Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Find Your Refuge

In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defense to save me.  Psalm 31:1-2

David was no stranger to challenges in his life.  He had been anointed king of Israel by Samuel, slain Goliath in battle and served in Saul’s court as his musician will ducking the spears sent his direction by the king.  And yet, he knew the joy of God’s provision and protection in his life.  He found a place of refuge from the attacks at Engedi.

Engedi, “fount of the goat”, was his place of refuge.  It is located just west of and above the Dead Sea in the Judean wilderness.  A water fall sends water down through the canyon which is filled with a variety of trees, plants and wildlife drawn by the water and shade.  It really is an oasis in the midst of a desert and was a place of 
safety  in the midst of David’s trials.

David spent many days here in the wilderness as Saul pursued he and his men.  It was a time of great trial and distress in his life. But, God had His purposes in allowing these trials to come.  This season was God’s school of preparation for David as He built a man after His own heart.  It was not fun.  It was not easy. It certainly was not enjoyed by David and yet it yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness in his life.  This man became a worshiper of God as he penned songs of worship and praise during his times of isolation and trial.  God calls him the Sweet Psalmist of Israel in scripture and that sweetness was developed through hard times.

It has been said that the trials of life will make us bitter or better.  It is a choice that each of us must make.  The trials will come.  The attacks will happen.  The discouragement will beset us.  Then, we will have to make a choice.  David chose well.  He pressed into God.  He cried out to the Lover of his Soul and God ministered to him every time.

Perhaps you find yourself in the time of trial.  Things or people are coming down on you.  The pressure seems overwhelming.  You have a choice to make. You need to know that the God of David has not changed.  He is there for you to call on during this time.  He promises that the things He brings or allows in your life will not overwhelm or overcome you as you walk with Him.  His purpose is to conform you into the image of Christ.  That is not an easy process.  We often don’t want to let go of the things God is trying to pry out of our lives.  But when we finally let go, there is a tremendous freedom and blessing discovered through our obedience to God.

Find your Engedi, your place of refuge.  Spend time crying out to God and He will meet you there.  Remember, God is on your side!  I say to you, Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  And, let me know if I can be of any help.

Blessings in the name of Yeshua HaMaschiach!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stand Up

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself.  This began Paul's testimony before King Agrippa in the amphitheater in Caesarea.  It is an impressive site which includes the amphitheater, a hippodrome and a ship harbor among other ruins. Caesarea which was home to many Christians was called the "springboard" for Christianity because of the ship traffic that was used to send Christians to many points in the known world.  One can sit there and imagine the pageantry and drama as Paul stood before the royalty of the day to speak about Jesus.

The amphitheater still stands in a once great city with the Mediterranean Sea as its backdrop.  The capacity of the amphitheater is several thousand and is used for concerts even today.  We have enjoyed spending time there with several groups recounting the story of Paul and Agrippa in the book of Acts and entering into times of worship, filling the amphitheater with the praises of God.  It is easier to stand up for Jesus in Caesarea now than it was then I'm sure.

A story is told of a little boy who was being disciplined by his mother.  She made him sit in a chair for five minutes as a penalty for his misbehavior.  As he sat down, he looked at his mother and said, "I am sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside."  That thought can be applied to our willingness to stand up for our faith and for our Savior.  So often we are standing up on the inside, but we are sitting down on the outside.  It is a dilemma that is difficult to overcome.  You know what I'm taking about, right?

Take heart!  The Lord knows our frailties. He knew them when He called us into His family.  The ability to stand up for our faith is a process and one that takes time.  There are some things we can do to help.  First, we need to have an assurance of our salvation.  Know the day that you were saved because that gives you your beginning point in the Christian journey.  Then you can develop your own personal testimony about how Jesus brought you to Himself and what he has done in your life since.  Second, learn to share your faith.  That can be in a discipleship class or perhaps with a friend that knows how to share his or her faith.  That will give you a "track" to run which will help you to get started sharing about Jesus.  Lastly, begin to pray for someone with whom to share your faith.  It can be anyone that is in your sphere of influence.  My first opportunity came with a co-worker and let me tell you, I was scared to death.  But, that all changed with their decision for Christ.  Jesus certainly changed their life just as He changed Paul's life.

