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.

 

Trekking through the Holy Land.

Visiting the Holy Land is a dream for many people throughout the world. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all consider this land to be the center of our religious and historical past. But visiting this place has its risks. Growing up I never really thought it would be possible with all the fighting, but over the past few years, as more people I know went there, my parents and I thought it would be a good time to go.

My parents and I are very grateful we had the opportunity to go there last week. Our timing was fortuitous. Throughout our visit, our Jewish guide kept asking us if we felt safe and asking us to be ambassadors back home, “You can tell everyone that it’s safe—we all get along and the news outlets exaggerate.” At first we agreed. But we did a little minor eye rolling when on our last day she said it again and we silently wondered if she had watched the news the night before. The latest battles between Hamas and Israel were heating up with several deaths of boys on both sides. In the week that we’ve been home, the news outlets are reporting that tanks are rolling and missiles are being launched.

Although that seems scary and may keep people from traveling there, the sad fact is, there were dozens of people (at least) killed by gunfire on the streets in our own backyards just over the weekend. So, perspective is in order. We live in a fallen world and you have to make choices whether or not to get out and see the world the way it is.

Overall, the trip was great. There were some instances where it was next to impossible to envision the way the landscape was 2,000 or more years ago. But I think in general what I took away was the reality of the hard terrain that Jesus and his disciples (and the ancient people of the land) traversed. Lots of hills, vast deserts, and hard rocks added some serious damage to my already bad knees. But we had it easy with our air conditioned rooms, cars, restaurants with plenty to eat, and time to leisurely enjoy the days. When I think of Jesus walking up the steep slopes with his friends in 114 degree heat, I can only thank Him once again for his sacrifice and His love for us.

The land has played host to different cultures for many thousands of years. Its history can be seen in deep layers of tells (man-made hills) across the country. Much of it has yet to be unearthed but so much has been discovered already that we can now see how our ancestors lived. But more on that later.

I will be writing about the details of our trip, starting in Jaffa, a 4,000 year old city, then on to Jerusalem’s old city, to the desert heat at Masada and the Dead Sea, up to the gorgeous Sea of Galilee, and ending in Tel Aviv with a nice swim in the Mediterranean. For now, a few pictures to get started.

Genesis 13:17

“Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

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What do you get for doing good? Nothing. Or Everything.

I was thinking this morning about why we call today Good Friday. Every time I think about what Jesus endured for us, I admittedly feel ashamed and sad. I’m very grateful and love Him for his sacrifice but it’s a little hard to think about how ugly we are and how brutal we can be to each other. It’s hard to think how that is good.

Christians know why it’s good. Because He saved us. He showed us mercy. He began a new day, a new covenant, and now we can have a direct relationship with God and hope for eternal peace and love. That’s not good, that is AWESOME!

After pondering that some, I began to move along in my day and saw this video online (see it below) about a guy who spends his day giving of himself, his time, and his money and doesn’t get any tangible rewards in return. What he does get is love and gratitude from those he helps. He also gets to see how his actions positively affect the world around him. I know it’s some kind of Thai insurance commercial but it was touching and it made me think about Philippians 4: 8-9.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

It’s a great way to live and an attitude like that will help bring you peace and contentment. We can’t save the world the way Jesus did, but we can do a little bit each day to help those around us. All Jesus asked us to do was to love God and love each other.

May you all be blessed on this Good Friday and know the love of Jesus and accept the gift He gave us on that Easter Sunday so long ago.

Isaiah53: 5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  

Do you have junk in your trunk?

Sometimes when sitting in church, I wander a bit during the sermon. My mind goes to all sorts of places—some spiritual and some secular. And sometimes during those moments  I get brought back with a proverbial slap and think, “WHAT?” The pastor said something huge that convicted me or recalled a memory that elicits an emotional response. And sometimes he says something that I never thought would come from the mouth of a spiritual leader.

Today our pastor was talking about how it’s okay not to be okay. That church should be a place where you feel God’s grace. Not a place for saints to pat each other on the back, but an emergency room of sorts for sinners. He then says, “Everyone’s got junk in their trunk.”

My immediate reaction was, “Did he just say that? I wonder if he even knows what that means.” He’s a pretty savvy guy who is very connected and aware of trends and current events and knows how to communicate with both young and mature audiences. Hmmm. After a minute (of what I’m sure was some silence after some awkward laughing) he said to take that literally. Okay, yes, if that’s the case, I have an enormous amount of trash, laundry, dog food, bags, soda, wood, and empty bags of chick-fil-a all strewn about my car. A little like my life, so okay, I’ll use that analogy and not take it personally that my pastor thinks I have a huge backside. Which I do, but that’s irrelevant. God loves all of me.

Anyway, fun aside, the message is clear and comforting to those of us who don’t quite make the grade of perfection. But that’s the point. Jesus was perfect and he gave himself up for us. That is what makes the gift worthy. We are not perfect. And no matter what your sin, don’t give up. God forgives everyone. Even Cain, the first murderer, got a break. God forgave him and protected him from the angry mobs, and Cain went on to have a productive life—a family, career, and a life worth living.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t compare your life to anyone else’s. It’s a losing battle. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Almost all of them are much poorer than you are. And there are people who seem better off. But you don’t know what is going on in their life, in their hearts, in their heads, or in their relationships. The only thing you should be concerned with is your relationship with God. He really doesn’t ask much of us if you think about it. Accept His gift and love Him. Then just try to be good. You can’t be perfect so don’t condemn yourself or give up. Just clean some of the junk out of your trunk and keep moving.

