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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

I woke this morning with a couple mental pictures from the past week rumbling through my mind.  The first was of tweets bashing people who were praying for the victims and families of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  The second was of another similarly minded person who, after mocking 2nd amendment supporters and those who would pray, screaming, “Do SOMETHING!”  This is truly a gut-wrenching situation because I grieve for those who have suffered and I desire healing and unity in our nation.   There are good things that can be done, but true sustainable results will not be found in a knee-jerk reactions.  All the facts must be accurately shared and a civil discussion needs to be had.  Then I think we can begin to separate ideas that will work from those that are extreme and foolish.

But overarching all this is the real crux of the issue.  When we remove God and personal accountability from the equation we are doomed to poor results.  I was reminded of a journal entry a few weeks back that helps me put this into perspective.  I hope it blesses you.

 

Be Still

 

12-1-17   ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”   Exodus 14:14

 

This verse resonates within my spirit today.  For about a week the Lord has been stirring in me the call, the necessity of His followers to understand how to effectively win in the spiritual war we find ourselves.  In the natural realm we see the conflict manifested between national interests. We see it between political parties.  We see it in families torn by conflict.  We see it between generations, races, socio-economic classes.  But the root cause is Satan’s rebellion against the Lord God.  From Satan’s view point we are pawns in the war.  We are the battleground where he wants to create as much damage as possible.  Why?  Because he knows the Lord values each and every person.  When Satan is able to inflict pain on people, he believes he is striking God, who has become his enemy.

 

God, loves with an everlasting love.  He is patient and it is His desire for people to choose to respond to His love, to seek to enter into a love relationship with Him.  God’s plan for each person is to know and to grow into the fully redeemed and renewed person we were created to be.  It hearkens back to the garden where Adam and Eve walked with God.  That intimacy is God’s desire for us.

 

But to get there, we must pass through this life and the spiritual conflict that it entails.  Today’s verse speaks to a truth that we believers can rest in.  Let’s unpack it a little.

 

This verse is what Moses told the nation of Israel as they stood at the edge of the Red Sea.  The Egyptians had gotten over their mourning about the death of the all first born, the 10th plague brought upon Egypt due to the Pharaoh’s refusal to obey God.  They got over their mourning only to rise up in wrath toward the Israelites who appeared to be wandering aimlessly in the desert.  They mounted their war chariots and stormed out after the Israelites ready to conquer and enslave them again.

 

What a powerful picture of what Satan desires to do to believers.  When we come to faith, we are sealed as God’s children forever.  The Holy Spirit is given to us at our conversion and we are marked as God’s children.  As His children we are Satan’s enemies.  And because Satan cannot reach God directly, he seeks to hurt His children.  Like Pharaoh, Satan wants to punish and enslave us again. 

 

Prior to our conversion we garnered little of Satan’s direct interest.  After our conversion we become objects of his wrath.  Part of the reason is because he targets us as God’s children, therefore his enemies. But also because as God’s children we become the instruments of God’s grace in the world.  We are direct threats to Satan’s hopes and plans.  He wants to rule the world, but believers are God’s representatives who stand against his plan.  Our very presence is a reminder to Satan that his days are numbered, his rule is not total, and his end is certain.

 

He will attack and he is a dirty fighter.  Yet, God is omniscient.  He knows all things including Satan’s plans and desires.  As God’s children, we are called to maturity.  Part of our calling as mature men and women of God is that we participate in the battle.  Evangelism, Intercession, Service, Worship – all our acts of faith are edifying to the body of Christ and militant acts against Satan’s end goal.  Satan wages war against the Church, but he is constrained to those persons he can manipulate.  ISIS, Terrorists, corrupt politicians, elitists, and the anarchist mob are all people ultimately serving the devil’s purpose.  But none of their maneuverings are hidden from God.

 

Through the Holy Spirit the Church is fully equipped for the battle.  But… and this is probably why I am being stirred as I am, it is our responsibility to listen and submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  This is both an individual and a corporate responsibility. 

 

Which brings me back to “unarmed” Israel on the sea shore facing the menace of an angry, fully armed enemy army.  In the natural things did not look good for Israel. I am sure many of the people were near panic state.  They had been wandering so the question of where they were going and the clarity of leadership would have been a logical question.  But they had been called by God to this point.  The Lord had demonstrated His power through progressive plagues upon Egypt and protection for Israel.  Even as the battle heated up, God’s care for Israel became more visible and real. And there was the pillar of fire which even now was restraining the Egyptian army. 

