Israel Day 6 and 7.25 – ExtraBiblical History

Day 6 started on a sober note as we spent a few hours in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.   What human beings are capable of, by continued and prolonged rationalization and sin.  Even though this was not a Biblical site, we saw the reality of original sin and evil in the world.

In a way, history keeps repeating itself.  When we lose sight of God, we lose sight of a God-centered, Biblical-centered worldview.  ALL human beings – whether they haven’t been born yet, or they are refugees from war torn countries, or they are helpless and poverty stricken in a third world country, or they are a 95-year old in a nursing home – are made in the image of God and have value, dignity, and worth.

What’s the solution to evil?  God provided one in Jesus.  Who dealt evil, sin and death a mortal wound when he rose from the grave and will one day return to bring final and permanent defeat.

From there, we went to Genesis Land, where Mel and I rode a camel to a tent in the desert and sat and more yummy food.


After that, we made our way, via cable car, to Masada.  The site of incredible history.  You can read all about it here.  But in a nutshell, it was one of Herod’s palaces.  A place of an incredible stand-off with the Jews, stunning architecture and engineering, and tremendous views.


We then settled into our hotel on the Dead Sea, surrounded by mountains.  After another nice meal, and some more desert that I didn’t need, we hit the sack and got up early to see [most of] the sun rise over the water and then floated in the Dead Sea…which is NUTS, and fun.


Today we are off to Qumran, where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a few other places.  Word on the street is that there is lots of walking today.  That’s good, yesterday I only walked 6.89 miles.

Israel Day 4 – Jerusalem Part 3

OK, so.

Google Photo page is updated…took lots of pics today, so be forewarned.

We started the day by seeing some of the remnants of the original City of David and some of the artifacts. Why is that awesome?  Welp, this is a pretty recent find and it is so awesome because they found things like one of David’s kingly seals that bear the names of dudes that are in the BIBLE.  Check out an article on that here.   Just you know…more reasons to believe the Bible is completely legit, NBD.

City of David Remains 2.jpg

We then walked thru Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This has so much history, I think I blew out a cluster of brian cells. When the Assyrians were making their way toward Jerusalem, after sacking the Northern Kingdom,  in like the 7th century BC.  They figured they needed to fortify the city, find a way of getting food and supplies if under siege, and ultimately creating a way of escape when everything hits the fan.

We walked it, still with water in it, sometimes up to our knees, but mostly up to our ankles and in REALLY tight dark closed in spaces.  The tunnel is 500m or so and leads from the Gihon Spring, where it gets it’s water from, to the famous Pool of Siloam.

Speaking of which, we emerged from the crazy tunnel at the pool of Siloam from John 9.  Well, part of it.  Actually like maybe 10% of it, as the rest is under ground and no one has permission to dig it out…yet.  Maybe we will see the whole thing the next trip.

From there we thought we were done with smelly, dark, cramped, tunnel walks…but NO!  Ryan led us on yet another ~500 meter walk under the streets.  Except now, fast forward til about 70AD when the Romans came in and leveled Jerusalem.  Same deal as the Assyrians, they knew they had to get out of town when it all went down, so the Jews fled the city in the tunnels..drainage tunnels…sewage tunnels under the streets.  Archeologists have actually found old coins and pieces of lamps down there.

It gets more crazy.  The Romans eventually figured out that there were refugee Jews living/fleeing under the streets in the drainage tunnels, so they tore up parts of the street to try and kill them.  The holes in the ancient streets are now boarded up with wood – CRAZY!

Herodian Street where Romans would stab hiding refugee Jews below .jpg

From there we went to the South Steps of the temple mount, or what is left of them.  It was incredible to think that Jesus may have walked up these steps to go to the temple.  What a HUGE structure.  The walls on the corner [which is actually the end of the Western Wall] are crazy high.  They also had seemingly hundreds of the ritual cleansing pools at the base of the steps.

South steps.jpg

We then proceeded to the actual public section of the Western Wall. Well, I went on my side and Mel went on hers.  This time we got up close and saw the Jews from all over the world at the wall – their faces on the wall, praying, bobbing, stuffing prayers written on paper into the cracks of the wall – so many that they overflowed onto the ground.

Some of our group became emotional, at seeing the frenzied attempts to be close to God, in basically the historic remains of an ancient building.  God’s presence isn’t limited to a building.  Going there doesn’t bring you closer to him.  Putting a prayer in the wall doesn’t forgive any of your sins.  This is the tension of this trip – a legalistic pursuit of salvation is all so tragically hopeless.

Western wall - paper prayers close up.jpg

Jesus actually lived, actually went to the cross and actually rose again as the promised Messiah.  He is the only way to the Father.  He said it simply –

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6–7 ESV)

Tomorrow, the plan is that we see some of the evidences of Jesus’ life and death up close.




