Monday, November 12, 2007


internet access has been hard to come by and expensive, so apologies for the 3 of you (ok, 2) who were hoping for updates from Israel. I tried really hard the first night here and then lost the whole thing and have been too pissed off at the internet to try again.

I have been taking good notes, so I'm going to post some of the highlights. Get ready... this is a good bit of stuff. Overall, incredible trip. We stop at at least 4 places a day and most of them have exceeded expectations.

I'll put some pictures on another post as soon as i get enough bars to upload...

Day 2 (Day 1 was the plane ride)
We went to the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath, as our second stop after leaving the airport. This is cool because I just preached it and spent a lot of time in it. Hard to believe it’s really the Valley of Elah because it’s not marked and now it’s a farmer’s field. That being said, you could easily imagine armies lining up on the mountains on either side of the valley, getting ready for battle. We picked up a few rocks and that was it. I could spend a day walking around this valley imagining what it was like and exploring.

Later that day we headed to Joppa, which is basically Tel Aviv. Hard to tell much about Joppa. There was a museum with some ruins but we didn’t go in it. It’s right on the Med. This is where Jonah caught the boat to escape God’s call to Ninevah (Jonah 1). It’s also where Peter got his vision with the sheets coming down and God telling him not to consider unclean what God has made clean (Acts 11). As an aside, I could live in Tel Aviv.

It is crazy to think that these locations are where these stories took place. The Valley of Elah. Really. It’s crazy to think that within the mile around where I slept last night Peter got this vision from God that opened up the gospel to the gentiles. It’s crazy to think that Jonah got on the boat right here. It’s hard to feel connected to these stories because our culture is so radically different and they are some pretty crazy stories. I don’t know if this makes the stories feel more true, which might be what I was expecting. It may make them a lot more possible, or likely, seeing where they actually were supposed to have taken place.

Day 4
We’ve been hanging around the Sea of Galilee and went to Capernaum, where much of Jesus ministry took place, today. In a word – sleepy. I guess it was small town then and there is surprisingly little going on now.

We ended up north in Caesarea Philippi. This was one of the stops I was most looking forward to and it was everything I expected. They have a plaque there talking about how they threw sacrifices into a crevice in the back of the cave. If they saw the blood running in the river, that signified to them that the sacrifice was rejected. It makes sense that these were understood as the gates of hell. It was definitely used to worship Pan in the day of Jesus but it doesn’t appear it was used to worship Augustus, Zeus and others. They were all worshipped there, though. The thought that this is where the church was born is incredible.

Day 5
One of our stops was Jericho. The excavation isn’t that exciting here given the significant things that happened here in the Bible, but there is a tower with some stairs that are apparently 10,000 years old. The stairs are the archeological evidence used to say Jericho is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. I climbed down them. I’m fairly certain this is not a regular occurrence. There were no signs explicitly forbidding climbing the steps, just a beaten up fence and a gate over the stairs that was movable. So I figured, ‘How often do you get to climb a set of 10,000 year old steps?’ The ‘Tourism Police’ started walking up the hill to where we were, but our group held them off. Only then did the thought occur to me that ‘spending time in a jail in the West Bank’ is close to last on my list of things I want to have to do in life.

FYI, the Dead Sea rocks… we stayed there for a night. You float. I mean you couldn't sink if you wanted to. And it's beautiful.

Day 6
Church of the Nativity
This is Nabil, our guide’s, home church (he’s a Palestinian Christian; great man; we’re getting an education). He’s worshipped there his whole life. I had low expectations and the outside of the church did nothing to raise them. It’s pretty bland and doesn’t look much different than it’s surroundings. Then we went into the Greek Orthodox section of the church. It’s hard to describe. Definitely old, but tacky too. There were some mosaics surviving from the 4th century under the floor, very cool. But the lamps they had hanging looked like they came from a yard sale and all the pictures are so old you couldn’t see them. Then we went downstairs into the cave where Jesus was (allegedly) born. They believe this because early Christians gathered at this spot to pray and an emperor was eventually so threatened by it that he built a temple to a pagan god over it. Then Constantine built a church over it.

You go down these steps and get on your knees and there’s this star with a hole in the middle that you touch and this is apparently where Jesus came into the world. I can be a world-class cynic but it was all I could do to hold myself together here. Maybe it was low expectations. Maybe it was the act of bowing low. Maybe it was the fact that the early Christians gathered here, which gave it more validity in my mind. But the thought that this spot that I may have just touched is the spot where Heaven landed on earth, where God became man, was insane and intense. I wish I’d had an hour or a day there but you have to keep moving.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Off to Israel

I'm sitting in the airport in Newark, waiting for our 10 1/2 hour flight to Tel Aviv to begin in a couple of hours! It's been a busy couple of weeks and it still doesn't feel like I'm about to go to Israel for 10 days.

Here's my agenda. I'll try to post some pics every other day or so.

Thursday, November 8 - Beth Shemesh, Valley of Elah, Joppa
Don't know much about Beth Shemesh. The Valley of Elah is where David defeated Goliath. Pretty excited about this one. It's where I told my kids I was going. Joppa is the port from which Jonah starts running from God.

Friday, November 9 - Caesarea by the Sea, Megiddo, Nazareth, Tiberias
I guess today we pass by the place where Elijah fought the prophets of Baal (one of the greatest stories in the Bible, i think - 1 Kings 18:1-40). I should know more about Megiddo, but I don't. Pretty excited about Nazareth.

Saturday, November 10 - Capernaum, Golan Heights, Mt Hermon, Caesarea Philippi, Mount of Beatitudes, Sea of Galilee
Should be a really exciting day seeing the region where much of Jesus' ministry took place. Can't wait to go to Caesarea Philippi where Jesus first talks to his disciples about the church - Matthew 16.

Sunday, November 11 - Beit Shean, Jericho, Qumran, Dead Sea
Beit Shean is where Saul and his sons were nailed to the city walls. Jericho is apparently the oldest known city in the world. Qumran is where they discovered the dead sea scrolls.

Monday, November 12 - Masada, Ein Gedi, Bethlehem
Ein Gedi is where David hid in the cave from Saul. Bethlehem should be amazing.

Tuesday, November 13 - Jerusalem - Wailing Wall, Temple Mount, Jewish Quarter
The Wailing Wall is the only thing remaining from the temple of Jesus' time and the holiest place in the world for the Israelites. I can't believe I'm going to be here!

Wednesday, November 14 - Jerusalem - Holocaust Museum, Israel Museum, Knesset, Ein Karem
I think the holocaust museum may be the most powerful thing we see on the trip. The Israel museum houses the dead sea scrolls. John the Baptist was born at Ein Karem.

Thursday, November 15 - Jerusalem - Mt of Olives, Garden of Gethsemene, Pools of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Mt Zion, Upper Room
Wow! All the big sites in Jerusalem. The Garden, the Mt of Olives and the Via Dolorosa are going to be powerful. In fact, just typing this, it may be hitting me for the first time where I'm really going.

Friday, November 16 - Jerusalem - Gordon's Calvary, Garden Tomb
Not sure who Gordon is... Can't wait to see the Garden Tomb and learn more about it.

Saturday, November 17 - Home!
I think I get in around 8:45pm on Satuday. Anybody want to give me a ride home?

Monday, November 05, 2007

some great pictures of the kids

a friend of ours, rebecca, is starting a business called Framelight Photography. she went with us to Pullen Park a few weekends ago to shoot some pics of the family. here are some of the best. really, really great pictures. God's given me a beautiful family and it was a fun afternoon just hanging out at the park. felt like we had our very own paparazzi...

these two are probably my favorites