 

So, when Moses gave the word, ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  The people needed only to look at God’s provision thus far and project that onto the current situation.  His faithfulness is not variable, He is always faithful and true.  Even when we are not, God remains faithful.  He loves us and it is His desire and plan that we be conformed to the image of His Son.  When we lose faith, He is ready and willing to pick us up, dust us off, and wrap His love around us anew to reassure us that He is for us and not against us.

 

In this situation the people responded in faith and God unveiled a plan that was as amazing as it was miraculous.  God held the Egyptians at bay and then opened the sea for the Israelites to pass through.  When the Israelites were through He released the sea and the Egyptians were finally destroyed.

 

Let’s go back to the “be still” part the Israelites were called to.  In my minds eye I see the strong wind coming and lifting the waters, but I also see this as taking some time.  The Lord dries up the sea bed.  Yes, He could miraculously in an instant, but again I see this as taking some time.  All the while, the Egyptians are just on the other side of the pillar of fire (night) or cloud (day) trying to figure out how to get to the Israelites.  I suspect their shouts and war cries were heard by the Israelites.  Throughout this time the Israelites had to be still and wait. 

 

This reminds me of Ephesians 6:10-17 where believer’s are encouraged to STAND.  God is the One Who fights for us.  We are to do what we know to do – pray, give, worship, serve, but ultimately when the battle comes, it is God who fights for us.

 

At exactly the right time the ground is dry in the sea bed and the Israelites stream in, through, and out of the Red Sea.  All make it through unscathed.  The Egyptians now are at a fever pitch.  They charge in vowing to destroy Israel in their anger.  But God’s plan is to bring an end to the Egypt phase of their growth and begin the desert phase.  The water crashes down and the Egyptian army is no more.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.”  In every battle there will come a time when we are to simply stand still and know God is in control.  “The battle is mine,” says the Lord God of Hosts.  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” says the Lover of our souls.  “You are my precious child.  I love you with an everlasting love.”

 

Be blessed my friend.  And let God bless through you as you seek to love and serve the LORD.

 

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God is almost never limited by our lack.

We can lack money and yet God can provide the means for whatever He calls us to do.  My thoughts run to a little boy with two fish and five loaves on a remote hillside with Jesus and a crowd of thousands, hungry after a day of teaching and healing.

We can lack strength and yet Paul passes on what Jesus said to Him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9)

We can lack intellect, but God can still use us.  I have been in a number of situations where I did not know “the answer” and yet the answer has always come.

But I realized the other day that there is one definite lack on our part that can constrain God… the lack of humility!  The lack of humility is powerful, ugly, and spiritually deadly.

There is value in specifically saying “lack of humility” and not simply calling it pride.  Being proud of your children, your country, your church can all stray into an unhealthy region, but for the most part these do not capture the attitude that the bible means when it says in a number of places, “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6).  The lack of humility is that kind of proud.  It is a cancer that sucks the life out of relationships, beginning with our relationship with the Father.

God loves us and He wants us to live in intimacy with Him.  The level of intimacy God desires is predicated upon mutual love, trust, and honesty.  Coming clean about every aspect of our life – from acts done or not done, words uttered or not uttered, even thoughts we’ve harbored requires a humility and honesty that does not come easily to us.  In fact it often requires a degree of divine support to achieve.  But He is near to us to lend us this help if we but bend our hearts toward Him in humility.

As I consider what this humility looks like several pictures come to mind.  A child listening in rapt attention and a teachable spirit… a parent returning from deployment falling on their knees and embracing their family… a “terminally” ill patient who is given a new lease on life.  God is the giver of all good gifts.  As He gives what He desires (which is always better than what we deserve) we should recognize the opportunity to give thanks and receive with humility all that the Lord wants for us.  Often, it is in these moments that He will speak wisdom into our lives that we can’t hear otherwise.

