Day 8 in Israel (and Jordan)

The crescent moon that signals the beginning of Ramadan

The crescent moon that signals the beginning of Ramadan

(In June, Carolina and I got to make a trip to Israel and Jordan. I’m taking some time to write about some of what we saw)One thing that I forgot to mention last time was the fact that Ramadan began while we were in Jordan. Faithful Muslims neither eat nor drink from sunrise to sunset. When we were coming down from the Monastery at Petra, one vendor, “I can’t drink anything. I’m doing Ramadan.” The young boy working with her said, “I’m not! Come have some tea with me.” And he served me a cup of tea. To go without water in such hot weather is really a sacrifice.

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Every hotel room had a sign showing the direction of Mecca


We left Jordan and re-entered Israel down near Eilat, on the Red Sea. The two preachers that we had to leave behind, Tony and Isaac, were able to rejoin us there. We took a minute to dip our toes in the Red Sea. One thing we did on this trip was to gather water samples from as many different places as possible.

Getting water from the Red Sea

Getting water from the Red Sea

On the shores of the Red Sea

On the shores of the Red Sea

Sign for Beersheba, the traditional southern tip of Israel. "From Dan to Beersheba"

Sign for Beersheba, the traditional southern tip of Israel. “From Dan to Beersheba”

The type of wilderness the Israelites wandered in (minus the highway)

The type of wilderness the Israelites wandered in (minus the highway)


From Eilat, we drove up to Masada. When I was a teenager, Bill Humble from Abilene Christian came and presented some slides at our church several different Sundays. One Sunday he talked about Masada; I’ve been waiting since then to finally get to visit this desert fortress. It was fortified by Herod, then used by the Zealots as their last real spot of resistance after the fall of Jerusalem.

Snake path at Masada

Snake path at Masada

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The story is a compelling one. Basically, the defenders held out for a long time, while the Romans built a siege ramp up to the fortress. On the night that the wall was breached, the Romans retired to their camps to ready themselves for the final assault the next day. The Jewish defenders decided not to go into slavery; they chose suicide instead. When the Romans took the fortress, they found that the Zealots were dead. (Supposedly some women survived by hiding in a cistern)
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Ruins at Masada

Ruins at Masada

Historians question the accuracy of the Masada legend, but that doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of the place. I wish we’d had more time there. We arrived shortly before closing, and our guide chose to wax eloquent with stories about the Dead Sea rather than give us time to explore the fortress. Still, that’s one item off my bucket list.

Ruins at Masada

Ruins at Masada

Seemingly the lots that were drawn to determine who would be the last to die at Masada

Seemingly the lots that were drawn to determine who would be the last to die at Masada

Lines in the dirt around Masada show where the Romans camped during the siege

Lines in the dirt around Masada show where the Romans camped during the siege

Siege ramp Romans used to attack

Siege ramp Romans used to attack

Tony Fernández at Masada

Tony Fernández at Masada


From Masada we went to the Dead Sea. The mineral content of the Dead Sea is so high that they say that nothing will sink in the Dead Sea. They also warn you not to get the water in your eyes or mouth, so we were quite careful while floating there.

It’s not every day that you can say you’ve been in Jordan and Israel, visited Masada, and gotten your feet wet in both the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Sundown by the Dead Sea

Sundown by the Dead Sea

Links To Go (August 21, 2015)

Pastor Creflo Dollar: If You Don’t See Why I Need a $65 Million Plane, You Just Don’t Get the Bible

He explained to his congregation that anyone who questions his desire just doesn’t understand the Bible:

See, don’t get upset when the world says stuff and talk about stuff, and all that. They’re just looking through the wrong lens. They don’t understand.
“What does a preacher need with an airplane?” They don’t know! They’ll never know because they’re not looking through the Word. They will never know! They’ll never, never, never know.

That still doesn’t answer the question of why Dollar needs a private airplane…
His argument boils down to nothing more than “Gimme money because the Bible!”


I want a bigger Bible

The more voices we have access to, the bigger our Bible gets — the more we see what is there, behind our cultural blinders.
I can’t wait for the day there are commentaries from cultures all over the world. I can’t wait for the day publishers don’t just translate English sermons and books into other languages but also give us access to global evangelical leaders who have been translated into English.


Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 1

So there’s a line. That is, there are some sins that are properly criminalized by the government. Indeed, these sins really should be criminalized for government to be good government. And there are sins that only God can deal with — that are outside of the legitimate purposes of government.


My Kingdom Come Or Thy Kingdom Come?

Jesus’ vision for completing the Great Commission never consisted in platforming a few hyper-anointed megapastors to pack an auditorium with their electrifying sermons, but in empowering ordinary believers to carry the gospel with them into the streets.


