Jesus loves me this I know.

The title of this post is a song many of us are taught as children, and it’s an example of how when we teach our children about God’s love they will hopefully remember that throughout their lives. We are all God’s children. Someone once said to me that we often think of God in the same way we think of our earthly fathers. Now that’s a lot of pressure to put on our men, but all of us should take that to heart in how we act as role models for our youth.

My pastor mentioned the other day that kids who are pre-teen and early teens are at a critical point in their lives, seeking some kind of belonging and need for guidance. A visitor to church the other week told us an alarming trend of how much pressure our kids are feeling today and that 50 years ago they would be institutionalized. I can only imagine growing up in a world with so much stimulus, so much judging from online trolls, so much stress about how to “look” and compete with the world of glamour that is portrayed day in and day out. All of that is fake. But they and we believe it. My generation grew up doubting authority. We were lied to by authority figures and often had to learn to take care of ourselves, and we learned to be fiercely independent by nature. My parents were wonderful and took great care of us like so many of my friends parents as well, but I am still genuinely Gen x to the core. But I did not have to deal with the Internet and social media, and the news has gotten worse everyday. It’s hard enough as an adult dealing with this, can you imagine being an impressionable kid?

The kids these days need real relationships and good role models. We need to give them a better world with support to help them be independent but without so much stress. So many don’t have that. And that is where we need individuals who are willing to make commitments to build relationships and give time to these kids—leaders who work for groups like Young Life, the most recent recipient of a grant from the Masterpiece Fund. A friend of our Masterpiece Fund family has met with us recently to tell us the wonderful work she is doing and how the program in Alexandria, VA is growing and more and more kids are being drawn to the program to make new friends, hear the Word of God, and grow in their relationships with each other and our Savior.

In addition to the day-to-day work they do, she also told us of a great need for support for their camp. As a huge fan of sending kids to camp, we know the life-long value and the experience kids (and adults) get from going that will impact them their entire lives. So we gave another grant to send kids to Camp Champion. Please consider giving to this wonderful organization.

From the Young Life website:

Young Life doesn’t start with a program. It starts with adults concerned enough about kids to go to them, on their turf and in their culture, building bridges of authentic friendship. These relationships don’t happen overnight — they take time, patience, trust and consistency.

So Young Life leaders log many hours with kids around the world — where they are, as they are. Leaders faithfully attend football practices in the Minneapolis suburbs, mingle with teenagers at a mall in Stockholm and play pick-up soccer with former child-soldiers in Liberia. We listen to their stories and learn what’s important to them because we genuinely care about their joys, triumphs, heartaches and setbacks.

We believe in the power of presence. Kids’ lives are dramatically impacted when caring adults come alongside them, sharing God’s love with them. Because their leader believes in them, they begin to see that their lives have great worth, meaning and purpose.

At Camp Champion kids will spend a week where deep relationships are forged in the midst of mind-boggling fun and where you experience and listen to what we believe is the greatest love story ever told.

Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives.
(Proverbs 22:6)

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 18:16)

The North Star Guides the Lost

Our universe and our world are so complex it can overwhelm us at times. Not just the day-to-day of work, technology, chores, and family activities, to name a few, but also how the ecosystem works and effects how we exist. Every time I watch a documentary or read about our planet or space, I am amazed how everything fits perfectly, has its function in helping to keep the world alive, and beautiful it all is. Sometimes it can be stressful to think how we can navigate our lives and fit into this complex system and make a difference.

Lately in the sermons I’ve heard and the bible studies I’ve participated in, the main message that seems to be repeating again and again, was that Jesus made it VERY simple for us to be saved and the Bible gives us pretty clear and simple instructions on how we should behave. We are the ones who make things hard and more complicated.

We have a lot of technology that helps us navigate where we need to go—GPS, maps, Google earth, compasses, sextants, and such. God gave us the Bible as the ultimate self-help guide on how to live. He also gave us the North Star, a consistent and unchanging light that guides the lost. Does that sound familiar? A symbol of what Jesus is—an unchanging light for us to follow, especially to the lost of this world.