This morning I awoke with a very clear picture of what the lack of humility looks like.  It is one of the formational stories of the nation of Israel and it is found in the 2nd book of the bible, Exodus.  What had begun as a flight to sanctuary at the end of the Genesis had become servitude and slavery 400 years later.  The Pharaoh’s government had become a hard task-master and the people of Israel were crying out for deliverance.  God raised up Moses to serve as His human voice.  The message to Pharaoh was simple, “Let my people go.”  But Pharaoh, who was considered a god in that culture, refused.  Time and again God sent signs of His power and authority to convince Pharaoh and give Him the opportunity to bend His will to the Lord Almighty.  But Pharaoh would not.  The bible says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Friends, this is a vital spiritual truth.  The longer and harder we resist the Lord, the more difficult it becomes to respond to Him.  It is not that God’s love is not there nor is it that He won’t accept us.  The issue is that until we are humble enough to acknowledge that He is God and we are not, we can’t bend our knee to Him and submit to the foundational truth of faith that God is the great “I AM”, the wholly, Holy Other.  While I am thrilled that my heavenly Father loves me and desires to fellowship with me, it never changes the fact that He is the LORD God Almighty, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

The lack of humility can keep a person from accepting Christ, God’s provision to reconcile fallen humans with Himself.  But it can also rear it’s ugly head after conversion and stifle the spiritual growth the Lord intends for His children.  When I consider my faith walk, I can see how the lack of humility was a key factor in many of the lulls.

The message of today’s post is simple.  Take a moment to examine your life.  Do you have a deficit of humility that is limiting your relationship with God and others?  Are you thankful for the small gifts of grace you receive or are you disappointed because you feel slighted in some way?  Is God actively speaking to you and using you for positive change or is it quiet when you call out to Him?  If any of these answers make you realize that you have a deficit of humility, congratulations! Recognizing this is the hardest step.  Turn to God with your whole heart, acknowledge your sin (if you haven’t already figured it out, the lack of humility is a sin), accept His Lordship over you, and begin to walk in fresh fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The limits of our intellect do not in any way limit God’s ability to use us.  The limits of our humility constrain how, and how much God can work in and through us.  Choose humility and throw off those constraints.  Reach for the Father’s hand and talk a walk with the One Who loves you to the uttermost.  You will be so happy that you did.

Be blessed my friend and be a blessing to those the Lord puts in your life today.

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The following is a repost of a Facebook blog of mine from March of 2014 when the Lord saved me from dying of a heart attack.  It includes a few updates near the end.

I am a new heart disease survivor. Two weeks ago my brother-in-law Keith and I ran about 3 miles. Friday I had 3 stents placed in my heart where there were 2 – 90% blockages and one 99% blockage. One of the blockages was in the widow-maker. I am so thankful for doctors who helped diagnose and treat me, my family and their faith and encouragement, but I want to acknowledge in the most heartfelt manner my thanks to the Lord for making it clear to move and move quickly.

I want to share a few warning signs for others so you can benefit from my experience.

The first sign that something was not right was getting winded heading up the steps to the daily meeting I attend at 9 am. It was only a few steps but it was enough that I noticed. My thought was that I had to get back into condition. The wild weather this winter combined with lots of long days at the plant had gotten me out of my routine.

The next sign was that I could not run as well when I did run. Keith and I have been enjoying 2 – 3 miles runs over the past several months. It is good exercise and fun to talk about life. But I actually had to stop during a couple of runs. There was one run a month ago that, looking back now, was a clear sign something was up. But I laughed it off and then ran two miles after that convincing myself I was okay, just out of practice.

About a week and a half ago I got home with enough light to run and I did. But the entire run was a challenge. I remember at 2 miles clearly thinking something’s not right because my legs felt like lead and I was laboring with my breathing. I should have said something to Lisa but I didn’t.

Tuesday of this week. The clearest description of what my symptom felt like was to put on a very tight t-shirt. That uncomfortable tightness across your chest that makes it hard to breath. Well I experienced that for 15 seconds going to the morning meeting. A little annoying. That evening I took the wheelbarrow and some tools to the back yard and when I got there I had the sensation for 45 seconds. OK, now I was beginning to be concerned. After supper I took Lisa for a walk and told her what had been going on. We agreed I needed to get checked out.  I am not positive that I would have gone before our big trip though.  You see we were a week and a half from heading to Rome and then Israel.  But there was this dream…

That night I had the dream. I walked into a garage on a very windy day. As leaves blew in I thought to get a broom and sweep them out. As I began to step in for the broom I noticed a coffee table with a ball of snakes underneath. I realized they were poisonous and one broke free from the ball and came at me. I knew it was coming to get me. I took one step back and thought to myself, “I’ve got to deal with this.” At that instant my alarm went off. And shouting in my memory was the thought, I’ve got to deal with this.

