a revolt against Antiochus and succeeded in evicting their oppressors. The victory was a miracle on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today. Having regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews wanted to immediately sanctify and rededicate it. In order to do so, they needed ritually pure olive oil to re-light the Menorah in the Temple. Only a single cruse of oil was found however; this was enough to burn for just one day. For ritual purification laws, they needed oil sufficient for eight days until new, ritually pure olive oil could be produced. A miracle occurred and the one-days-worth of oil burned for eight days.

Jesus and Hanukkah

Also known as the Holiday of Lights, Hanukkah provides a wonderful time of the year to remember and commemorate the great miracle that God has done for all of us, by giving us new light and life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And because Jesus celebrated Hanukkah at the Temple, as Christians we can celebrate Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights”, as we rededicate our lives to Christ and acknowledge Him as the perfect and true light of this world.

In fact, Jesus preached three sermons in which He declared Himself the “light of the world,” and all three could have been during Hanukkah.

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” (John 12:35-36).

Just before Jesus announced that He was the Light of the world, He had shed His light upon the consciences of those who accused the adulteress (John 8.) John also records Jesus healing a blind man (9:1-12) at about the same time that Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the world (8:12 and 9:5).

But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing![1] (John 9:5-7)

Christians and Hanukkah

Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable and even suggested that we as Christians celebrate Hanukkah as well. For 2010, Hanukkah is observed from December 1-9. Below is a suggested “first” observance of Hanukkah that each of us can follow.

Observance of Hanukkah

I suggest that you read the story of Hanukkah so that everyone will have some understanding of it. It is found in 1 Mac. 4:52–59 which is an apocryphal book found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. You can also find it online. (By the way, these apocryphal books are not dangerous to read; they are simply non-God-inspired books but they DO bring great historical information … especially concerning times between the Old Testament and the New Testament.)

1 Mac. 4:52–59 – “Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year,  they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (NRSV).

In observance, we will light Hanukkah candles for eight days. These are held in a special Hanukkah menorah that has nine candles spaces instead of the typical menorah that has seven. Eight of these spaces are of identical height. The ninth space is probably of a different height and is reserved for the “helper” candle that is use to light all others.

festivals_hanakah01

Two blessings (three on the first night) will be said each night prior to (but during the time of) lighting the candle(s).

The first blessing thanks God for the commandment to “kindle the Hanukkah lights.” We therefore recite the blessing before lighting the candles, and then proceed to carry out the commandment.

The second blessing praises God for the miracle the candles publicize, and is therefore said as the candles are being lit.

Hold the lit “helper” candle in your right hand and say:

1. On the first night of Hanukkah, this blessing is added signifying that it is the first time that the Hanukkah lights have been lit this season:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who gave us life and kept us and delivered us to this time.

2. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us by Your commandments and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

3. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who performed miracles for Your chosen people at this season, in days past.

Lighting the Menorah

On the first night of Hanukkah, a single candle (or oil wick) is lit, on the far right side of the menorah. On each successive night an additional candle is added, from right to left (two candles lit on the second night, three on the third…) until finally, on the eighth night, all eight candles are lit. It is customary to light from left to right, with the newest candle lit first. You should allow the candles to burn themselves out.

The candles are lit by a “shamash” or helper candle, which after being used to light the other candles, takes its own special place on the menorah – usually in a place slightly set apart and/or higher from the rest.

· While lighting the candles themselves, Hanerot Halalu is traditionally recited.

· Once the candles have been lit, Maoz Tzur is traditionally sung.

When To Light

The candles are lit starting at nightfall, and should burn for at least half an hour. On Friday afternoon, the candles are traditionally lit before sunset, to avoid lighting on the Sabbath. By putting longer candles in the menorah (or thick Shabbat candles on tin foil), the lights will still be burning after it grows dark.

Where To Light

The glowing Hanukkah candles are meant to advertise the holiday’s miracles. At home, place the lit menorah in the window where passers-by can see its light.