New Life Bible Camp Donation

The Masterpiece Fund has recently given two more donations. One was a repeat donation to the New Life Bible Camp in Pennsylvania. They provide guidance and love to many children every summer. The Crowe family was a recipient of their kindness for many years. We hope the donation will assist families in need with resources to be able to send their children there so they can have a life-changing experience. Check out their website and consider sending your kids there or going on a retreat that includes adults.

Polaris Project Donation

The second donation was made to a wonderful organization called Polaris. Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris systemically disrupts the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. We encourage you to visit their website and read about how you can be part of the fight against the enslavement of millions of people—many of whom are children.

Human trafficking has become so rampant that it is spilling into our neighborhoods and businesses. Most of us don’t see it but it’s right in front of our eyes. Our culture unfortunately has a large contingent of people who enjoy sexual activity with children and others who are being manipulated, threatened, and abused. Traffickers also use people for forced labor. It’s a world-wide problem, but don’t be fooled—it’s in “nice” neighborhoods in the U.S. Please take the time to learn signs of what trafficking looks like and how to report it so you don’t endanger yourself or the victims.

2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good, a safe place in times of trouble. And He knows those who come to Him to be safe.

Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 13:34

And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

 

Hurricanes can’t stop God’s work. Good Samaritans are everywhere.

Our sisters, brothers, and furry creatures down south are suffering in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. So the Masterpiece Fund’s stewards are using our blessings from donations this year to help two organizations who are fulfilling God’s call for us to care for those in need. One is called God’s Dogs Rescue and the other is Samaritan’s Purse.

<> on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas.We pray for the people who lost loved ones, homes, and treasured possessions. We count our blessings and hope that these donations will help not only feed and care for them but to also lift their spirits.

In the midst of the disasters we’ve seen volunteers, neighbors, and other rescue workers digging in to help each other. This is the kind of world we need to live in. Let’s keep reaching out to help each other—not just during disasters but every day as we go about our normal routines. Here is some information on the two organizations we sent grants to. Please consider donating to them or to the Masterpiece Fund so we can use that money plus the interest it generates to spread the love. 100% of your donations go directly to worthy causes.masterpiece fund hurricane donation

God’s Dogs Rescue
The Masterpiece Fund desires to help all of God’s creatures and we are a family of animal lovers. The recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida left a lot of dogs and cats without homes. One rescue organization in Texas is helping out and fulfilling God’s call for us to care for the needs of our animals. Serving all over South Texas, they rescue and foster abused, abandoned and neglected dogs until they can find their “furever” homes, whether in Texas or throughout the US and Canada. Here is a nice video about them.

Samaritan’s Purse
When the hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, Samaritan’s Purse put five disaster relief units in place on the ground helping our own U.S. sisters and brothers in need. When Irma hit Florida, they were there as well. Samaritan’s Purse has excellent ratings for charity’s who are managed well and who use a vast majority of money from donations to directly help those in need instead of on administrative costs. They effectively put actions behind their mission to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering.

Proverbs 27:23
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.”

Proverbs 12:10
“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

Psalm 46
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.”

Are Americans becoming tribal? An election perspective from a neutral God.

With so many Americans in mourning and scared after the results of the recent election, National Community Church Pastor Mark Batterson talks for a few minutes about criticizing through creation. Write new stories, make new movies, write new books, and spread love and hope even to those you don’t agree with or don’t like.

At about 14 minutes our family guest pastor delivers a comedian-style sermon that hits home for us even though he discusses the tribal problems they deal with in Africa. America is seeming tribal right now so it’s relevant to us all. And really interesting and funny!

Say YES to Gracism

Every year around this time, many of us are sent requests for charity donations. This year I have been drawn to the plight of those less fortunate even more so than usual. And as I have been complaining and crying because I feel so sad about the lack of compassion from so many people—and the downright unconscionable violence against so many throughout our planet, I have had a nagging feeling tugging at me.