Israel Day 3 – Jerusalem, Part 2

Google pictures UPDATED with today’s photo barrage.

Back to Jerusalem!  Today, we got dropped off in the Old City and basically never left all day.  We walked from one side to the other – through all four quarters – Jewish, Christian, Aremian, and Muslim.  Really the only way you knew where you were was by the dress of the people and the writing on the signs.

We started at the Western Wall entrance to the tunnels.  We didn’t spend much time at the wall, just enough for Mel to get yelled at for trying to walk thru the MEN ONLY entrance, and for me to get a few pics.  We will be back at the wall tomorrow for a closer look.

Western Wall Giant Stone.jpg

The tunnels, were not actually tunnels, but an underground network of arches built by King Herod when he expanded the Temple Mount area for the second temple.  Part of the Western Wall is still in the tunnel and is also where some women come to pray, as it is supposedly closest to where the Holy of Holies was in the temple originally.  Read more about all that stuff here.

Western Wall Tunnel 1.jpg

Next thru the Lions Gate and a visit to the Pool of Bethesda [see John 5], and a walk thru the Via Delarosa, where we had an amazing lunch in the Muslim section.  [Falafels and Shawarma and crazy strong Turkish coffee, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli Border Patrol police.]

We then went to the traditional palace of Pilate where Jesus would have been tried, convicted, and beaten. We had a powerful time of reflection in Isaiah 53 and the suffering Servant, thankful for Jesus’ humbling himself to do the Father’s will in redeeming us.

Then thru the Jaffa Gate and into the Old City proper, starting with the market place…never seen so many shops crammed with stuff and people crammed everywhere in one place.  Watch your wallets and phones, kids.

We went for a hike/walk along the Ramparts Walk – which was built by Suleiman the Magnificent around 485 years ago, during the Ottoman Empire.  That was a good workout, lots of steps and great views of the city below.

Zion Gate Bullet Holes.jpg

We went out the Zion Gate, complete with bullet holes from the Arab-Isreali war in 1948, toward the traditional place of the Upper Room and the Last Supper.  Again, one of those spots that they think is close, and has since been re-designed, re-built, including a stint as a mosque – and is now a tourist stop where no worship is allowed.

This was all adjacent to/part of the Tomb of David complex, which again, “traditionally” is King David’s tomb.  It is one of the holier sites of Judaism, yet we could enter.  Men, with their heads covered and women in their own separate spot.  I went up to the prayer room, but saw it crowded with Orthodox Jews deep into it and since I was now in a T-shirt with ink flying everywhere, I decided to leave them alone and not cause a potential offense.

On the roof of the compound, was once the holiest site for Jews, when they couldn’t access the temple mount area, as they could at least see it.

…but now, since they can access the temple mount area…it’s not really that holy anymore.  Their justification before God tied to actions and places and rituals.

This is the hopeless way of legalism.

We cannot go to any holy site to make ourselves closer to God.  We cannot do anything to atone for our sin. We need someone to atone our sin for us.  In all the beauty and history of Jerusalem, it’s sad to see some still chase fruitlessness.

God sent Jesus, to walk the Via Delarosa for us, with the cross beam on his back, bloodied and battered.  He was the one foretold, who would come from Israel to be our suffering servant.   Through faith in Jesus, he has provided us direct access to God by atoning for our sin – what we can never do – no matter what place we go to, or what ritual we do.

The hopeless route of obeying the rules to make God love us is obliterated in Jesus – who loves us enough to go to the cross and die for us, all in obedience to the Father’s plan of redemption.  Through Jesus, we are forgiven, we are healed, we are righteous.

Ryan reminded us well of 1 Peter 2:24, and the centrality of the work of Jesus.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

Israel Day 2 – Jerusalem

So…again…WOW.  It’s hard to describe everything that you see, hear, smell and experience when you are walking thru Jerusalem for the first time.

Before we begin:  Click HERE for all the photos!  I took TONS…

First, we stopped at an observation point to get a look at the city from a higher elevation.  The first thing I noticed were tombstones – essentially concrete coffin-like boxes.  HUNDREDS [thousands?] of them.  All with stones of remembrance laid on top.  I thought…there has to be something to this.  There is.  When the Messiah comes/returns the resurrection will happen…and the idea is he would come back to the same mount he ascended from…you’d want to have your grave nearby so you were ready to go.

Jerusalem Graves 4.jpg

On the other side of the wall, you have the Golden/East Gates [see Ezekiel 44] where the Messiah will supposedly enter the city from, and you have hundreds of Arab graves there to stop him.

This is so much of the tension that is here.  Different religious ideas all co-existing [or not] within a country the size of New Jersey.   Christians, Jews, Muslims…and if you add in all the different sects and varieties of each, it’s easy to get the theological head spins. It is such a combination of frustrating, and lighting a fire in me to continue to be faithful in the pursuit of sound Biblical doctrine.