While lighting the candles themselves, Hanerot Halalu is traditionally recited.

We light these lights
For the miracles and the wonders,
For the redemption and the battles
That you made for our forefathers
In those days at this season,
Through your holy priests.
During all eight days of Chanukah
These lights are sacred
And we are not permitted to make
Ordinary use of them,
But only to look at them;
In order to express thanks
And praise to Your great Name
For your miracles, Your wonders
And your salvations.

Once the candles have been lit, Maoz Tzur is traditionally sung.  Maybe you would like to read them instead, at least for your first observances.

· O  mighty stronghold of my salvation,
to praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter
for the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn
the dedication of the Altar.

· My soul had been sated with troubles,
my strength has been consumed with grief.
They had embittered my life with hardship,
with the calf-like kingdom’s bondage.
But with His great power
He brought forth the treasured ones,
Pharaoh’s army and all his offspring
Went down like a stone into the deep.

· To the holy abode of His Word He brought me.
But there, too, I had no rest
And an oppressor came and exiled me.
For I had served aliens,
And had drunk benumbing wine.
Scarcely had I departed
At Babylon’s end Zerubabel came.
At the end of seventy years I was saved.

· To sever the towering cypress
sought the Aggagite, son of Hammedatha,
But it became [a snare and] a stumbling block to him
and his arrogance was stilled.
The head of the Benjaminite You lifted
and the enemy, his name You obliterated
His numerous progeny – his possessions –
on the gallows You hanged.

· Greeks gathered against me
then in Hasmonean days.
They breached the walls of my towers
and they defiled all the oils;
And from the one remnant of the flasks
a miracle was wrought for the roses.
Men of insight – eight days
established for song and jubilation

· Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for salvation –
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants’ blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil,
Repel the Red One in the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.

 

If you would like more information, Google “Hanukkah Messianic” or try this site: http://bethhamashiach.com/Hanakah.htm


[1] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible : New Living Translation., 2nd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), Jn 9:1–8.

Advertisements

Israel- Day Nine


As I begin, allow me to lay out a plan. I know that it will take days and perhaps even weeks to assimilate what all we have seen, felt, tasted, heard, and experienced. With this post, we hope to show the scenes and brief snippets of our last day in Israel, 2010, but we also understand that these are mere snippets; they do not share what God is doing in us through this marvelous experience.

We started off the day by a trip to the ancient City of David. Here is the former home/ palace of King David himself. This is the place where so much happened, including the spying of Bathsheba as she appeared on her rooftop to bathe. Of course, as you look around this place, it becomes very easy to see how this could have happened because the entire place is built on the side of a mountain.

Israel 11182010 (4)   Israel 11182010 (24)   Israel 11182010 (40)

From here we headed over to the Southern Wall of Jerusalem. This is another of my favorite places here because you can see actual bedrock where Jesus actually walked up to the Temple. You are truly walking where Jesus walked. Too, you can see the irregular steps leading into the Temple. These mean that one had to cautiously and thoughtfully enter His presence.  (See Cheri placing her foot on the bedrock where Jesus could have very possibly place his own foot!)

Israel 11182010 (75)        Israel 11182010 (73)

The Tomb of David (that we visited) was probably not the actual place of his burial, Instead, it is a place of reverence and honor. It is also a very beautiful place where you can truly think and hear God.

Israel 11182010 (113)

The Via Dolorosa (Latin meaning Way of Sorrows) is a large portion of the street upon which Jesus carried His cross on the way to Calvary, (It was a little disappointing how commercialized it is here with all of the shops.) There are portions here also of actual stones upon which Jesus walked. This, too, was an exciting find for us as again, we walked where He walked … this time on the way to His crucifixion. We did have an interesting altercation with a shop owner/street vendor (which caused difficulty in remembering WHY we were here) but were quickly reminded of God’s forgiveness and His mercy.