That morning I was in the doctor’s office. Vitals all looked good but the EKG was A-typical. A call to the cardiologist and I was in their office the next day. I thought a stress test was the next step but after looking at my EKG and hearing my symptoms, the doctor put me in for a heart catheritization the next day. I went in mostly hoping that they would find everything fine, but instead they found and repaired three blockages. An overnight stay in the hospital and I was home before noon on Saturday with 90 mm of SS mesh tubing in my heart. Honestly my head is spinning when I think about the implications.

Addendum from a month plus after the fact:

That return home from the hospital was exactly one week before we flew out for Rome for 5 days and then on to Israel.  The day before we flew out I had a final check with the the cardiologist to make sure everything was still a go.  I met with a different doctor this time and I shared my story with her.  She listened politely and as I finished she said, “You quite possibly would have died on that trip.”  My wife now completes the story by letting everyone know that I definitely would have died.  One of the sites we visited in Israel was Masada, Herod’s mountain top fortress in the Judean dessert.  It is on a high plateau above the Dead Sea.  When we arrived the guide gave us two choices.  We could ride the cable car up the 1000 plus feet or we could hike up the winding trail.  Because of the doctor’s orders to take it very easy for six weeks I really had no choice, it was the cable car for me.  But as Lisa correctly points out I would have chosen the steep trail… in the desert… up the mountain which almost assuredly would have brought on a heart attack. 

And the name of that trail… the Snake Trail.

Practical Learnings from my Experience:

FITNESS ALONE DOES NOT PROTECT YOU.
For the past 7 years I have become a runner. The past three years I averaged running 15 – 20 miles a week. In preparation for the Cooper River Bridge Run last April I was running 30 miles a week. One of the reasons I took up running was because my Dad had a heart attack at age 54 and I wanted to be sure I didn’t have that problem. I completed the 6.2 miles of the Cooper River Bridge run in less than 49 minutes… I thought I had NO PROBLEMS with any ole heart problems because I was FIT!

STRESS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.
Over the past few months the stress level at work has increased significantly. While we have been successful in many ways there is still so much to be done… and I take a lot of responsibility for trying to keep my team and the plant progressing. Lately at least 4 different co-workers had asked me if I was okay and they encouraged me to take it easy and not push myself so hard. I realized this morning looking in the mirror how much different I look. I was worn out and tired most of the time and stress was a major reason. This morning I look 5 years younger.

EATING RIGHT IS NOT A GAME.
In addition to the stress I had some opportunities in my diet. I was not a terrible eater and I had made substitutes over the past few years to go “heart healthy”. I added fish to my diet and lot’s of chicken. Red meat had been a staple but I was down to 2 – 3 times a week usually. However it was more of a game than a lifestyle. If I decided I wanted a cookie, I told myself I’d just run a little extra distance. When I did eat red meat it was a well-marbled rib-eye. To balance it out I began eating the petite portion size. I was not committed to a healthy diet. I assumed that I was fit and my vitals were always very good when I got tested so it was OK for me to cheat on the heart healthy diet.

REGULAR CHECK-UPS MEANS MORE OFTEN THAN EVERY FIVE YEARS
Okay, I guess I have uncovered another area where I went astray. As I approached 50 I had a full physical. Since then I have had annual screenings where they check my vitals and tell me they look very good. I had even gotten a little smug… “yeah my heart rate is always real low like that because I’m a runner and I take care of myself” sort of smug. I am ashamed at this moment but I have committed to being honest and transparent in hopes my experience can help others so there is the truth of it. Last fall I set up a full check-up which I canceled 30 minutes prior because we had some crisis going at work. Having good intentions but not carrying through = 0. The result is exactly the same as never having thought of doing the right thing. In my case a November check-up might have revealed a problem that could have been dealt with in a simpler manner.

OTHER RISK FACTORS: SMOKING, DRINKING, CAFFEINE
For myself the other risk factors have not been an issue. I recognize that they are known to be harmful to me and to a degree to those who would be around me, so I don’t smoke or consume alcohol or caffeine.

