Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 3 - 2000 Year Old Boat, Baptism in the Jordan, Lunch on the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and Boatride on the Sea of Galilee

As it turns out, our good weather was shortlived and by the morning of the third day the rains and storms of Israel it. Needless to say it set the stage for an adventurous stage of touring.

We started our day looking at a boat that they call the 'Jesus boat' because they were able to date it to the times of Jesus. It
was pretty spectacular when you consider how they came upon it and the ingenuity it took to preserve it while they were digging it out. They had to keep it wet constantly because once the air hit it, it was crumbling into powder. The metal bars that you see are holding the pieces of the boat in place. They soaked the boat in a wax solution for 16 years before they were able to put it on display.

Immediately following the viewing of the boat and a little shopping at the souvenir place in the museum we headed to take a ride in a boat to Caprnaum, the town where Jesus' ministry was headquartered. What an adventure that turned out to be! We stepped outside to the dock and, literally, by the time we got to the boat, the rain was coming down sideways. At one point some of us actually thought we might be blown off the dock. There we were, standing on the boad dock waiting for the boat to come, being pelleted by the rain. When our guide saw that the boat we were about to get on had no screens on the side to prevent the rain from blowing in, we opted to postpone the ride until later. Thus began our planning our day based on what we thought the weather might be.
Figuring that we were all soaking wet already, we opted to head to the Jordan River to hold a baptism. God was so gracious to provide a break in the weather as we baptised around twenty people from both churches. You can get an idea of what the area looks like where we baptized. Pastor Jason and I are getting ready to baptize Kevin McCarthy in the picture on the left.

After the baptism, we headed back to the 'kibbutz' to change clothes, and then it was off to a fish lunch on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. Most of us ate the fish, served with the head on it. It is called 'talapia', and is the very kind of fish that is caught in the Sea of Galilee. It was really quite tasty, and as you can see by the picture, some of us (P.J.Dattilo) ate everything...but the bones!

Our next stop was Capernaum. Probably one of the most amazing sights of the tour. As I mentioned earlier, Caperaum was the sight where much of Jesus' ministry is centered. He spent a lot of time there and we learned that in some respects He was the resident Rabbi, in the sense that he would have spent a lot of time teaching in the synagogue there.

You can see a picture of a synagogue on the left. While this is a newer synagogue than in Jesus' day, they know that part of the floor are the original floor. When they were digging up the site, they discovered a box of Roman coins underneath the old floor which dated back to the times of Jesus. It was pretty incredible to think that we were standing on the very same floor where Jesus would have taught.
Although it continued to rain, we had a bible study underneath the trees next to the synagogue and then spent time looking at the various ruins that made up the town. It is unbelievalbe how many ruins there are in Israel. Everywhere you turn, they are discovering an older part of Israel. It is exciting to know that the bible is used to confirm what these places are and the reason for their existence.

We finished our wet day of touring with a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The boat we had, had the screens to keep the rain off of us. We were able to have a sweet time of worship and a bible study on the boat. It was a great way to end a good day of visiting the area where our Lord spent so much time ministering. As you drive around the Sea, you can just imagine the crowds of people, walking with Jesus, just waiting to hear Him speak. What a glorious time it must have been!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Day 2 - Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, Nazareth and Cana

Sorry for the delay in getting Day 2’s blog out. When we got to the ‘kibbutz’ (hotels that are run by communities of local Jews who began settling in Israel when it became a state in 1948) at the Sea of Galilee, they informed us that they had no internet. So I will be posting two days worth this.

We begin touring each day at 8:00. We began Day 2 with a trip to Caesarea. Caesarea was established by King Herod the Great, the king of Judea, who received the title, the Great, not because of his popularity but rather by the fact that he was such an amazing builder. He always had building projects going on, so much so that when he was alive, many of the people in Judea were employed on one or another of Herod’s construction projects. Caesarea was his vacation home of sorts, and sat right on the Mediterranean sea. The setting was magnificent it was not difficult to imagine what it must have been like in that time. Though there are only ruins left, there are enough to get a visual of what it must have looked like.

We started with a bible study in a restored theater, where Paul would have made his appeal before King

Agrippa (Acts 26). After touring Caesarea, including a hippodrome (where they would hold chariot races, gladiator fights and sadly enough the brutal killing of Christians), we headed off to look at a Roman aqueduct, which Herod built in order to get fresh water from Mt. Carmel to Caesarea. It seems that he wanted a fresh water swimming pool (see picture upper left). The aqueduct was 8 miles long with a variance of only eight inches from Mr. Carmel to Caesarea, all that was needed to flow eight miles.

Mt. Carmel is the place where Elijah slew the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). There is nothing overly spectacular about Mt. Carmel, other than the fact that you know that you are on the mountain where it all took place. However, what is so very spectacular to me is the view of the Valley of Armageddon, where the final battle against good and evil will take place. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said, upon seeing it, said that he had never seen a finer location for a battle than this valley. It is also known as the ‘Jezreel Valley’ or the ‘Valley of Esdraelon’. I had the opportunity to do a study on 1 Kings 18, with an emphasis on the danger of ‘faltering between two opinions’. Just like Elijah is was a ‘troubler of Israel’, so we will be troublers of those who are hostile towards God. Darkness hates the light.