Israel 11182010 (133)

From there, we went to the Church of the Last Supper/ Upper Room. We know that this structure was not here but we are for sure in the proximity where these events happened.  It was here that Jesus had some of His final words to His disciples. It was here that Judas left to betray Christ. And it was here that the church was birthed in the day of Pentecost. We even wanted to hear the sound of a rushing mighty wind while we were here.Israel 11182010 (123)

The area known as the Cardo was another 1st Century spot where we were able to see streets as they were at the time of Jesus. This was a very beautiful area and was situated in the Jewish Quarter of the city. As far as sheer manmade beauty, this was as good as they come.

Israel 11182010 (166)

Our next stop was the Antonia Fortress. We actually sat among the steps where Jesus was tried and perhaps even beaten. This was a great place of remembrance and introspection. It was also a very beautiful place.

Israel 11182010 (196)

The Pools of Bethesda are ancient ruins where healing took place and where Jesus Himself performed healings. The area was very beautiful and the understandings that Jesus ministered here caused this place to have great attraction to us.

Israel 11182010 (202)

The Garden Tomb is one of the sites that many feel is the actual place of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It certainly has many of the necessary ingredients to be the right place. Our guide here was marvelous and convincing. Everyone was thrilled to see the empty tomb and I was thrilled to minister communion to all present. I had everyone give their communion to someone else (among us) as a symbolic giving of the Gospel to those around us. One missiologist has said that everyone should hear the Gospel once before anyone has heard it twice. What better way to remember this than in the midst of God’s chosen people, in the midst of His empty tomb, and among those we love and care for.

Israel 11182010 (224)

Our closing banquet featured a small, intimate buffet where we got to appreciate our guide and our driver and where we were able to present Pastors Jerry and Chris as well as Melva with tokens of our appreciation for them.

Israel 11182010 (226)

Our last day had some intimate and powerful times of worship…in the place where Jesus was beaten for us…in the darkness of the Arab quarter as we declared Him as Lord and King….and in the Garden Tomb where He was crucified, buried and rose again.  We are so thankful to God and changed by God through this amazing experience in Israel.

Then we went to Tel Aviv to go through a lengthy security process. (It is a pain in the backside but I am thankful for the protection it gives us.) Now to settle in for a loooooooooong flight from here to New Jersey, then Chicago. We are glad to head home but do so with sadness in our departure.

Israel- Day Eight


I have noticed that my blogs have gotten shorter and simpler as the days have passed; I have also noticed that the content has decayed. This has been a great … but exhausting trip.

Today I don’t have a lot of pictures to share; three of the places we toured were either honor-sensitive or security-sensitive. Nevertheless, I will share a little. Our plan is that when we get back home and have had a few days to assimilate what we have seen and heard, we can blog a much more sensible and meaningful work.

Israel 11172010 (4)

Our first stop for the day was the ministry of Revive Israel. It is a great, multi-faceted work with Messianic Jews, discipling them so that they have a solid foundation to build upon.   To be honest, it reminded both of us of the early Jesus People movements. We worshipped with them and then prayed over their ministry and our partnership with them. We both could be a part of this amazing ministry…and will be at least with prayer and finances.  Our church will host the couple who leads this group the end of this year!

Israel 11172010 (13)

Then we headed over to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. As before, it is such a heart-rending tour. As difficult as it is, however, it is a necessary part of a love and identification with the Jews. (Picture below is the exit from the children’s memorial.)  If you have never visited a Holocaust memorial you need to do it for you, your children and your grandchildren.  It grieves you in ways you have probably never grieved before…and makes you determined to do all you can to see that it doesn’t happen again. 

Israel 11172010 (23)

Next we headed over to Christians Friends of Israel. We toured their multi-faceted ministry and then prayed as Pastor Jerry ministered to the volunteers there. Of course we then prayed for them. We also brought them a lot of clothing, candy, and coffee for their ministry.  We have been blessed to meet some awesome people in Israel who are there to minister to the Jewish people.

