Day 3 in Israel

Israel Day 3 273Day 3 was Sunday. We spent it in the Galilee area, for the most part.

We first went to the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount. That was moving to me; not the church that was built to commemorate the event, but merely looking out on the hillside that is like to the one where Jesus preached. I began reading the Beatitudes out loud while looking out over the hill and found myself getting emotional. I’m not convinced that that was the site, but it’s certainly the area and probably a similar scene to what Jesus would have looked out on.

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Looking out down the hill toward Galilee

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Area in which many think Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount

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Carolina looks out at what might have been the location of the Sermon on the Mount

From there we went to the area that tradition says is the site of the happenings in John 21. There is a church there called “The Primacy of Saint Peter,” for Catholics find a confirmation of Peter’s papacy in the story of the breakfast by the sea.Israel Day 3 071

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My feet in the Sea of Galilee

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Tony Fernández in Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee)

We also visited Capernaum. There’s a large church there that is situated over what tradition says was the house of Peter’s mother-in-law. There is also a synagogue which is built on top of what was the first-century synagogue.
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Walls of the house of Peter’s mother-in-law

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Foundation of the synagogue. The darker stone is basaltic stone of the type found in buildings from the first century. Experts believe this dark layer is from that time.

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What remains of a group of houses in Capernaum

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Ruins of Capernaum

Later in the day, we went to the Church of the Multiplication, which is where tradition says Jesus fed the 5000. A few days later, Jewish extremists attacked and burned the church. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would have been had Islamic extremists burned an historic Christian site.

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Church of the Multiplication. The transparent section lets you look down to the floor of an older church, built on the same spot.

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This would be among the last pictures of this church before it was attacked. Damage done runs into the millions of dollars.

We made a quick visit to the so-called “Jesus boat,” a boat uncovered by the receding waterline at Galilee. It’s probably later than the first century, but does give an idea of the size of boats used by fishermen in Roman times.

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We also took a quick boat ride on Galilee. I would have liked more time to look out at the like, with minimal description by our guide. But our guide believed that if 2 minutes of descriptions were good, 20 minutes were better. Still, it was cool to be out on the lake.

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From there we went to a site on the Jordan River where they allow people to re-enact their baptisms or, in some cases, actually be baptized. I personally enjoyed just being able to wade in the river. This is the part of the Jordan far north of where most of the Bible stories would have happened, like the miraculous crossing, Jesus’ baptism, John’s ministry, the cleansing of Naaman, etc. But I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this famous river.


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Jordan River

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My feet in the Jordan

It is interesting to drive along the roads in the Golan area and see the signs warning you that there is a minefield next to the road!Israel Day 2 - 216

Day 2 in Israel

Israel Day 2 - 1The Galilee area is beautiful. As I mentioned, Tiberias is a popular resort town. It’s strange hearing the party music going until late at night and seeing a McDonald’s within a stone’s throw of the lake. At the same time, most of the area is undeveloped and allows you to get a feel for what life was like there two thousand years ago.

Did Jesus eat at this McDonald's?

Did Jesus eat at this McDonald’s?

On our second day in Israel, we drove up to see the ruins of Korazin. You may remember this as one of the towns that Jesus pronounced judgment on. He criticized it because he had done many miracles there, so we know that Jesus spent a good amount of time in this little village.

Korazin's central street

Korazin’s central street

The "seat of Moses" in the synagogue at Korazin

The “seat of Moses” in the synagogue at Korazin

Standing on the "reader's platform" in the synagogue

Standing on the “reader’s platform” in the synagogue

Central door of the synagogue

Central door of the synagogue

Carolina by a manger in Korazin

Carolina by a manger in Korazin

From there we drove up to Dan, which has a beautiful nature reserve. Dan was known for being the northernmost part of Israel, as well as a famous site of idolatry. There’s a reason the tribe of Dan is left out of the list of tribes in Revelation.

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At the Dan Natural Reserve

At the Dan Natural Reserve

Dimensions of ancient altar set up in northern Israel (at Dan)

Dimensions of ancient altar set up in northern Israel (at Dan)

Dan has many springs, from which flow the Jordan River. How did I never connect the name Jor-dan with Dan? Jordan means “coming down from Dan.”