John Crowe on a road trip circa 1960s. John went on to lead a monastic life, with very few possessions and a strong commitment to God.

John Crowe on a road trip circa 1960s. John went on to lead a monastic life, with very few possessions and a strong commitment to God.

Render unto God your heart.

The theme of National Community Church’s recent sermon series is I Like Giving. One of my favorite guest pastors, Dick Foth, gave a sermon last week about giving. It wasn’t the typical speech about the importance of tithing; this was something so much greater. It reflected the greatness of giving in the way God wants us to give.

Foth read a familiar scripture to us, but the way he read it—with non-verbal communication that included in a new reflection of how I’ve heard this scripture before—gave it completely new meaning to me. Foth was describing how Jesus most likely delivered the words He said in Mathew 21-21. When the scholars were trying to trick Jesus by asking Him if they should pay Roman taxes, Foth said he imagined Jesus saying, “Let me see one of those coins… then after looking at it and holding it out to the scholars, Jesus said, “Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s.” Then Foth imagines Jesus tossing the penny on to the ground as if it didn’t mean anything, saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” and Foth then imagines Jesus pointing to each person and saying slowly and deliberately as if looking into their hearts, “and unto God the things that are God’s.”

You see, that coin was made in the image of Caesar—just a coin, nothing that really means anything—and it was all Caesar could claim. But God—He made you and me in His image. We and the universe are all God’s and He loves us. God wants us—our hearts—not money that we collect.

When I truly thought about that it was very powerful. I write checks to help people but God wants more of us. He wants our hearts to be in it. It’s easy to give what you have extra of. It’s harder to give what you really value and don’t have as much of. To me, that is my time. Lately I’ve been living in a situation where I’ve been giving up more of my private free time to help family, friends, foster dogs, and those who need some comfort and help of others. It doesn’t come easy to me. I’m used to owning my time and loving my privacy, but giving more of me is what God wants. And the more I give up my tight hold on my time for myself, the more I get out of myself and become a better person. A more loving and caring person. Someone that would make Jesus smile. Someone who brightens other people’s lives instead of sucking the light in for me. I’m still working on it (one small step at a time), but God has been blessing me lately with opportunities to help loved ones and friends.

Jesus gave us a gift not to be surpassed. He gave us His life. We cannot out give God but we can strive to give more of ourselves.

John 15:13
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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In the beginning.

Welcome to the first post for the Masterpiece Fund! Let’s talk for a minute about what the Masterpiece Fund is and how it relates to you and the gifts and blessings you’ve been given.

Everyone has gifts. Some use their gifts to fight injustice, others can talk to anyone anywhere and become a trusted friend with a shoulder to cry on, some quietly add up numbers or create schedules, some inspire through sermons, blogs and speeches, and others write checks. I’ve always been one of those “write checks” kind of people. But I know God wants more from me. He wants me to be more involved, sacrifice some of my time that I so greatly value and be part of the larger community—take an active role in the life of others.

So, I started using my gifts by setting up the Masterpiece Fund. Yes, I wrote a check. And now comes the more. What my gifts are and how they can be used, I’m still working out, but for now I’m going to write this blog and hopefully provide inspiration, stories, resources, laughs, and things to think about for you and all the friends you share this with. And I’ve started volunteering a little more here and there. This “keep-options-open-introverted-girl” is making some commitments and loving it.

I started the Masterpiece Fund because I wanted to honor my brother’s memory. My big brother Greg passed away in 2012 and took a chunk of my heart with him. Greg was a father of four beautiful children, a great son to parents who outlived him and a wonderful friend to many, including his little sister who hung around all the time getting fixes of family life and laughs with him and the kids. Greg was a wonderful role model. He loved the Lord and wanted more than anything else to spend eternity with his family. He taught his children faithfully and loved and cared about people whether or not they were in a relationship with Jesus. Through his faith and love, and just how he conducted his life, he showed me the kind of life I wanted to live. Yes, Christians can have fun and they can have problems and they are normal people. I saw that through him and was able to open my heart to Jesus. So I want everyone to remember my brother not only because he was such a big part of my life but also because his principles are worth sharing and praising. If Greg were here today he would turn the limelight off him and turn it toward God. That is exactly what we are going to do through the Masterpiece Fund. Praise God and glorify Him through his blessings.

It is with humble prayer that I ask God to bless the Masterpiece Fund. Through this fund, we can do God’s work on His earth. We will seek the poor and abused of this world—not turning away because it’s too hard to witness the sad brutality of their lives or because we feel we can’t save the world. We will face them head on with love in our hearts and prayers for their healing and hopefully some hard cash for resources that will lift up their lives with food, shelter, safety, advocates, education, enlightenment, counseling, and more.

Please help us do what Jesus did for the crowds. Let’s have faith and pray that He will turn a few loaves of bread and fish into enough to feed thousands. Let’s have faith and prayer that He will use the Masterpiece Fund to provide resources both monetary and spiritual that will heal and lead to salvation for His children. Let’s have faith and prayer that word will get out and others will feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to use their gifts to help others.

If you have resources to share, want to use your gifts to help us, want to write a blog post, share your experiences and testimonies, tell stories about God’s work you’ve witnessed, have prayer requests or answered prayers to share, please write to the Masterpiece Fund at donations@masterpiecefund.org.

Please share this with all your friends and family, co-workers, church members and leaders, and anyone you want to inspire.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.