Israel 11172010 (39)

As a last stop, we then headed to the Old City to tour the Western Wall underneath the city. Here we reached bedrock and perhaps walked on the very road that Jesus walked on. We also saw the gate behind the Holy of Holies … perhaps the one location closest to the Holy of Holies.

Israel 11172010 (47)

I really can’t reflect a whole lot spiritually right now; I am tired and distracted … but we do hope to reflect over the next few days on what God is speaking to us here in Israel.

One thing that I remember from the day was a statement from Melva regarding us and the Jewish people…”We are the chosen people for God’s Chosen People.”  We are thankful be be in that group.

Tomorrow is our last day and we are anticipating what God will do and say.

Israel- Day Seven


Today was a great day of ministry, information, and shopping. In fact, when we walked to the bus this morning, we were accosted by vendors selling bags 5 for $10.  After all the clamoring to make purchases and of course the fact that we have shopped EVERY day Pastor Jerry asked us if we still had “Financial Peace”.  Great reminder Pastor! We started things off by heading to a Jewish village south of Jerusalem that reflected the Jewish struggle in their own land. This kibbutz now turned settlement stands modernly much as Masada does historically as a stand by the Jews for their right to live in their own land. It also stands in opposition and argument to the modern push to get Israel to divide its land and give part of it away.

The living memorial of this kibbutz is a solitary tree that has stood throughout the life if this settlement, including the seeing of many defenders’ deaths as they stood for what they owned and what they believed in.

Israel 1162010 (66)

Even more beautiful were the living memorials to the efforts of these men and women; these are their beautiful and playful children.

Israel 1162010 (59)

From here, we traveled over into Bethlehem. It was interesting because we entered into Palestinian territory and therefore had to transfer both buses and drivers because the PA will not allow Jews into their territory. (I don’t understand why Palestinians can travel freely back and forth but Jews cannot … in their own land.) One beauty of this, however, was that our Palestinian guide was also a Christian and gave me great insight into the events and emotions of the tumultuous land.

Israel 1162010 (69)

We went into one of the Shepherds’ fields (behind the YMCA) where we spent some time in one of the caves. Abraham, our guide, shared with us the thoughts that the shepherds who received the announcement of the birth of Christ were probably watching the special sheep: the ones being prepared for the Passover sacrifice. This was a great perspective in relation to Christ’s incarnation.

Israel 1162010 (71)

Cheri also taught here regarding the truths of Bethlehem: the fact of its smallness and obscurity (as well as others) and how we could each expect Christ to use us no matter how insignificant we may feel. (I (J) love to hear my wife teach.)

Israel 1162010 (77)

Then we went shopping in a Palestinian Christian store where they specialized in olive carvings. We were able to pick up a small nativity piece which I think is very beautiful.

Israel 1162010 (26)

After transferring back to our normal bus, we headed over to a Jerusalem Prayer Center where we were all briefed in the political scene in Jerusalem and where we prayed for a couple of hours for the government, the land, and the people. This was an awesome time where I especially sensed the move of the Spirit in a Chinese pastor. I did not understand a word she said but I could tell she reached Heaven.

Israel 1162010 (45)

From here, we went over to the Knesset, the Israeli government center where we observed and revered the large menorah. I then led the pray for the peace of Jerusalem as we surrounded that menorah.

Israel 1162010 (48)

Finally, after a long day, we ate supper and called it a night.  At this point in the trip we are on sensory overload,..,trying to take in sooo much in such a little amount of time.  What I do know is that God is bringing new revelations to our hearts about Israel and the Jewish people that is forever changing us.

Israel- Day Six


This morning we left the Dead Sea and headed for Jerusalem. I genuinely love the Dead Sea area and its exotic-ness but I dislike the one night at the hotel and then pack up and leave. But such is life.