NEW RESEARCH: Divorce Divides More Than Just Families

The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults finds only a minority would call divorce a sin even when:

– There’s adultery (39 percent).
– The two people no longer love each other (38 percent).
– One spouse has abandoned the other (38 percent).
– One spouse is abusing the other (37 percent).
– A spouse is addicted to pornography (35 percent).


The homeless man at our door

He showed up at Impact! Church soon after we moved into the Parker Street community and has never left. He refuses to go to an assisted living facility and has never done anything violent to warrant the authorities assigning him to one. He claims that he is our security detail and spends every day “guarding” the front doors of Impact! Church. Sometimes he sits outside the door, but when it gets especially hot he sits right inside the door. He welcomes folks to Impact!, talks to them about God and invites them to church. Every Monday morning I meet with him so he can critique the worship service and sermon from the previous day. His best friend is a 7-year-old girl named Lauren – the child of an Impact! leader. Lauren and Dutch love to watch Disney movies on her iPad. The technology amazes Dutch. At night he arranges a few cushioned chairs together in our sanctuary to form a bed. We always make sure that Dutch has plenty of clothes, food, medicine and hygiene products. Dutch basically lives at Impact! Church 24/7/365 because he has no where else to go.


The question no parent wants to ask

However, the story of segregation in our country presents us with a difficult question. I don’t have an answer for it, so I’m simply going to let it hang:
As Christians, what kind of lesson are we teaching our kids, when we leave the worst schools to the poorest children?
To put it another way, if education is about moral formation, isn’t the decision to evacuate the worst schools and leave them to the poor kids–isn’t that a kind of formation too?


Twenty-five Really Weird Things Said to Pastors and Other Church Leaders

I must admit, however, I was surprised when I asked church leaders on Twitter to share some of the more unusual comments they have received. I was first surprised at how many responded. But I was most surprised at the really strange things people tell pastors and other church leaders.


Bolt of lightning strikes plane during thunderstorms at Atlanta airport (Video)

The powerful bolt hits the back of a Delta plane, dissipating into beads of lightning, and igniting something on or around at least one of the plane’s tires. The passengers — who might not have even known they were struck by lightning — were safe because the plane’s metal exterior acts as a Faraday cage, which distributes the electrical charge around the outside of the plane without affecting the inside.


Petra (Israel trip, day 7)

Sunrise at Petra

Sunrise at Petra

We spent this whole day at the ruins at Petra. Lots of walking and climbing in the hot, desert sun. According to my iPhone, I walked over 11 miles and climbed over 40 stories.


Enjoying the morning air at Petra

Enjoying the morning air at Petra

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Petra is located in Jordan. Fears of Islamic extremists have really cut into tourism, despite the safety of Jordan (and Israel, for that matter). There were extremely few people visiting Petra that day. The Bedouins that live in the area and depend on tourism have suffered greatly. They were very anxious to bargain with us and make a sale or two.

This young Bedouin girl definitely knew how to work a crowd as she sought to sell postcards.

This young Bedouin girl definitely knew how to work a crowd as she sought to sell postcards.

Better than a Yelp review

Better than a Yelp review

Petra is an ancient oasis and fortress. It was possibly used by the Edomites, definitely by the Nabateans. It’s highly defensible and has an excellent water supply. Because of this, many dwellings were made in the caves and carved into the rocks.

One of the burial places in Petra

One of the burial places in Petra

Inside one of the cave dwellings, looking out

Inside one of the cave dwellings, looking out

For years, the Bedouins hid the existence of Petra from outsiders. Eventually it was discovered, and the Bedouins were relocated to nearby encampments so that the area could be preserved as an historic site.Israel Day 7 - 026

You may remember Petra from the third Indiana Jones movie. They used the façade of the treasury in Petra as the outside of the building where the Holy Grail was stored. Unlike the movie, the treasury doesn’t have cavernous rooms inside nor does it hold any treasure. But it’s an impressive sight.

The treasury. Didn't see Sean Connery nor Harrison Ford

The treasury. Didn’t see Sean Connery nor Harrison Ford

Camel inspector

Camel inspector

Security is tight!

Security is tight!

About half of our group made the trek all the way up to the monastery at Petra. Lots of climbing. Vendors along the way would call out encouragement: “You’re almost there; then come back and by from me.” Of course later, they would accuse you of having promised to buy from them.

Path down from the monastery

Path down from the monastery

The monastery’s not that different from the buildings down below. I’m glad I went up once; don’t know that I’d take the time to do it again.

The monastery

The monastery

It was an interesting place, but its lack of biblical significance left me anxious to move on to other sites that lay ahead.

Group picture in front of treasury

Group picture in front of treasury

Israel (and Jordan), Day 6

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Sunrise in Jericho

Hoping my memory holds up, as we’re almost 2 months away from the trip at this point. On Day 6, we left Jericho and traveled to Petra, in Jordan. It was mainly a travel day, through the desert lands that once belonged to Edom.