On a more touching note, we spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane, [see Matthew 26:36cf] and even though those weren’t the exact trees that Jesus leaned on while he was praying for the Father to take the cross from him, it still was profoundly powerful nonetheless.

Caiaphas House Sign Zoom.jpg

We also went to what is traditionally known as the High Priest Caiaphas’ palace, and saw where they believe Jesus was held prisoner and whipped the night he was arrested.  One of the many places that silence was observed as people took time to reflect and pray.

We spent time at the Israel Museum and took in all the history of a 400:1 model of the city of Jerusalem at around 65AD.  Huge amounts of Biblical history to be had there, not to mention we also stopped by the Shrine of the Book and saw some actual Hebrew manuscripts and a facsimile of the Dead Sea Scroll version of Isaiah. [We were not allowed to take pics indoors!]

Jerusalem Model 2.jpg

We also spent time in shop owned by Evangelical Christians in Jerusalem, who worship in Aramaic, so we got to hear one of the owners pray the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic.

Perhaps the shopping highlight was the market in Judah.  It was less of a tourist stop, and more of a local spot.  It was absolutely amazing.  [It was also slightly freaky, as we all know any terrorist account in the movies starts in a market…]. Mel and I scored some good gift purchases and it made me thankful that I get to take in all this with my best friend and soul mate.

Onward to tomorrow!

My Sweetie.jpg


Israel 2019 – Departure!

I’ve been preparing for our Israel trip by reading Augustine’s Confessions.  [Doesn’t everyone?]


OK, it’s not totally strange, as for the past few days in all the controlled chaos of shopping, collecting supplies, packing…I’ve tried to determine what I’m going to do/read in the 10+ hours of travel.  And I got hooked on this book.  It’s one of those that I’ve started and stopped at a previous time, and now wondering why I never kept reading.

And so, the early morning hours of our departure day, I read this quote

“For what is nearer to thine ears than a confessing heart, and a life of faith?”

It struck me as we are traveling over 5,000 miles for the trip of a lifetime, that maybe some people do it in an attempt to be nearer to God.

Yet what Augustine was referring to is the reality that we are not nearer to God in any particular city, or holy land – only thru confession of faith in God’s Son, Jesus. Paul writes,

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13 ESV)

Jesus is our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.  He is our way to God.  While Melanie and I look forward to walking where He walked, and absorbing all the spiritual realities, and Biblical history – we are thankful that Jesus did what no place ever could – reconcile sinners to God.

More posts and pictures to come.  Next stop Israel!


Book Review – The Pastor’s Justification

Whilst listening to the For the Church Podcast the other day, the question posed was something like “What books have been helpful for you as a pastor?” The immediate response was “The Pastor’s Justification” – of which…I have never heard…until that moment. He said it so matter of factly that I was embarrassed I hadn’t heard of it, nevertheless read it.  Good thing I was alone in the Mighty Tundra.  71ywgW3NGgL.jpg

Being that we live in the age of one-click, I actually ordered it from the Amazon app while driving [I’m sure it was safe], and had it in 2 days.

I consumed it shortly thereafter, and I must agree…it is profoundly helpful.

Jared Wilson is a ridiculously talented writer.  I don’t say that just in hopes that he re-tweets this, but because it’s true.  He knows what pastoring is like and he translates that with transparency, depth, and humor that makes for a profoundly helpful read.

As the title indicates – pastors, like most perhaps, are prone to searching for a ‘justification’ – something to ease the nagging questions of the tired soul. “Am I doing enough?” “Am I even good at this?” “Am I doing too much?” “I’m probably terrible at this, right?” Jared proclaims what we all need to keep our drooping soul’s eyes fixed on – “there is no Justification 2.0 for ministers of the gospel. There is only the gospel itself – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” [19]. How to get that thru our thick skulls and into a Monday reality is what this book is all about.

The pastor, although still working out his own salvation with fear and trembling, is still the one called to lead the church to their own maturity, through their own muck and mire.  On Sunday, as he stands in the pulpit and pours out what the Holy Spirit has been pouring into him all week, he walks in full – while the church walks in empty.  On Monday morning the reverse happens, the pastor is now empty, drained from the whirlwind that was Sunday, and the church is full.  Happy Monday.  I agree the “Monday morning pastoral hangover is real.”

For me, this is a mixed blessing, as I truly love what I’ve been given the privilege of doing.  Let’s face it, it’s joy and an honor.  But the image of a stone that is pushed up a hill all week only to watch it roll back down to the bottom each Sunday afternoon.  Monday afternoon, it’s time to get rolling again.  My routine side loves that [Nerd Alert/Routine Idolatry], but the reality is that many Mondays, my arms are tired, and my soul is achy. Isn’t that the same for all of us?