Upon leaving Mt. Carmel, we headed to the ancient city of Megiddo. Actually, there have been some 25 cities that have been built there, one upon the other. Each one built, destroyed, another built, another destroyed and so on for thousands of years. Some of the ruins which we saw dated back to the times of Abraham. We saw ruins of Solomon’s stables, where he would keep some 450 horses. Horses were incredibly expensive in that day and 450 would have been a large number. Perhaps the most startling thing we saw was a ‘high place’ where the Canaanites would have sacrificed there. We concluded our time at Megiddo with walking down over 100 feet to a sistern that held the water for the city.

As the day concluded, we headed back to the Sea of Galilee, driving through Nazareth, which is now a modern city, and Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle. We were all thankful for our guide, who was able to point out parts of the original city of Nazareth.

Until tomorrow...Shalom!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 1 - Arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel

I am going to try and blog our trip to Israel, along with photos of the various sites we visit. It may prove to be an exercise in futility for two reasons. Number one, it is the first time I have tried blogging with photos, and number two there is no guarantee that we will have internet access at all of the hotels we will be staying at. So, here we go!

We left Seattle at around 12:30 PM on our way to Atlanta, GA where we would catch a 10:45 PM flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. There is a total of 39 of us traveling together, fourteen from South Hill Calvary Chapel and another 25 from Calvary Chapel Marysville. Everyone is pretty excited about the trip. Several of the people have been to Israel before including the Calvary Chapel Marysville pastor, Dave Woodward and his wife Shannon, along with several others from their church.

As for us, this will be my third tour of the Holy Land. The first was when my wife Jenny and I came with a group of other pastors to familiarize ourselves with what a tour looks like and how to host your own tour. I didn’t want to bring a group of people from the church without understanding what I was seeing.

In the Spring of 2007, we brought our first group from the church. I must say that the second trip was even better than the first. There is so much to see here that you come away the first time with a bit of an overload of all that there is to see. My second trip here was definitely more meaningful as even more of the glorious history of this amazing land began to fall into place. Things just start making more sense. The opportunity to teach short bible studies at the various sites we visit is an amazing privilege.

As for this year’s trip, I am looking forward to it even more so. We have one person from the church returning on this trip. All the rest of the people are experiencing the trip to Israel for the first time. One thing that is a real bummer for me is that Jenny isn’t with me. She was with me the first two trips and I already miss her. My oldest son Jason, who is also one of my assistant pastors at the church is with me, so that is certainly making this trip all the more special.

We are spending the night in Tel Aviv, at the Dan Panorama hotel. The hotels we stay in are very nice hotels, three and four star hotels, and this particular one is my favorite in Tel Aviv. It sits within walking distance of the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and within eyesight of the ancient city of Joppa.

Joppa was the home of Simon the Tanner, whose house is by the sea (the Mediterranean Sea) Acts 10:6. I love walking along the shore at night, listening to the waves crash against the rocks, imagining how many times the apostles Paul and Peter sailed from the port of Joppa. Joppa was also the city that Jonah went to, to catch a boat to Tarshish, in disobedience to the Lord’s command for Jonah to go to Nineveh.

Tomorrow, we have a wake-up call at 6:30, breakfast at 7:00 and on the bus for a full day of touring by 8:00 AM. We will drive through Joppa on our way to Caesarea, then on to Mt. Carmel and Megiddo. We will conclude our day of touring by driving through Nazareth and Cana on our way to a kibbutz we will stay in, right on the shores of Galilee.

So until then...Lord willing, I will fill you in on the happenings of the day tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"God is easy to find...if you really want to find Him!"

Several years ago I was playing golf with a couple of friends when, on the 11th hole one of them made a ‘hole in one’. It really was an amazing shot and though we were all excited, yelling and screaming, understandably none of us was more excited than the one who hit that incredible shot. As we were walking down the fairway of the next hole, my friend was still beaming about his accomplishment and as he passed by a couple of players on the adjacent hole, he said to them, “Someone just got a hole-in-one on the last hole.” Of course when they responded with, “Who?”, he proudly said, “Me!” I have never let him live than moment down.

Just as my friend was eager to be known, so it is, even more so, with God. In fact, God is so eager to be known, that he has preappointed the times and places of people’s dwellings, just so that He might be discovered. Doesn’t that just blow you away?

Acts 17:26-28
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

How sad it is when people suggest that God is difficult to find. Nothing could be further from the truth! Acts 17 tells us that God determines a person’s time and place of birth with this primary purpose in mind, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him. Don’t you just love this picture of God hoping that we will cry out to Him?

This is how much He loves us! And, lest someone think He is unreachable, the writer assures us, He is not far from each one of us. It was James who said, Draw near to God and he will draw near to you, James 4:8. And so, the next time someone suggest s to you that it is hard to find God, remind them of these verses. The issue is never that He is hard to find, but rather that people just don’t want to find Him!