Israel 11152010 (28)

Our first stop today was another of my favorites, Masada. I have realized that if you love God AND you love the Jewish roots of your faith, that you are apt to fall in love with His chosen people as well. So it is that we love the Jews and all things that cause us to be reminded of their heroism and destiny. The story of Masada is a beautiful (tragic) story of a group of people’s determination to die in freedom rather than live in slavery. Their story is beautifully told through the geography of Masada.

Israel 11152010 (55)

It was also cool that while we were visiting the ancient synagogue, some of our team had the privilege of witnessing a sofer as he was copying the Scriptures.

Israel 11152010 (3) 

We also saw some very cool school kids who were visiting Masada as a field trip.

Israel 11152010 (82)

From there we headed to Ein Gedi, the oasis where Saul was chasing David and where David cut off a portion of Saul’s cloak. We had visited this place before as an archaeological dig but neither of us had witnessed the beauty of this desert oasis- including the wildlife, the acacia trees, and the spring … and yes, Cheri had to dip her toes in the spring of Ein Gedi.

Israel 11152010 (115)

Israel 11152010 (212)

Finally, we headed to Jerusalem and I could not have been more  excited about our crowds response upon entering the city. They were ecstatic.

In Jerusalem, we visited the Temple Institute where I (disappointingly) did not get to take any pictures BUT we did get to learn a great amount about the temples past as well as the temple future. It is amazing when you begin to realize how much preparation has already gone into the Third Temple. Everything except the building of the Temple and the finding of the Ark of the Covenant is in place.

We then went to the Western Wall where we all got to pray and sense God’s Spirit. All of our people were in total thrill mode at getting to pray at the kotel, Judaism’s holiest place of prayer (because of its proximity to the site of the ancient Holy of Holies.) I know that many of them even tucked prayer notes in the wall for others to pray over.

Israel 11152010 (158)

We were also surrounded by soldiers as this day marked their vow/oath of allegiance to the nation of Israel … all in front of the Wailing Wall.

Israel 11152010 (165)

From here we headed to the Garden of Gethsemane where we meditated and prayed for the Jews. We also got to witness Ellis’ and Donna’s passion and history with/for this place. We were really proud of them.

Israel 11152010 (208)

Israel- Day Five


 

Today, we have departed from the area of the Galilee. If you have been to Israel, you probably understand my sadness on a couple of levels. On the one hand, we have left the place of the early ministry and even childhood of Jesus Himself. Second, we have departed the “comfort zone” of the Gospel: that area where growing took place and, although sometimes confronted with argument and difficulty, the place where many of our familiar New Testament stories of healing and deliverance occurred. On a much more worldly level, however, we have also had to pack our bags in the area where we have slept for four nights and now move on to an area where we will be for ONE night- Arghhh!

We are south of the Galilee and have actually visited some of my (J) favorite archaeological places today.

Isrel 11142010 (10)

Our first stop was Beit Shean, an ancient city that saw much occupation although none of it Hebrew occupation. Biblically, it figures in with the story of King Saul as this is the place where his head was displayed after it had been severed from his body. It was definitely a place of much occupation however because there is a huge Tel here (which I (J) climbed this time.) It was well worth the journey (although my hips and knees were throbbing afterwards.)

Atop the Tel was an ancient home of an Egyptian leader and, as fascinating as all of that was and is, the best part for me was found in seeing the recorded cylinder in that home and its recording of the name of King David. In this day of scoffers among the scholars who are telling the world that the Davidic and Solomonic reigns were Hebrew myths, evidences such as this one provide a little excitement (although such IS NOT necessary for my faith.)

Isrel 11142010 (88)

Cheri wandered around the “spa” and theatre just sharing, viewing the ruins and sharing.  It was a nice time.

Our next stop was one of my two all time-favorite non-religious Israeli stops and that was Qumran. Of course, this is the place of the initial finds of the Dead Sea Scrolls and good-old Cave 4 provided a great backdrop for teaching from Melva and me (J.) I taught briefly three things: 1) that it does take “mad-men” to follow God into such a desert wilderness as this. But 2) God mightily used those madmen and the desert’s harsh conditions to preserve His Word and to illustrate to the world His ability to faithfully preserve what He has inspired. He brought it back to us in His perfect timing. (In fact, I shared that the same God who inspired the writing of His Words preserved those words … and the same God who inspired the writing and the protection of those Words, inspires our reading and doing of those Words. Selah.)

