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.

Israel Day 2 - 120

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 ATMForUs.com 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

Links to Go (July 27, 2015)

Majoring in the Minors?

Where are those who know that hope and salvation will never be found in a determined vote but only in the empty tomb?
Where are the glossy professional ads telling me that Jesus saves and the church will love me despite my brokenness?
Where are those who will courageously meet me where I am and tell me that I am loved with a love so extreme that only it can heal my wounds?
Where are those who will take me to the cross and tell me why it matters?
Where are those unafraid to show me, not a political party, but Jesus?


The Grieving Process of Miscarriage

Time will certainly lift the weight of sorrow that seems so crushing in the present, but clinging to him in the midst of it will produce a surprising harvest of spiritual wisdom and deep-rooted joy. This is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned from my miscarriages.


What You are Wearing to Church

My answer to you is that it is “all” right as long as motives are pure. If your desire is to put on a pant suit or full-length church dress because you believe that brings honor to your Savior, then, please do so. But be careful not to pass judgment on the young mom across the aisle who wears jeans and a tattered t-shirt. Spend more time preparing your heart for the message that the pastor will be bringing, rather than ironing your attire. Spend more time praying for the worship leader, rather than choosing just the right jewelry for your Sunday outfit. And above all else, bring with you a pure heart, ready to gather in the King’s house and welcome all in, regardless of how they are dressed.


Study Finds Experts Overestimate Their Knowledge

In five different tests, researchers at Cornell University and Tulane University presented fake facts about finance and geography to participants in the lab. Self-professed experts were more likely to claim they were very knowledgeable about concepts and places that didn’t exist. This tendency, called “overclaiming,” occurred even when participants were warned that some of the concepts they were encountering would be fake.


Lakers Introduction Presser Takes Awkward Turn After Kobe Bryant Question

Most of the presser was forgettable—typical fare for a ceremonial gathering. Then somebody asked what seemed like an innocuous question about Kobe Bryant, and the wheels immediately fell off.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin posted an Instagram video of the moment. A reporter asked if Bryant had reached out to any of them, and stuff went from zero to awkward real quick.