This morning in church we had a guest speaker, Dr. Anderson, who leads a huge multi-racial congregation in Columbia, MD. His sermon was about Gracism (that’s Grace with a Big G—because G stands for God and when you put God in front of any problem, he’ll provide a solution). He read from Corinthians—the body of Christ being made up of all human beings—regardless of their race, culture, religion, language, gender, age, height, etc. All of us need each other. Whether you are in a more “powerful” position or you are struggling to survive, all of us need to lift one another up, stand with each other, rejoice with each other, and love one another. We are all parts of the body each with our own unique gifts from God.

And so I thought it was time to put some more action behind my words. I like to give to charity and I probably do the average amount of giving. I’m not completely materialistic but I do enjoy having a few nice things. The other day I was talking to my parents and was getting really upset because of the number of people who are letting fear get in the way of doing what’s right. And because our society is obsessed with some seriously stupid material junk that we waste our money on. I kept thinking—why can’t people set aside buying just some of this junk and instead give that money to people who are without the basic human needs like food, shelter, safety, and dignity. My parents and I then went on to talk about what we might want for Christmas and I felt like a hypocritical jerk.

So I’ve decide to make a pledge. I’m going to call it, “Say Yes to Gracism.” What does this pledge entail? I’m going to say YES to all requests for charity from now until the end of the year. When I say charity, I mean any legitimate organization that uses donations specifically to help people or animals in need. This may open me up to a lot of mail or calls but I’m going to look at that as a positive. It will mean more opportunities to pass along God’s blessings and to hopefully lift up others one dollar at a time. I may not be able to give a lot to everyone but the more I give the more I will be blessed. Not by any material gain or promises of a good life, but rather by the Holy Spirit working in me to make this a better world.

I’m not writing this for any accolades or atta boys or any kind of recognition at all. This is all GOD’s doing. He has blessed me with an inordinate amount of privilege and I’m just giving back what He has given me. I’m writing about this in the hopes that other people will take this pledge with me. One of my gifts is writing this blog. Maybe not a big deal but it’s what I do and I’m using it to try to do good.

What are your talents and gifts, and how will you use them this season? Will you sacrifice one holiday decoration or toy or box of junk food and use that money to give the gift of life? Will you say YES this season? If you want to take this pledge with me, please let me know so we can spread the work of the Holy Spirit and tell others how they can help. Tell me who you are giving to (not the amount) and how you have been blessing others. Tell me what kind of sacrifices you are making and how you are putting the spirit of Gracism in place in your world.

And just in case you might be hesitating because I’m talking about my faith—please don’t let that stop you. Saying YES to Gracism is an act of compassion, love, empathy, and concern for other human beings. You don’t have to be a Christian to do any of that. You just have to say YES and give a little of yourself to help someone else on our planet. Simple as that.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Unity and Diversity in the Body

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by  one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

 

Build a better world, one human being at a time.

Over the past several months I’ve been hearing and reading more and more about the refugee crisis in Syria. I did not realize how bad it was until very recently a statistic and call for help had me in tears. Twelve million people have been effected by the violence in Syria. TWELVE MILLION HUMAN BEINGS. This is the worst humanitarian crisis we’ve seen since World War II.

I sat through church today thinking about how to help. I can give money and will. The Masterpiece Fund is giving a substantial donation to World Vision, an organization that has so far helped two million refugees. They need our help. I know you may be thinking, “I give all the time to various charities.” Or, “I need the money for [fill in the blank].” As I sat in the hot tub at the gym after taking a nice Sunday swim I gave praise and thanks to God that my family and I are not frightened for our lives, aren’t walking a thousand miles to try to reach a country that will let us in, that we don’t live in shacks without clean water or food, and that we have amazingly blessed lives. I definitely don’t need so much of what I have and can spare some cash for human beings who have nothing and are fleeing for their lives.