People often see Paul as this untouchable giant in the New Testament.  But we must remember that he was just a man that had yielded his life to God.  His path to the time when he would stand for Jesus without reservation was a long and rocky one.  The key is to remember that any journey begins with a first step. You too can be one of the many faces at Caesarea standing up for Jesus, the One who gave it all for us.
Happy trails and remember to "stand up"!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lift Up Your Eyes

The Psalmist writes in verse 1 of Psalm 121, I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.  I'm sure in his mind's eye were the mountains of Israel of which there are many.  One of the special mountains in my estimation is Mount Bental in the Golan Heights located in the northeastern corner of Israel.  It is one of the highest points in the area and the view is spectacular.  You can see Lebanon to the northwest, Syria to the northeast, and the northern Galilee area to the south.  There is an old military bunker located there along with tunnels and security fencing.   It also has a lodge which has a gift shop and serves meals, desserts and coffees.

Syria towards Damascus
The site provides a prime spot to talk about the 1967 war and the retaking of this strategic location as well as the rest of the Golan Heights.  Mount Bental is very near the Syrian border and only about 36 miles from Damascus.  Just below the hill toward Mount Hermon is a valley called the Valley of Tears where one of the largest tank battles in history took place during the war.  Syrian forces invaded Israel with 1500 tanks and 1000 artillery pieces compared to Israel's 160 tanks and 60 artillery pieces which seemed insurmountable odds.  But, at the end of the battle the Syrians were in retreat and the Israeli forces were the victors.  This stunning victory was a miracle to be sure, but why should anyone be surprised.  The Psalmist in verse two of Psalm 121 goes on to say, My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.  God was there on the mountains that day fighting on behalf of His people.
God is still fighting on behalf of His people.  He still calls us to lift up our eyes to the hills.  Our help comes from Him.  No matter where you find yourself today, He is calling you to look up.  The hills are towering and they are imposing to our view, but the Maker of those hills is greater than the largest mountain.  Remember, His plans for you are for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Trust in Him today!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Time to Rest

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Genesis 2:2, 3 God established the sabbath rest at the end of creation week.  Moses was given the Ten Commandments, the fourth of which directed Israel to set aside the last day of the week (sabbath) as a day of rest. Exodus 20:10  God later called the sabbath a sign of His covenant with Israel in Exodus 31:13, 17.

To this day, the people of Israel although not predominantly religious, observe Shabbat (sabbath).  It is simply a day off to some, but to others it is their time to attend synagogue and worship Jehovah.  To one degree or another observance of this day has a major impact on the social life of Israel.  Many of the cities virtually shut down on Shabbat which runs from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.  Businesses close, buses stop running and the streets largely go quiet.  It is all quite interesting to watch.

The people begin preparation for Shabbat on Thursday evening continuing through late Friday afternoon since the markets close before sundown on Friday and will not open again until at least sundown on Saturday.  Many of the folks go to the shuk (an open-air market) in downtown Jerusalem.  It is one of my favorite places to go and is a sensory experience almost beyond description.  The place is packed because the people have to buy their food stuffs and prepare them before sundown on Friday which is the beginning of their sabbath. 

There is every conceivable product in the shuk.  Here are just a few pictures of the stands found there.  You will see an amazing assortment of vegetables. There are avacados the size of a small kidding!  There are desserts like the halva you see here for purchase and use at the shabbat meal.  There is fresh fish and chicken for the Shabbat meal.  There are spices galore and specialty teas and coffees for those with a discerning pallet.  There is even a jewelry shop in the midst.  You can buy clothing, hats and assorted scarves.  The market is just a fun place to be.

My personal favorite in the shuk is the bread.  You can see stacks of a variety of breads.  The special bread made for Shabbat is called Challah which is a sweet bread.  It is woven into loaves about two inches thick, four inches wide and eight inches to twelve inches long.  My preference also had raisins included in it.  You don't need butter or other additives because Challah is wonderful all by itself.  I always manage to obtain at least one loaf during my visits to Jerusalem.  I hope your mouth is watering as I describe Challah because I know mine is.

The shuk is also a place of celebration.  Here is a street troupe doing a dance presentation for the visitors to the area.  It is a time of celebration, but it is also a time of anticipation of the beginning of Shabbat.   It is a special time for families to gather and share a meal and stop to rest from a long and busy week.  It is an important time.

Sabbath is important to Israel's people and to us as the people of God the Church.  Jesus is our sabbath rest and for that we praise our Heavenly Father.   Jesus said that sabbath was made for man not the reverse.  It is a reminder that we need to take a sabbath rest whether it be Saturday, Sunday or another day of the week.  The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 14:5, One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  It is needful and necessary to take a day of rest.  We all need time to unwind and recreate.  God established the sabbath rest at the very beginning for a reason.  Certainly He did not need rest, but He knew and knows that we do.