Isrel 11142010 (39)

3) I shared regarding the mikvahs that are found throughout the Qumran community. It is probable that John the Baptist had served there in Qumran (or at least among its residents.) These individuals practiced ritual cleansings (mikvaot) probably twice per day: each time as a cleansing before undertaking a holy deed. It then becomes important that John the Baptist then went to baptize (Mikvah- ritually cleanse) Jesus in order to “launch” His ministry. Now, baptism can be seen as a “launching of our next undertakings for Christ.”

Isrel 11142010 (42)

Finally, I shared that we were truly standing upon Holy Ground itself because of the great preservation and launching that God had done … and for this people’s stand for righteousness.

We left Qumran and headed to our evening destination, Le Meriden on the Dead Sea. I am so exhausted, I simply want to take a shower, eat, and sleep … but we will see what happens while Cheri gets her well-needed and well-deserved spa treatment.

.Isrel 11142010 (22)

Israel- Day Four


Today we celebrated Shabbat in Haifa, Israel with Ohalei Rachamim and Rabbi Eitan. Thankfully, we had headphones with translations in English as this service was conducted entirely in Hebrew. (I was even more thankful when I traded in my Russian translation headphones for English ones.)

Israel 11132010 (44)

Rabbi Eitan is a jewel of a man who grew  up out of the 60s Hippy movement, came to Christ at the time, and eventually sensed the call to preach and surrendered.  A lot of the congregation were Russian Jews who have received the revelations of who Jesus is and they follow Him.  They are precious people.

Israel 11132010 (29)Not only did we worship in Hebrew (and it was a wonderful time of worship!) and hear the Word translated but we also celebrated communion together. One of the most awesome times of communion we have experienced in quite some time.  Many came for prayer in this service and God gave me a word of encouragement for Rabbi Eitan.

Shabbat is a gift from God to His people.  A time to rest from our labors and the stresses of life, a time of worship, a time to hear from His Word and be reminded of His promises and His blessings, a time to fellowship with friends and a time to enjoy our family.  I truly believe this is a practice that we as Gentile Christians should make a part of our weekly lives.  We would be healthier, happier and more in tune with our God.

We then travelled to another Druze village where we (again) had falafel and Cheri had schnitzel in a pita. It was all marvelous and the vegetables surrounding it made it even better.

We travelled from there through some hill country and wound up in one of my favorite digs, Tel Megiddo. Much is to be seen here including marvelous city gates, stables, and a water system cut through the earth. Biblically, this Tel dates back to Solomon and Rehaboam (and even earlier.) Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to see most of it. (again thankfully, I had already been there and had seen most of it several years ago. Additionally, I am able to read updates about Tel Megiddo on a consistent basis.)

Israel 11132010 (19)  Israel 11132010 (24)

As we headed in for the night, we passed through Nazareth (which is a MUCH larger town than I expected.)

Israel 11132010 (17)

Our last stop for the evening was the church of the Wedding of Cana. I was deeply bothered there because of all of the obvious superstition that was rampant, including throwing money into some of the ancient ruins and being remarried in the church itself. As a surprise, each couple (who desired so) were treated to a renewal of vows and the gifting of roses to the wife. I additionally purchased a ketubah, a Jewish certificate of marriage, for our marriage.

Israel 11132010 (12)

Tomorrow we head out for the Dead Sea and Masada. I anxiously await this time.

Israel 11132010  a

Israel- Day Three


 

Today  I started my day by sitting out on the balcony at 5 AM, Bible and Journal in hand, and camera on tripod in order to observe one of the most incredible sun-rises I have ever seen. I caught it in a pretty much stop-motion fashion and, as beautiful as my pictures are, they in no way give justice to what I saw.