Spring at Dan

We saw an ancient gate that has been discovered, dating back to what would have been the time of Abraham. Did Abraham himself go through this gate? Possibly.

Ancient gate

Ancient gate

Caesarea Philippi is in the same area. There was an area of temples there: temple to Caesar Augustus, temple to Pan, temple to Zeus, and temple of the dancing goats (goats were said to dance to Pan’s music). The first two were standing at the time of Jesus. As Jesus spoke of building his church, it’s quite possible that he was standing before these symbols of Roman authority and pagan deities.

Cultic site at Caesarea Philippi

Cultic site at Caesarea Philippi

Cultic site at Caesarea Philippi

Cultic site at Caesarea Philippi

We then went back to the lake area, to the Cliffs of Arbel. Besides offering a panoramic view of the lake area, these cliffs are also of historical value. Josephus writes of the killing of some of the last Hasmonean rebels at this site; there are replicas of the cages by which the soldiers lowered themselves down to the rebels’ caves. Josephus tells of a great massacre of men, women, and children, so great that the soldiers begged the rebels to surrender.

Cages used by Roman soldiers to clear caves of Arbel of Jewish rebels

Cages used by Roman soldiers to clear caves of Arbel of Jewish rebels

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Panoramic view from Arbel

Carolina and Tony at Arbel

Carolina and Tony at Arbel

Links To Go (July 30, 2015)

Sometimes It’s Just Easier To Care About Dead Lions Than Dead People

It’s fine if you are opposed to what Palmer did, but that doesn’t excuse you from the duty to be sane and rational. It’s a lion, after all. An animal. If you want to be really agitated by a doctor who kills living things, you should probably be less focused on this dentist and a little more focused on abortionists like LeRoy Carhart, who murder actual people. Carhart has killed both unborn and born humans, and likes to do the former by ripping the child apart while it’s still alive. Maybe the media should be camping out in front of his house instead of Palmer’s. Maybe we should be asking why doctors are allowed to execute babies, not why dentists are allowed to hunt African game.

The Calvary Option?

The world around may legitimate whatever sleaze, self-indulgence and self-deception it may choose. It may decide that black is white, that up is down, and that north is south, for all I care. The needs of my congregation—of all congregations—will remain, at the deepest level, the same that they have always been, as will the answers which Christianity provides. The tomb is still empty. And my ministry will continue to be made up of the same elements as that of my of spiritual forefathers: Word, sacraments, prayer.

Gay Rights May Come at the Cost of Religious Freedom

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage at the end of June has set the country up for two new waves of discrimination claims: those made by same-sex couples and LGBT workers, and those made by religious Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. The two may seem distinct or even opposed, but they’re actually intertwined: In certain cases, extending new rights to LBGT workers will necessarily lead to religious-freedom objections, and vice versa.

The Point of Hospitality

So this is what I need to remember whenever I feel intimidated by hospitality. It isn’t about trying to impress but serving those who are gathered around the table no matter what’s on the menu. It is extending friendship through an open heart and home no matter the venue. And through hospitality, community is strengthened, and God is glorified.

ATM-filling workers forget bag of $141,000 on a lawn

New Jersey authorities are searching for a man who walked off with $141,000 accidentally left on a lawn by workers refilling ATMs.
Mahwah police said surveillance video from Monday morning shows the bag of $10 and $20 bills being left on the lawn of a client by employees of before they drove away in a vehicle.

Stuck: Drivers unable to move after N.H. highway syrup leak

The truck was traveling east on Route 101 where it intersects with Winchester Street just before 1 p.m. when it became apparent that gallons of raw maple syrup were leaking onto the road, according to Mark Howard, Keene’s fire chief.
Two out of three lanes of the roadway were closed during the initial cleanup, causing heavy traffic delays, Howard said.

Links To Go (July 29, 2015)

Reflections on the SCOTUS Decision

I suspect that the loss of the “Christian nation” (which was never Christian, since the church is God’s holy nation as a people rebirthed into Israel) has shocked some, generated fear among many, and led to despair for some. We now live in a post-Christian culture, and this is an opportunity for believers to live authentically in the present as a people who bear witness to the future that God wants to bring into the present; that is, to bring heaven to earth. We find ourselves in a situation analogous to the original audience of 1 Peter, which Peter characterized as a fiery trial that will refine the people of God for the sake of authentic witness.