Can you look around at all you have and give thanks? Can you look around at all you have and think about how you would survive without most of it? I think you could easily. I think the tiniest bit of sacrifice can make a huge difference in one person’s life.

Please pray for these people and do whatever you can to help. Here is a link to World Vision where you can donate and where they have information about the crisis that I will copy below.

http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give

Fast Facts:

  • Nearly 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes by the fighting; half are children.
  • At least 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria, and more than 4 million have fled as refugees in neighboring countries.
  • Increasing numbers of refugees are making dangerous attempts to reach Europe. About 51 percent of them are from Syria, the UN Refugee Agency says.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.
  • Since the beginning of this crisis, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.
  • In response to the migration toward Europe, we are now also providing aid in Serbia.

– See more at: http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/syria-war-refugee-crisis#sthash.VfndRQhZ.dpuf.

Mathew 25: 35-36

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

YOU can make a difference in a human life. Nepal needs us.

I read a Facebook post today that made me overwhelmingly sad about the evil that pervades our world. In the midst of a devastating crisis in Nepal where thousands have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been injured and lost their homes, there are enemies of God and man taking advantage of victims and enslaving young women to work in the human sex trafficking industry.

How do we as individuals so far from the disaster combat these demons and help our sisters (and brothers) survive this tragedy? Well for starters, there are angels and saints at work who ARE helping these people—getting them medical aid, food, shelter, and protecting those who have been enslaved and abused. As I see it there are several ways we can help them.

  1. Donate money to a reputable charity. The Masterpiece Fund has just made a donation to Christian Aid. They assist mission workers who are onsite and helping right now in the dangerous trenches. As they explain it… their local Christian workers know how to get aid to people deprived of their homes and come alongside the shell-shocked survivors in their trauma. The ministries that Christian Aid assists can inexpensively purchase food, water and tents from local sources and effectively get the supplies to those in need, even carrying large bags of food on their backs up the steep mountainsides. Your tax-deducible gift today helps victims of these devastating earthquakes in Nepal. You can make a difference in their lives through material provisions, and – more important – the gospel.Donate today at christianaid.org/Nepal or to any organization you believe in.
  2. Spread the word about this atrocity and let your network know there IS something they can do today that will directly impact a human being in need. If your daughter, niece, granddaughter, sister, or friend was taken and beaten and raped on a daily basis, how much would you do to get her home and in the safety of loved ones? Another thing to consider, the culture there unfortunately puts blame on the girls and they are often disgraced and disowned by their own families.
  3. Pray. And pray some more. I have recently been reading a book called the Red Sea Rules and the author mentioned the power of earnest prayer and the power of group prayer. When two or more gather in His name and pray for His grace and mercy, miracles can happen. I ask you to pray with your families, small groups, on your own throughout the day, and with your congregations. In fact, I’m going to call on all of you readers to pray for the Nepalese victims.

I call on everyone—Christian or not—to pray to God every day for the next week (or more if you will) at 8 am and 8 pm. Let’s raise our prayers to heaven at the same time—whether you are still in bed just getting up, brushing your teeth, driving to work, watching TV, etc. You don’t have to be in a quiet place, just start asking God for help for our brothers and sisters.

I will be praying the following and ask all of you to put your heart into asking God to save the Nepalese people.

Lord Father, we love you and thank you for all the blessings you give to us on a daily basis. You truly provide for us and we are grateful for your mercy, grace, love, and support. We ask you to forgive us our sins against each other and you. Lord Father in your ultimate and merciful power, please lift up your children in Nepal who are suffering from the effects of the earthquakes. Place your protective arms around them and keep them safe from the slavers and traffickers. Allow the missionaries and rescue workers to reach them with provisions, love, and support. Give them the tools and the words to make a difference in the lives of the victims. Stop your enemies from taking girls and abusing the people there. Open the hearts of the families of the abused girls so they can come home to love and protection of their families. We ask for your full blessing on the victims and ask that you help us get the word out to others throughout the world who can add their support and prayers. Thank you Lord and may we be filled with your Holy Spirit each and every day.