As I mentioned before my head spins as I think of the implications… I had a time bomb in my chest getting close to going off… I almost missed the warning signs… I can’t hide behind being “fit” to ward off everything that can take me down… God knows me well enough to know I needed a nudge (OK more like a push) from that dream to move and move quick.

One final thing that I remembered a little while ago and told my wife. On Thursday morning as I was heading to work I turned on His Radio for a little soothing music. While I was not scared exactly, I was running through my mind the likely paths this would take. The possibility that there was a problem with my heart was high on the list. You can’t help but to think about the what if’s in such a situation? What if I don’t survive and my family has to deal with my loss. About that time a song came on and the refrain repeated God’s words to us – “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you”. As the melody and these words soaked into my soul the tears came. Not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and release. I KNOW that God lives and that He is in control of my life. He has given me stewardship my time on earth, but as I release my life to Him I can trust Him completely. He gave me a crazy dream about snakes at exactly the time I needed it to motivate me to head to the doctor. Today I celebrate the reality of Who He is and another marvelous thing He has done for me and my family.

Today as I re-read what I posted right after my stents, I am overwhelmed anew by thankfulness.  There are several aspects of this story that are extremely encouraging, but the one that stands out to me is the timing of the dream.  If it had been in the middle of the night I doubt I would have remembered it, but climaxing at the instant my alarm went off was exactly what I needed to motivate me.  The Lord still has things for me to do here and He gave me the necessary nudge to keep me here.  And somehow my having heart disease weaves into His plan for me.  Another one of my life verses comes to mind this morning. From Proverbs 3:5&6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Lord thank you for this life you have given me.  I surrendered my life to you many years ago, but I realize that this process is on-going.  Today I give you thanks for my body and how it is made – even the heart disease that I live with, because I know you are able to use it for the greater good.  Please use it and use me to faithfully proclaim the Good News of Who You are and what You have done.  Open eyes, ears, and hearts to the beautiful, wonderful reality of You.  I love you Lord.

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In 2014 we were fortunate to travel to Israel with a group from our church.  I enjoy learning about history and I am an avid student of geography.  Visiting the places where Jesus lived, walked, and taught was a dream come true.  And while I have studied the bible for over 30 years, being there made it come alive in a new and vibrant way.  This was just before the Arab uprising which stopped travel for several days.  As we progress through Holy Week for the next several days I will share pictures and stories from that trip.  To set the stage for Holy Week I will concentrate upon the trip prior to our Jerusalem visit today.

The three days prior to Jerusalem were spent in Galilee.  We visited Capharnaum, where Jesus was based through His time of ministry, as well as many traditional sites such as the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, the Church of the Primacy of Peter where Jesus commissioned Peter to “Feed My sheep”.  An over-riding impression of Galilee was peaceful.  It was easy to picture Jesus walking through this land, ministering to people, healing, delivering, and teaching.  Galilee is fairly rural.  In Galilee the land is dotted with small villages surrounded by lots of fields and open spaces.  It is different from the US where rural often means a single farm surrounded by it’s fields.  I don’t remember seeing any homes remote from others.

When visiting places of historic consequence, I like to imagine what it was like at that time in history.  That means you often have to look past a lot of what has been added as well as seeing through the revisionist history.  Fortunately in the Holy Land you have two major benefits.  First, there is much about the land that has not changed dramatically.  Being such a highly contested area, there has been much ebb and flow to who is in charge, but not a tremendous amount of development that has significantly changed the land.  One of the most significant changes is that modern horticultural techniques have made the land bloom and grow more prolifically than ever, however this has not resulted in significant development and growth… at least not in Galilee.  Along the Mediterranean Coastline, yes, but not so much in Galilee.  The second reason it is perhaps easier to get the feel of what it was like 2000 years ago is that we have the most accurate living document from antiquity to consult when we read the bible.  The bible is far and away the most widely published and read document in history.  And unlike all other ancient documents, the bible can be compared to extant manuscripts from the first century showing the accuracy of what we read today.

One small detail.  I will refer to the Sea of Galilee by its traditional name from the scripture of Sea of Galilee.  However it is technically a fresh water lake.  Water flows in particularly from the snow melt and springs of Mount Hermon and it flows out by way of the Jordan River.