Israel 11122010 (124)

Then, after breakfast, we went north in Israel to see some of the sites of the Northern Kingdom.

Our first stop was Tel Dan which is both an ancient site from the time of Abraham where he had followed the captors of his people (from way down in southern Israel, around the southern end of the Dead Sea) and where he had given tithe to King Melchizidek … on to the time of King Jeroboam where he had set up strange altars to Yahweh and to foreign gods. It is actually very sad that the King had strayed so far away from the laws and plans of God … and they he drew the entire Northern Kingdom with him.

Israel 11122010 (8)

It is also sad that his chosen place of doing such acts was in the midst of such beauty. In fact, Tel Dan sits at one of the main source streams for the Jordan River and surrounding it is lush foliage including many figs and olives.

Israel 11122010 (7)

Our next destination was Caesarea Philippi/ Banias, where Peter uttered his famous profession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  One of the incredible aspects of this site is that it was a huge cultic worship area. All along the face of the cliff are niches where sacred idols were placed and worshiped. Even more important, however, is the large cave where water emerges as it flows from various mountains. This cave was known as a “mouth” of Sheol and was thusly the site of many sacrifices, including animals and humans, in order to appease the gods. Because it was know as the “mouth of Sheol,” it also became known as “the gateway to Hell.”

Now place in perspective Christ’s words to Peter after his great confession … “and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” When those words were delivered in that physical context, the fruit would have to have been highly effectual.

Israel 11122010 (68)

This area, too, was very beautiful and the contrast between the ugliness and sinfulness of the worship there and the beauty both of God’s creation and of His recognition of inspired mankind’s confession was astounding. Added to that was the depth of Melva Lea Beecham’s teaching on the revelation of the Messiah to his chosen people through the prophetic words of the Old Testament prophets made this encounter and memorable and life-changing event.

Israel 11122010 (55)

From there, we travelled toward the Golan Heights where we saw the both the Lebanon and Syrian  borders and were made aware of the need to Israel to keep the land for, if nothing else, self-preservation. Especially telling was our visit to Mount Bental which allowed us to see miles and miles into Lebanon and Syria.

Lunch time brought us to a Druze village where we again had falafel and a new item (for us), lebneh. It was a delightful experience and the Druze people were a wonderful people. They are an Arabic people who do not worship Allah, but also have a peculiar manner of practicing Judaism, Jethro-worship, and reincarnation. They are also fiercely loyal to Israel, even serving in the IDF military forces. (Cheri and I had our picture made with this beautiful Druze lady … whom I later embarrassed by kissing her on top of the head.)

Israel 11122010 (101)

We spent the rest of the day by travelling to a live Olive press and observing the mechanisms and fruit of such.

Israel 11122010 (112)

It made for a nice end of the day … until we saw this over the Sea of Galilee.

Israel 11122010 (120)

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we all celebrated Shabbat together.

Israel 11122010 (122)

We ended the evening with a time of sharing among the group.  There is not any way we could put into words on this blog the AWESOME, INCREDIBLE work God is doing in the hearts of every member of this team!

Israel- Day Two


This day really could not have been any better. (BTW, it is amazing what a shower and a good night’s sleep can do for the body and mind.)

Israel11102010 (225)

We woke up to an amazing view from our room looking directly out over the Sea of Galilee. The Jesus boats were already out and I this we counted five at one time.

Israel11102010 (217)

After typical Israeli breakfast fare (including pickled fish, cheeses, bread, coffee, and juice) we left headed out for a Kibbutz housing the famed “Jesus boat” was located. This boat, found in the muck and mire of the Sea of Galilee, is scientifically dated as 2,000 years old and is of the type of boat used by fishermen of that time. In other words, Jesus may have actually used this boat at some time with His disciples.