If you have ideas on charities or prayers please submit your comments. Love and peace to you all.

Proverbs 14:31

“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Psalm 82:4 

‘Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

 

Only the best wine for Jesus.

A walkway at the Arbel Guest House.

A walkway at the Arbel Guest House.

Continuing our time in the Sea of Galilee, our accommodations at the Arbel Guest House were like staying at a cozy home. We had a two bedroom apartment with a mini kitchen and living room area and outside our door was a patio with table under a wood roof with lights. Upon arrival we went right over to the pool and had a glorious swim. A cute dog followed me to the pool and I looked around the gardens before getting ready for dinner. The Arbel Guest House is owned by the Shavit family. The father is a wonderful cook and we enjoyed one of our best meals in Israel—a pot of

Our apartment at Arbel.

Our apartment at Arbel.

lamb stew topped with ice cream for dessert. The entire surroundings—in and out—were homey, lovely, and comfortable. At night I lingered on the patio where I watched a group of tiny kittens skirt around the property playing and looking for food. After they ran off we got more visitors—some neighborhood dogs who were very friendly and also looking for the free handouts the owners put out when the dining room closes. The family was very friendly and helpful and I highly recommend this place—it’s even easy on the wallet!

Cana

Two of the Mary mosaics at the Church of Annunciation.

Two of the Mary mosaics at the Church of Annunciation.

In the morning we were picked up by our guide and began the day with a trip to Cana, the site of Jesus’ first miracle. He was attending a wedding and when they ran out of wine, His mother asked him to do something about it, so He turned some of the water jugs into the best wine they ever tasted. The bride’s father even mentioned how good it was because normally they serve the best first and the dregs last, but this time the best wine came last. Jesus did this because He was thinking about how wonderful it was going to be when we became the bride of Christ.

Here’s the context. Back in ancient times, when a woman and man became engaged, they went back to their respective homes and waited for the wedding day. At that point the man needed to build a house for his new bride and prepare a home for her. Once the house was ready to go, he could come and fetch her. When he did, everyone in town dropped what they were doing and they had a week long party (a.k.a. wedding reception). A motivated man would finish his house in a hurry. We are the bride of Christ as He is preparing a house for us in Heaven. We don’t know the exact date it will be ready, but when it is, He will come back for us and we have to be ready to go at that moment.

A reflective wall of stain-glass windows in the Church of Annunciation.

A reflective wall of stain-glass windows in the Church of Annunciation.

We went to the church in Cana and spoke with one of the Monks there. He said he goes where they send him but some places are better than others.

Nazareth

From Cana we climbed the hills of Nazareth, parked in a tiny gravel lot, and walked up the street to the Church of Annunciation where Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she was going to have a baby. The church was very large and quite beautiful with interesting stained-glass windows adorning the walls. Outside the church along a long porch we viewed the many mosaics of Mary and Jesus that were designed by artists from countries across the world and given to the church. Each mosaic depicted Mary as she would have looked if she came from that culture (e.g., the mosaic from Taiwan depicted an Asian-looking Mary in clothes that are worn in that culture). Inside the church we viewed a grotto area where Gabriel spoke to Mary. Ruins of the old town of Nazareth, which was very small, was visible underneath part of the church.

The ruins of Nazareth under the church.

The ruins of Nazareth under the church.

Somehow we made our way out of the town (no street signs in this place) and had lunch at a place called Meat the Best. We had another yummy meal with 20 bowls of salad and Shawarma.

Mount Tabor

In the afternoon we made our way over to Mount Tabor which is the site of the transfiguration. Jesus took two of his buddies (John and Peter) up a very steep and big hill (mountain) to the very top—maybe being closer to heaven made him feel closer to God or maybe the long, arduous walks were good for the soul. Once at the top, Jesus had a moment. I’ll let Mathew tell it. “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”

A monk meditates on the view outside the Church of Transfiguration.