 

CAPHARNAUM

Matthew 4:13 tells us that Jesus moved to Capharnaum.  It was in this area that Jesus called Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James, and his brother John.  (Matthew 4:18-22).  It was in this area that Jesus got into a fishing boat and taught the people as they lined the shore.  From this shoreline Jesus would climb into a boat with His disciples and travel to different places around the lake to teach, to heal, and to get away for quiet time with the Father.

Jesus' home during His ministry years.

Jesus’ home during His ministry years.

Ruins in Capharnaum.

Ruins in Capharnaum.

One of the stories set in Capharnaum is found in Matthew 8:5-13.  A Roman Centurion comes to Jesus asking for healing on behalf of his servant.  The Centurion’s faith in Jesus is so strong that Jesus is “amazed.”  (See verse 10)

Aviel, our guide, provides background on the ruins of the synagogue we are standing in.  Archeologists put the timing of this synagogue to around the 1st century meaning it is possible this was one of the places Jesus worshipped and taught in.  The construction cost was likely funded by a wealthy Roman centurion.

Aviel, our guide, provides background on the ruins of the synagogue we are standing in. Archeologists put the timing of this synagogue to around the 1st century meaning it is possible this was one of the places Jesus worshipped and taught in. The construction cost was likely funded by a wealthy Roman centurion.

The shore of the Sea of Galilee in Capharnaum.

The shore of the Sea of Galilee in Capharnaum.

 

MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

On a sea side hill about a mile from Capharnaum is the commonly accepted location of the Mount of Beatitudes (See Matthew 5-7).  A small church was erected in that location and visitors like ourselves come to walk where Jesus walked and see what Jesus saw.  We were there in early spring and everything was nice and green.  We were told that the beginning of April moves into the dry season and shortly browns and tans would be the predominant coloring.  As you can see, it was fresh, colorful, and alive.

 

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View southeast from the Mount of Beatitudes.  Mount Arbel is the peak just left of top center.

View southeast from the Mount of Beatitudes. Mount Arbel is the peak just left of top center.

View west from the Mount of Beatitudes.

View west from the Mount of Beatitudes.

View eastward from the Mount of Beatitudes.

View eastward from the Mount of Beatitudes.

 

Church on the Mount of Beatitudes.

Church on the Mount of Beatitudes.

View up to the church on the top of the hill that is the likely location of the Mount where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, including the beatitudes.

View up to the church on the top of the hill that is the likely location of the Mount where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, including the beatitudes.

 

CHURCH OF THE PRIMACY OF SAINT PETER

The Church of the Primacy of Peter sits on the water’s edge on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, a little below the Mount of Beatitudes.  This location is believed to be the same one described in John 21.  This makes sense since it is only a mile or two east of Capharnaum where the disciples would have likely headed after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Reading John 21 again, I am struck by how Jesus responds to the disciples, especially Peter.  First Jesus sought Peter and these other disciples out after they had gone back to Galilee.  Jesus had told Mary of Magdalene to tell the disciples He would see them again in Galilee.  In my mind I suspect they had “hung out” for a little while before they resorted to what was familiar to them – fishing.   Second He met them where they were and He met their immediate need.  An entire night without any success was instantly turned into overflowing success immediately following obedience to Jesus’ command.  Third He feeds them.  Notice that He already had fish and bread ready for them when they came ashore.  Finally the way Jesus restores Peter is telling.

Peter denied Jesus three times.  Jesus asks Peter three times does he love Him.  With each response I can sense Peter’s growing desperation to assure Jesus of his devotion.  I can’t prove it, but I believe that Peter carried with him a large burden of guilt because of his denial of Jesus.  There are not a lot of activities that are recorded in all four gospels.  When they are they are vitally important in God’s message to the church. Peter’s denial is one of them.

When Jesus forgives us, our sins are literally transferred to the ledger of “debt fully paid”.  We do not ever have to go back and pay that debt.  This is hard for some people to accept though.  As proud and brash as Peter was, it is likely that his sense of guilt was strong and would hinder the plans Jesus had for him.  Jesus’ three questions and three directives were directly aimed at demolishing the foot hold the enemy had in Peter’s life through that guilt.  Finally Jesus speaks prophetically to Peter to let him know that he will again face a choice to deny or follow Jesus and this time he will follow to the very end.