SCOTUS: Too Much and Too Little

As believers, we must be clear: personal identity based on sexual orientation defines self-hood as the sum total of our fallen human desires. Through it, we get no glimpse of how the covenant of grace defends our real identity in Christ, or why, say, biblical marriage is a God-designed creation ordinance and a living reflection of Christ and the Church, not merely a man-made convenience for pair-bonding or affection.

Sin is the Only Bad Word Left

Our culture wants us to believe that sin is an old, outdated idea. It wants us to believe that the concept is dead. That it isn’t worth talking about because it’ll just offend someone. But, sin is real. It is as alive and well as that enormous, beheaded rattlesnake. It is destroying someone you know right now. It is destroying you, whether you acknowledge its existence or not.

The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups

The nation’s population is growing more racially and ethnically diverse – and so are many of its religious groups, both at the congregational level and among broader Christian traditions. But a new analysis of data from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study also finds that these levels of diversity vary widely within U.S. religious groups.

In Iraq, I raided insurgents. In Virginia, the police raided me.

We’ve seen this troubling approach to law enforcement nationwide, in militarized police responses to nonviolent protesters and in fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens. The culture that encourages police officers to engage their weapons before gathering information promotes the mind-set that nothing, including citizen safety, is more important than officers’ personal security. That approach has caused public trust in law enforcement to deteriorate.

The 7 Lies of Living Cross Culturally

Expats are uber inquisitive on the front end. “What is that? How do you say this? What’s that smell? Why do they do that? What’s the history behind this? Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? Why? Why?”
Like a 5-year-old. We embrace ignorance on a quest for answers.
BUT (and this is where it ALL falls apart): We think when we get an answer, we understand it (you should read that sentence again). Soon we “know” (finger quotes) everything.
Like a 16-year-old.
When we have answers, we stop asking questions. This can be a fatal flaw for expats. There is ALWAYS more to it.

Exodus from Puerto Rico could upend Florida vote in 2016 presidential race

Puerto Rican voters tend to lean Democratic, but a great number of the newcomers do not identify with any party, making them appealing targets for politicians and recruiters on both sides. Like those living in other U.S. territories, people in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president in the U.S. general election.

Minor league team suffers brutal loss when player who hit go-ahead home run doesn’t touch home plate

The Greenjackets reportedly saw that he didn’t touch the plate. They then appealed to the umpires and had the home run overturned. Levya was called out, and the game, tied at 4-4, went to extra innings after a scoreless bottom of the ninth.
In extras, the Greenjackets hit a walk-off single to win 5-4.

First Day In Israel

Ben Gurion airportOK, I’m adjusting to a new morning schedule as I help my mom adjust to life in assisted living. That’s thrown my blog posting off. But I do want to write some about what I saw and heard in Israel, mainly to write it down before I forget it all!

We arrived in Tel Aviv, spent the night there, met the rest of the group that was coming from the States, then drove up to the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel the next few nights was in Tiberias, a popular lakeside resort town.

It’s hard to get used to the distances in Israel. Israel is smaller than Lake Michigan. From Tel Aviv (on the Mediterranean) to Jerusalem is less than 60 miles. It’s less than 500 miles from Golan down to Eilat (on the Red Sea).

Going north from Tel Aviv (near the biblical city of Joppa), the country is very fertile. Lots of agriculture on the way to the Sea of Galilee. Here are a few pictures from our first day’s travel.

With my favorite traveling companion

Our friend from Cuba, Tony Fernández, got to make the trip

Our friend from Cuba, Tony Fernández, got to make the trip

This was our tour guide in Israel. His name is Nedal.

This was our tour guide in Israel. His name is Nedal.

Agriculture along the way

Agriculture along the way

Interesting to see biblical names on the road signs

Interesting to see biblical names on the road signs

Tiberias is right at sea level

Tiberias is right at sea level

Our hotel overlooked the lake

Our hotel overlooked the lake