A monk meditates on the view outside the Church of Transfiguration.

The church grounds were lovely and we walked around looking out over the valleys and hills around us. More beautiful mosaics lined the walls and monks wandered silently around us.

Megiddo

Our last stop of the day was to the Tell at Megiddo. This is the site where the end of the world will come to a crescendo. The Hebrew word for mount (as in Mount Megiddo) is Har. If you put them together it’s Har Megiddo (keep going with it in its Greek form and you get Armageddon). Many major battles over the centuries have taken place here as it’s a major crossroads from and to the major cultural centers of the world such as Syria and Egypt. As we lingered at the top of the hill I could see the Jezreel valley below and the intersection of two roads. I took some video of the view (see below).

Excavated ruins on the Tel at Megiddo.

Excavated ruins on the Tel at Megiddo.

We walked around the site viewing the various ruins of the ancient city. There are 26 layers of ruins here—a testament to the importance of this area. And when Jesus returns, this will be the location of the last big battle between good and evil. Jesus will lead the army of heaven and defeat Satan and his cronies. I was imagining that battle as I looked at the horizon around us.

Back on the road, we journeyed back to our home at Arbel and another wonderful night in the pool and hanging out with the neighborhood pets before setting out for the coast the next day.

John 14: 1-3

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

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Making pancakes (or something) on the street in Nazareth.

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Mosaic of Jesus’ transfiguration (with Moses and Elijah and John and Peter looking on).

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An outside altar and benches on Mount Tabor. The hot sun shines through the slits in the ceiling cover.

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The Church of Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

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A lovely stain-glassed window in the Church of Annunciation.

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A Mary and Jesus mosaic from China (on the porch wall of the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth).

25 Pool @ Arbel

The pool at Arbel Guest House is cute, comforting and refreshing.

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The dining room at Arbel Guest House.

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Dessert was done in style!

24 Pool @ Arbel appt

Lovin the cool waters after a day of hiking the gospel trails.

 

A door at the church in Cana with the Franciscan cross.

A door at the church in Cana with the Franciscan cross.

A short video view of the Jezreel valley from the top of Mount Megiddo.

From the uncounted come many of His miracles.

My favorite part of our trip to the Holy Land was the area around the Sea of Galilee. This is the heart of where Jesus and his disciples traveled and it’s also a lovely area. If this was a lake at home there would be million dollar homes and resorts along the shores. Tiberius does rise above the water into the surrounding hills and there are a few resorts, but it seemed so peaceful with farms and churches for the most part.

Sea of Galilee at Capernaum.

Sea of Galilee at Capernaum.

Capernaum

After Kursi (see last post), we continued around the eastern shore toward the North and stopped in Capernaum, the town where Jesus lived and started his teachings. It was here that Peter built a house and where the Byzantines and then the Catholics built churches over ruins. The church there now is quite beautiful. There is a glass floor where you can see the rocks of the ruins of the house below. Jesus told Peter he was to be the rock upon where His church would be built. Peter had issues during the trial of Jesus but he was steadfast in his faith when Jesus was ascending to Heaven and leaving His message in the hands of his friends and disciples. He knew Peter had what it took to stick with his faith through any hardship. He was a rock of faith.

Peter's Church in Capernaum.

Peter’s Church in Capernaum.

The Church had a calming and peaceful ambiance. I was hushed by a monk when explaining a story to my dad—there were no “lessons” allowed inside the church. It was a perfect place to meditate with windows that looked out over the Sea of Galilee and the Spirit dwelling within. Outside, we walked around some more ruins of the village and sat by the Sea for a few minutes.