Israel11102010 (280)

From that point, our entire team sailed on the Sea of Galilee on a boat, all they while singing songs, praising the Lord, reading Scripture and praying for God’s people to come to know Jesus and to return to their home, Israel. Our blessing on this ride was the worship singing of our boat captain, a Messianic Jew.

Israel11102010 (264)

Next stop was the area known as Peter of the Primacy where Peter is thought to have uttered many of his famous statements, including his discourse with Jesus regarding whether Peter loved Him or not.

Israel11102010 (348)

We traveled from there to the fishing village of Capernaum, home of Peter’s mother and ancient city, including the remains of both that city and its synagogue (which is built on top of another synagogue that was probably visited and taught in by Jesus Himself. I especially enjoyed the old synagogue and its fascinating structure.

We then went back to the kibbutz where we enjoyed lunch and a little shopping. Again, Cheri and I had falafel and schwarma. Additionally, I had Turkish coffee which is tremendously strong and grainy (thus causing one to need to brush his teeth afterwards.)

After lunch we went the Church of the Beatitudes where Jesus preached and taught His Sermon on the Mount. Here Pastor Jerry, Pastor Chris, and I read the sermon on the Mount to our group. This was a great time of introspection as we each sought God’s particular word for us.

Israel11102010 (383)

From there, we headed for the River Jordan where Pastor Jerry and I baptized 17 members (of our 23 member team.) this was an awe-filled moment for me as I participated with men and women who are my friends and as I saw the Holy Spirit strum the strings of their hearts.

Israel11102010 (436)

We capped off the day with typical Israeli Dinner fare and a casual ten-minute stroll to Tiberius and a street bazaar there.

I was met with one thing that I did not particularly want to hear: God reminded me that it is not His desire for me to live in Israel; it is His desire for me to love His people, see the come into His Kingdom, and see them return to Israel.


Wow. What a whirlwind. If I calculate correctly, Cheri and I have been up for 44+ hours straight without sleep. I know she caught a few winks on the plane but I simply could not. Yesterday (or whatever day it really was) we flew from Chicago O’Hare to  Newark and from Newark to Tel Aviv Israel.

We are part of a great group with Pastors Jerry and Chris and Melva Lea Beacham leading us (plus our tour guide Naphtali Cohen and the bus driver).

Today, we visited Joppa, Caesarea Maritima, and Mount Carmel (as well as a local mall where we ate falafels and shwarma.)

Joppa is probably best known for two biblical stories: one being that of Jonah as he received his calling to Nineveh from God, and the other being Peter having the vision/dream on the top of the house with the sheet coming down. It is actually is a quaint little town with a lot of history and a lot of beauty. I think the greatest thing we positioned ourselves with here was the thought of Jonah running from his calling ; let us be mindful to follow ours. Israel 1092010 (5)

Caesarea Maritima is one of these beautiful places that you wish you could have seen in its glory days. It was a home/port/center built along the Mediterranean Sea in upper Israel by King Herod. He built it in honor of the Caesar of that time. Seen on-site, it is a marvel of old buildings, statues, and other aspects of history. Seen from above, it is a marvel of Roman engineering as you can clearly see an outline of the former harbor as it now appears under the sea. This is the biblical place where, among other things, Paul was brought to produce testimony before Felix. I stood in awe at the coliseum, the hippodrome, the aqueduct, and the various buildings of antiquity. What did I take away from there spiritually? I’m not sure of anything per se but I do know that I was awed by the potential work of human hands.

Israel 1092010 (66) 

We also visited Mount Carmel, which too, is well know for several things. It oversees the Jezreel/Megiddo valley and accordingly has witnessed many battles. It is most well-known, however, because it is the site of Elijah’s battle with the 850 prophets of Ba’al and the woods. Here we focused on being strong and trusting in God and His might … to really KNOW Him. I am challenged with that thought because I mentally know a lot of things about God … but I want to always be sure that knowledge is ALWAYS translated into an intimate knowledge and trust of Him.

Israel 1092010 (103)

Watch tomorrow for Day 2 updates.