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The Primacy of Peter chapel.

The Primacy of Peter chapel.

Inside the chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Inside the chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Statue symbolizing Jesus reinstating Peter into leadership in the church.

Statue symbolizing Jesus reinstating Peter into leadership in the church.

The outside chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter.  We enjoyed a wonderful quite time as a church here.

The outside chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter. We enjoyed a wonderful quite time as a church here.

Having Church on the shore of the Sea of Galilee on the grounds of the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Having Church on the shore of the Sea of Galilee on the grounds of the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

 

JORDAN RIVER

The place we visited on the Jordan River and had baptism was within a mile or so from where the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan River which flows the 75 or so miles south to the Dead Sea.  We were told that the lower Jordan River is fairly polluted due to the heavy use of the lower Jordan River for agriculture, but I don’t have any confirmation of that.  As you can see by the pictures it was a beautiful location.  The Jordan River below the Sea of Galilee for most of the year is a small, meandering stream rather than a large flowing river.  I find it so like our Lord to take a small and relatively insignificant river and infuse it with eternal meaning as the site of John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ baptism.  The same is true of Galilee in general.  There are no large and prosperous cities.  The people seem to live quiet, modest lives.  It is such an understated place for the God of the universe to perform the vast majority of His earthly ministry.  But that was His plan and purpose.

Pilgrims coming up out of the Jordan River.

Pilgrims coming up out of the Jordan River.

The baptism site at Yardnit on the Jordan River in Galilee.

The baptism site at Yardenit on the Jordan River in Galilee.

Jordan River downstream from Baptism location.

Jordan River downstream from Baptism location.

Pilgrims awaiting the baptism at the edge of the Jordan River

Pilgrims awaiting the baptism at the edge of the Jordan River.

 

TIBERIUS

We stayed two nights Tiberius, the city built by Herod Antipas during this time and named after the Roman emperor.  For a time it was the capital of Galilee.  While much of Galilee was decidedly Jewish, there were Roman cities built during these years such as Tiberius and Sepphoris.  These cities were built from the excessive taxation of the local citizenry and strove to create a Roman feel in the backwoods province of Galilee.  These were pagan cities of the foreign rulers built to impress upon the local population the dominance of Rome and perhaps bring the influence of Roman culture.

View north from our hotel room in Tiberius.

View north from our hotel room in Tiberius.  I never was sure what that flare was, but it reminded me of Jesus teaching that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:14)  About four hours after this picture we were on that Mount which happens to be just under the city shining in this picture.

Tiberius from our hotel.

Tiberius from our hotel.

View back at Tiberius from out on the Sea of Galilee.

View back at Tiberius from out on the Sea of Galilee.

Demonstration of the traditional "fishing" on the Sea of Galilee.

Demonstration of the traditional “fishing” on the Sea of Galilee.

One of our tour boats on the Sea of Galilee.

One of our tour boats on the Sea of Galilee.

The fishing fleet returning at days end to Tiberius.

The fishing fleet returning at days end to Tiberius.

The hills north of the Sea of Galilee

The hills north of the Sea of Galilee

Remnants of the morning shower that rolled across Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee at daybreak.

Remnants of the morning shower that rolled across Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee at daybreak.  It was so cool to wake up to this flash shower that quickly rolled down off the hill above Tiberius and onto the Lake.  It reminded me of the stories of Jesus calming storms such as the one found in Matt 8:23-27.

 

Over the next few days I will share a few other pictures and stories from Israel.  One of my biggest take-aways from the trip was that the Lord who is powerful beyond comprehension chose such a quiet and relatively non-descript area to send His Son.  We are talking about Jesus’ entire life and ministry spent in an area the size of New Jersey.  Today over 2 billion people all around the world call themselves Christians.  Amazing!  But that is not all.  Wherever you are, whatever you have done the same God who chose this unlikely piece of land to fulfill His amazing plan is asking you to be His and to allow Him to use you and your life for His glory.  He wants to pour His life into and through you just as He poured His life into and through Galilee 2000 years ago.  And just like He is not through using this Holy Land in His plan, He is not through using you either.  That is awesome beyond words!  Thank you Lord God Almighty!!!

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

 

 

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