Tagbha

The church of the miracle of the multiplication of fish and loaves was our next stop along the Sea. There was a beautiful mosaic in the floor representing the miracle where Jesus fed thousands of people with just a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish. I love this story for several reasons. The first is that recently I heard a sermon from Christine Caine who used this miracle to explain how God uses the uncounted—people who don’t “seem” to matter—to fulfill His miracles. You see, in those days, when crowds or cities were counted (how many people were there), only the men were counted. Women and children were not important enough to count. So when we read that 5,000 were fed, that was only the men—it was more like 10,000 or 20,000 fed if you include the women and children in the audience. So, that day along the shore as Jesus was teaching, some mother packed a small lunch for her son to take with him to hear the sermon. Two people who didn’t “count” were instrumental in the miracle of the multiplication of the fish and loaves.

Tagbha, church of fish and loaves.

Tagbha, church of fish and loaves.

I also love this story because I think God still blesses us in the same way over and over. The more we give of ourselves to others, the more we get back and then His blessing multiplies to others. The Masterpiece Fund, our family’s charity to honor the memory of my brother, Greg Crowe, is based on this principle. We believe that the more that’s given to the charity, the more it earns and the more we can give to people who maybe aren’t counted enough in our world.

A view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes.

A view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes.

Mount of Beatitudes

Back to our trip—from Tagbha we journeyed up the hill to the Mount of Beatitudes—the location where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. The spot was absolutely lovely—overlooking sloping grassy hills and the wind-blown waters of the Sea of Galilee. The Catholic Church there was very pretty, octagonal in shape with windows looking out on the water and gardens of the church property. I loved this place and we sat and rested peacefully while looking at the boats sailing on the water and the lovely trees and flowers surrounding the property. I could just see Jesus teaching and thousands of people sitting on the hillside listening to His beautiful words.

Church of Magdala

The Church of Magdala.

The Church of Magdala.

It was a long day but we had one more stop at a quaint and striking church on the shore of the Sea. A young man (an intern) who was a theology student and participating in a mission, guided us around the excavation site and through the church. This place was going to be a resort developed by a reverend where Christians could come on pilgrimages. But as what normally occurs in Israel, the law states you have to excavate land to check on any ancient finds in the land before new construction happens. Well, they unearthed an ancient synagogue and little town (the village of Magdala where Mary Magdalene came from).

The reverend built a church on the site to honor the women of the bible. Several small chapels with paintings of various bible scenes surround a central hall that leads into a larger sanctuary with a window that looks out to the Sea. The altar is built into a beautiful boat. This was a treat and the experience of being in this modern church was a fitting end to a day of touring the gospel trail.

Peter's church.

Peter’s church.

Our guide took us up around the western side of Tiberius to the Arbel area and a guest house that we called home for two nights. I’ll talk about that more later as it’s worth a great review all on its own.

 

 

 

 

Matthew 5: 1-11

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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Entrance to Peter’s church where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

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Peter’s church in Capernaum–an octagonal structure built over old ruins.

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Statue of St. Peter. Mth 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. “

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View of the Sea from the Mount of Beatitudes.

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The Catholic church on the Mount of Beatitudes.

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View of the church on the Mount of Beatitudes.

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The church of Magdala.

Seeing both sides of the Jordan.

The River Jordan looking over to the Jordanian side with people getting baptized.

The River Jordan looking over to the Jordanian side with people getting baptized.

Onward we went on our trek through the Holy Land, from the Dead Sea to an area we consider filled with life. A little back story to start off. Jesus’ name in English is Joshua which means salvation. Fitting name for our savior. We have to have faith to follow Jesus and to trust that He will take care of us. Another Joshua in the bible played a prominent role in our next destination. Joshua and his buddy Caleb were two of a group of the men tasked by Moses to check out the land across the Jordan and report back what they found. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones to give a positive report and to encourage Moses and the Jews to act now and enter the Promised Land as God wanted them to. However, the Jews heard other stories of giants and mass armies and they got scared. The result? Forty years of wandering in the desert until finally, Joshua led the Jews across the Jordan and into Israel.

Just two guys hanging out on the Sea of Galilee.