We visited the “Mount of Temptation,” place where tradition says Jesus was tempted. There’s a monastery at the top which is said to be at the place where Satan took Jesus to see the nations of the world.

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Mount of Tempation

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Our guide, Nedal, sharing information with the group on the bus

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Tony Fernández with a camel. (That’s Tony on the left :-)

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Carolina and a new friend

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Bedouin shepherd boys. Ray Vanderlaan thinks that the shepherds that visited baby Jesus were probably young children like these.


Before leaving Jericho, we visited the archaeological site there. Probably not the site of the Jericho where “Joshua fit the battle,” but an interesting site.

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One of the ancient cities of Jericho

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Many of us ignorant Texans didn’t realize that the palm trees in Israel provide dates for eating


We stopped at Mount Nebo on the way, looking out on the land as Moses once did. He must have been blessed with an extremely clear day (and divinely aided sight), for the Bible says that he saw far more than we did. Still, it’s quite a view.

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Panoramic view from Nebo

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Panoramic view from Nebo


At the border, we had to leave two of our group behind. Tony Fernández, from Cuba, and Isaac Unda Torres, from Venezuela, didn’t have visas that assured them of re-entry into Israel if they exited the country. To be on the safe side, they went to Jerusalem and toured on their own while we went to Jordan.

We visited a mosaic factory. Very interesting place, though well out of our price range. The employees are Christians. The ones doing the actual art work are disabled women who would find it hard to find a job anywhere else.

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Creating mosaics

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Mosaic factory

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This mosaic dining room set had a price of over $50,000


For lunch we stopped at a wonderful restaurant in Jordan. One time when the group was there, the prime minister’s wife was dining. We didn’t see anyone famous, but enjoyed the lunch.

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Lunch in Jordan


From there, it was on to Petra. We saw many Bedouins on the way. Desolate landscape, but still very interesting.

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We saw many pillars of stone on the way, set up as monuments to some event. Reminded us of how people put crosses by the side of the road here in the States.

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Sundown at Petra

Links To Go (August 19, 2015)

3 Reminders for Christians During the Election Season

  1. No politician or political party can offer hope or redemption to our world.
  2. May we refuse to allow the Church to be divided by political party or candidates.
  3. May we remember that every “issue” we talk about is not an “issue” but a fellow human being.

The Spiritual Discipline of Hospitality

Practicing hospitality extends the welcome of God. We can do this whether we live in an apartment, a duplex, a small frame house, or a sprawling suburban home. We can serve a bowl of soup, a hamburger, or a steak. Our emphasis is the graciousness with which we welcome others.
Nothing will alleviate our self-consciousness like focusing on extending the grace of God through our hospitality. This focus is not on what others will think of you, your house, your furniture, or your meal. The focus is on allowing others to experience the grace of God in your home.


On Further Review– Why Gay Marriage Can’t Be Christian Marriage

At the end of the day either we realize that gender matters, and gender difference is essential to a real Christian marriage, or we totally change the definition of what counts as marriage, what counts as husband and wife, what counts as mother and father Biblically speaking. It is in no way surprising that in the most individualistic and narcissistic culture on the planet, that Americans would like to be able to even choose their gender, their own biology. But in fact you can’t do that, and since gender matters Biblically speaking when it comes to Christian marriage, you also do not have Biblical permission to redefine marriage, husband, wife, mother or father.


Why Gay Marriage Proponents Can’t Appeal to the Abolitionist Movement

It’s imperative that we understand these differences as we assess how the church through the ages has interacted with slavery. This is not to imply that slavery in the first century was a pleasant thing. But the race-based, chattel slavery practiced in the United States is in a different category. There is no way to defend such an abomination from Scripture, and those who sought to do so revealed their deep-seated racism.


Five Signs It Is Time to Give Up with a Critic

A wise leader looks for truth in a critique and sees the critic as a person formed in the image of God and a brother or sister in Christ, if the person is a believer. A loving leader seeks to win the person over with kindness and grace.
However, there are times to move on.
There are times that investing in constant communication with a critic is just bad stewardship.


Resources For The Bereaved

There are probably thousands of posts, poems, writings, and articles on the internet concerning the experience of bereavement. There is also an enormous amount of books available on the subject. Here are a few writings that I thought were especially helpful and encouraging. Some I simply resonated with, some brought a new thought or idea to my heart.


When Success Leads to Failure

We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.


Share This With All The Schools, Please

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.


Parents Drive 93 Miles, Realize They Forgot Girl, 3

The child had apparently been left at the rest stop—which included a playground, per Sky News—around midday. “None of them had noticed she wasn’t there” in the vehicle, an officer says. The BBC reports the girl’s father called police at 3pm. By that point, the family had traveled 93 miles and were more than halfway to their destination.