May He be glorified in our lives as we honor and obey His precepts.  Blessings to you in the name of Yeshua Hamashiach.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The City of David

David took the strong hold of Zion: the same [is] the city of David...And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake. 2 Samuel 5:7, 11 This Jebusite city became "the city of David", the capital of Israel and the dwelling place for the king.  Today much of the original area is overbuilt, but there are a few sites where they have unearthed parts of the ramparts and buildings that existed.  The City of of David is one of the sites visited by many groups that come to Israel.  There is an excellent 3D presentation about the history of this city near the entrance to the site which every visitor should see.

Here is a large support structure built by the Canaanites prior to David taking the city.  It is in the area known as the Royal Quarter which overlooks the Kidron Valley to the east.  It is believed to be part of the support structure for King David's house which was unearthed.    You can see parts of the walls of some of the residential development called the House of Ahiel.  This name was discovered on pottery fragments found at the site.  It was likely a four room, two story home occupied by an influential family and was destroyed by the Babylonian army in 586 BC.  There is also a stepped wall immediately adjacent to this site which is believed to have been constructed by Nehemiah and his men upon their return from Babylon as part of their efforts to reestablish the city after its destruction by the Babylonians.

There are other points of interest in this area, but probably the most intriguing is the shaft known as Hezekiah's tunnel.  The tunnel connects the Gihon spring with the Pool of Siloam.  The spring was the primary water source for the city as mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:30.  The Assyrian army had taken the northern kingdom of Israel and now, under the leadership of Sennacherib, is knocking on the door of Jerusalem.  In order to protect their water source, Hezekiah ordered a tunnel constructed from the Gihon spring to the Pool of Siloam.  It is a marvel because the construction was started at both ends and the two shafts met in the middle.  The tunnel is through solid rock and still runs water today.  You can take the trip from the City of David through the tunnel down to the Pool of Siloam if you don't mind getting wet.  Just be sure and brings water shoes and a flashlight!  For the faint of heart, that would be me, there is another tunnel which is a dry path out from Hezekiah's tunnel to the surface and then you can walk on to the Pool of Siloam.  It is time well spent and is a fun and interesting trip down the to the pool.

Jerusalem, the City of David, is a city of history.  No matter where you turn, history unfolds before your eyes.  Every spade of earth turned over yields precious truths about this place.  It is a testimony to the veracity of the Bible as if the Bible needed verification.  In any case, it is a place every believer should go at least once in his or her life.

We love this city,  this land and the people of God.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  Pray about making the pilgrimage to Israel.  We are currently putting together a trip for February of 2013.  Join us, if the Lord so leads.  You can contact us if you have questions.

Blessings to you, and may Yeshua be glorified in your life as you serve Him! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

On the Mount

So ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the Lord...And it came to pass, when the priests  were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord.  1 Kings 7:51; 8:10  In your mind's eye you can visualize this beautiful temple built by Solomon with gold, silver and stone from his quarries outside of Jerusalem.  It was indeed a wonder of the world.  That temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  The second temple was constructed during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  That temple was further expanded in a sixty year construction project undertaken by Herod the Great.  This magnificent temple was destroyed by Titus and the Roman legions in 70 AD not to be rebuilt.

Today Temple Mount, the site of the temple, is occupied by a number of Muslim structures including the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock from which site Islam says Muhammad ascended to heaven.  It is perhaps the third holiest site of Islam.  The history of Temple Mount is a paradox for it is also the holiest site of Judaism.

   The Al Aqsa Mosque                                                     The Dome of the Rock

Jump forward to 1948.  Israel is declared a nation after almost 2000 years following the diaspora (dispersion) of the Jewish people by the Roman empire.  The day following that declaration the surrounding Arab nations declared war on this fledgling state and stated their intent to drive the Jews into the sea.  But, God had other plans.  Israel fended off their enemies, but lost the eastern part of Jerusalem, including Temple Mount, and the "West Bank" (so named by King Hussein of Jordan) which is biblical Judea and Samaria to Jordan.  These areas remained under Arab control for the next nineteen years until the Six Day War in 1967.  Israel regained control of both Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, but something amazing and inexplicable happened.  The government of Israel ceded control of Temple Mount to the Arabs.  Wow!  Why would they do that?  It doesn't make much sense until we look at Bible prophecy.