Just two guys hanging out on the Sea of Galilee.

At the time of the Jewish crossing, the river was running very fast and flooding. It was scary and dangerous. The Jewish people had to have faith in God that He would take care of them to get them across the river. It wasn’t until the priests took the first few steps into the river as an act of faith that God stopped the flow of water to allow the people to cross safely. Everything in the bible flows together perfectly. It makes sense that this river, the place where the Joshua led his people to the Promised Land, would be the place Jesus was baptized.

Jordan River

A view of the Jordan River from the Jordanian side in 2007. The Israel area was not tourist friendly back then.

A view of the Jordan River from the Jordanian side in 2007. The Israel area was not tourist friendly back then.

As we drove up through the West Bank, we entered an area that had fencing on both sides of the road. Beyond the fence were mines (or maybe used to be mines) from the days when it was a no-man’s land. As we got close to our destination, my parents and I realized we had been there before—just on the OTHER side of the river. Wow, it was something special to see the place we had visited while touring Jordan back in 2007. Back then, the Israel side was not used as a tourist destination, but now, there were groups of people in long white shirts walking into the water to be baptized. We could see the steps where we waded into the eastern shore of this very narrow river seven years ago. This time, we were able to step in on the Israeli side. I think most people visiting the river Jordan would be surprised at how narrow and small it is. It’s very calm, and has a greenish/brown color with a lot of vegetation along the banks. It would be very easy for someone to cross over the border here—and in fact there was at least one crossing years ago. On the Jordanian side there is a baptismal altar that showed up there very suddenly one year when the Pope visited. Funny thing, it used to be on the Jewish side.

Sea of Galillee. The water was crystal clear.

Sea of Galillee. The water was crystal clear.

Sea of Galilee

We continued North past Jericho and through the west bank to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We could tell why some of the fishermen of Jesus’ time had issues—the wind comes down over the mountains and blows nicely across this beautiful body of water. White caps could be seen out on the water but as we stopped at a Kibbutz for a dip in this water, it was calm and clear as clean glass. The bottom was rocky with lots of little stones, and the surrounding countryside was filled with flowers and banana tree farms.

We had a wonderful lunch at the Fish and Bistro Restaurant in Ein Gev. The ambiance was lovely, the service was good, and the fish was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend a stop there—our guide was on the mark with this selection.

Israel's jibe at an old Syrian leader.

Israel’s jibe at an old Syrian leader.

After lunch we got back on the road and saw a black steel silhouette of a man sitting on the side of the hill with a fishing pole. This is a Jewish joke. I guess if you’re Israeli you have the right to make this kind of bold insult, but I think they went considerably out of their way to poke fun at a deceased Syrian leader who had promised that he would be fishing off the shore of Galilee near the Golan Heights before he died. He did not accomplish his desire and so a monument stands to his failure.

Kursi: the Miracle of the Swine

Mosaic floor in the ruins of the Byzantine church.

Mosaic floor in the ruins of the Byzantine church.

Our next stop was at Kursi, the location of a miracle of Jesus. This is where Jesus met a man who was possessed by demons (so many that they identified themselves as Legion). Jesus healed this man and allowed the demons to enter into a herd of swine that was grazing in the area. The possessed pigs ran down the hill and into the sea where they drowned.

The site of Kursi hosts the ruins of a byzantine church that had a beautiful mosaic floor courtyard surrounded by pillars with pictures of animals. It was pretty hot that day so we continued on around the Sea to more Christian sites. I’ll talk about those in the next post.

Hebrews 11: 1

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

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Mom and Dad and I on the banks of the River Jordan.

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Here, the Jordan is calm and narrow.

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Signage is always in three languages in Israel.

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An interesting Dr. Seuss-type tree grows in Kursi.

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Lots of banana farms surround the Sea of Galilee. They are covered by some kind of mesh.

Flowers bloom in the area around Galilee.

Flowers bloom in the area around Galilee.