Daniel tells us that in the end times a man will come on the scene and bring a seven year peace between the Jews and their enemies and will provide for the rebuilding of their temple.  They will be able to reinstitute their sacrifices and they will believe he is their messiah.  You students of prophecy know that is not so because he is the one we know as Antichrist and he will turn on the Jewish people.

There is much discussion about where the future temple will be built.  There are several suggestions including the area of Solomon's stables and the current location of the Dome of the Rock.  However, there is another location just north of the Dome of the Rock.  There is a large area where a small cupola sits.  Here is a picture of the undeveloped area with cupola in the background and an enlargement of the structure also.

Some say that the Jews would never share the platform with another religion.  But, Ezekiel sees a wall constructed between the holy and the profane which would separate the two areas.  Jewish tradition tells us that the priest could stand in the temple and look out the doors through the Eastern Gate to the Mount of Olives.  We know that Jesus will come down on the Mount of Olives and then enter through the Eastern Gate, pictured to the left, on His way to take His rightful place in the temple.  When you stand at the cupola and look eastward you have a direct line of site through the Eastern Gate to the Mount of Olives.  It would seem that this is at least a possibility for the site of the future temple.  It is just something to think about.

These days are exciting and challenging for believers.  We need to live expectantly.  What do I mean by that?  John tells us that, ...every man that hath this hope in him, purifies himself....  1 John 3:3 What hope?  The hope of the soon coming of Yeshua.  We need to live expectantly folks.  It will make a difference in our lives.

Blessings to you from Jerusalem.  Come quickly Yeshua HaMashiach!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The New and the Old

Jerusalem is an amazing city.  It is so diverse and is the the subject of discussion in every nation in the world on any given day.  Zechariah said that Jerusalem would be a cup of trembling to all nations and it is so today.  The world is intent on dividing this city.  But it is the place where God said He would place His presence.  Deuteronomy 12:11, 12 says, ...there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that [is] within your gates....  This city is the eternal capital of Israel.

The city is a mixture of new and old.  Some of the city is changing very rapidly.  The people jokingly say that the national bird is the crane because there are so many construction cranes extending into the sky around Jerusalem.  A new Waldorf Astoria hotel is being constructed just northwest of the Old City.  It is a beautiful structure with its Jerusalem stone exterior finish.  The stone is white in appearance and is the stone that all buildings in Jerusalem must have as an exterior.  The new light rail train project is done and the trains pass quickly and quietly through downtown.

There are numerous shops and malls throughout the metro area like this one.  There seems to be no shortage of people to frequent these areas.  Both tourists and residents fill the shops and businesses.  It is all very amazing considering that this is a nation and a city that has been at war since the reestablishment of the nation of Israel on May 14, 1948.  Soldiers move through these area with weapons in hand and essentially unnoticed by the shoppers.  I marvel at the resilience of the people here. 

 On the other hand, there is part of the city that has remained virtually unchanged.  The Old City of Jerusalem is an anomaly.  It is like walking back in time.  This area is divided into four parts described as the Jewish quarter, the Christian quarter, the Arab quarter and the Armenian quarter.  Each part is distinct in character and feel.

 This is the Hurva (means destruction) Synagogue and it is in the Jewish quarter.  The synagogue was destroyed twice during the history of Israel.  This structure is the third time the building was established.  Interestingly, Jewish religious tradition is that construction the third synagogue would proceed the coming of Messiah.  Come quickly Jeshua Ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah).

In the midst of these areas is Temple Mount.  Here you see worshipers at the Western Wall with the Temple Mount in the background.   The religious Jews gather here at the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall) to pray.  The wall is the western wall of the temple platform built by Herod the Great at the time he expanded the temple which took about sixty years to complete.  The wall is the area nearest to the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant rested.  So the Jewish people gather here to pray to Jehovah.  We hope to visit the Western Wall and go up on Temple Mount tomorrow.

The Arab quarter is very different.  It is a mixture of colors and wonderful smells from the Arab culture.  The shopping is interesting.  Bargaining is not natural to me.  I am accustomed to paying the price asked, but that will make you a poor man here.  Bargaining is expected and is not an insult.    After a brief shopping experience, we moved to the Damascas Gate on the north side of the Old City and walked around to the Jaffa Gate at the southwest corner...and the nearest ATM.

All in all the Old City is an exciting place to spend time.  We are thoroughly enjoying our time here and expect the Lord to guide us through our remaining time in Jerusalem.  Remember to pray for the peace of this city.  Blessings to you all!