Pastors are to be free – free from sin through the justification by faith in Jesus.  Free from the sin of being arrogant, from ruling harshly, from leading with selfish gain.

Pastors are to be holy – and we rest again in the justification of Jesus who accomplished this for us.  “Be holy, for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:16] is “both a command and a promise (thank God.)”.  [41]. Yet, we are called to be killing sin, and growing in personal holiness. Robert Murray McCheyne famously said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.”  Not better programs, though we should be innovative.  Not better sermons, though we are called to be diligent.  We need to submit ourselves to the Word that we are proclaiming on Sunday mornings.   We will be holy, if we obey, so obey.

Pastors are to be humble – this, even in a small church context is challenging.  There is a constant flow of compliments, and to balance them…some critiques as well.  But the reality is that if we are being faithful, God is at work and people will change and they will be thankful.  Wilson reminds us that we need to be humble in all things – in suffering, in ‘messy ministry’, in prayer and in the Word.

Pastors are to be confident.  Not in ourselves, for we are to be “point them to the real Jesus and away from yourself.” [80] We are to be cultivating a “gospel-wakened” sense that goes beyond worship styles, “petty criticisms and legalistic slander.” [88]

Pastors are to be watchful. Watchful toward those who need Jesus, even (especially?) those who are ‘less-than.’ Watchful against heresy – an ever increasing risk in this internet age.  Watchful against apostasy – a casual glance at Twitter of late will show only an increase in big name apostasy.  How do we work through that and in our own people? Watchful against gossip.  Watchful against division.  And watchful against ourselves – as Wilson repeats several times…and it hurts every time (thanks Jared) “Remember, the pastor’s biggest problem is himself.” [96]. Who watches us?  We can certainly isolate ourselves and there is where the danger is.  Tell the truth. Let people in.  Trusted mature brothers.  [and I’ll add for good measure – listen to your wife.  She is a good and Godly gift to see our hearts when we don’t want to]

Pastors are justified.  Our security, the one that shakes when things don’t go as planned, must be in Jesus.  Fire our internal defense lawyer.  Christ justifies. Not us.  “I am a dummy, and God is good.” [109]. Again, thanks for that, Jared.

In Part 2, Wilson anchors the “glory” of pastors in the gospel, using the Five Solas.   Sola Scriptura – Scripture is authoritative and complete, so we preach God’s Word and we stand on it’s authority, not ours.  Let God’s Word do God’s work.

Sola Gratia – we are saved only by God’s grace, so we model grace to our people.  We “seed grace in every space.” [139]. This speaks to the need for gospel intentionality in all things – the gospel of grace first, not programs.  This quote is soooo good, I just have to drop it – “A community whose culture is gospel-intentioned is the antidote to programmed discipleship, where “church” is not the people but a set of programs and activities, and its relegated to fitting into the sovereignty of peoples schedules.” [140] #Boom.

Sola Fide – we are justified by our faith alone, in Jesus, so we pastor by faith, and that includes letting people in.  Being transparent.  [See Wilson’s story of the start of his pastorate in Vermont…] We faithfully preach God’s Word and we let it do It’s work.

Solus Christus – it’s only Christ, so we make him the center.  If you are familiar with the FTC podcast that’s Wilson’s thing “May Jesus be big.”   Since it’s Christ who justifies us, it’s all about Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria – it’s all about God’s glory, not ours, so we pastor to bring honor to Him.  “The pastor who will see God’s glory is the pastor who pursues God’s glory in exclusion of  everything that falls short. All lesser glories may be placed on the altar.” [168]. He must increase, I must decrease…

This book hurt a little.  The good kind of hurt.  Part of it was validating…maybe I’m not crazy…maybe we are on the right track. Part of it was encouraging…maybe I’m not the only guy that thinks these things.  Part of it was confronting…Pastors, we have a precious calling, but a dangerous one.  We must be every vigilant, to proclaim not our own justification, but only the justification of Jesus in all we do.






Husbands/Dads: Spiritual Leadership?

It’s a topic that can strike fear in the hearts of men.  Especially, when you realize that the Bible in fact calls men to be the spiritual leaders of their home, [Ephesians 5:22-23] and you have little to no idea what that actually means or how to do that.

I get it.  Some days it seems as complicated as my daughters AP Calculus homework.

BUT, don’t let your hearts be troubled –  it doesn’t have to be that way.  Let’s look at 4 practical areas to focus on.

  1. Your Own Spiritual Growth.  Flat out:  you can’t lead anyone where you haven’t gone yourself.  Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. [Matthew 22:37-38] Husbands/Dads, are you personally pursuing a deeper relationship with God thru His Word, centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Does your family know that you have a time where you daily seek God in His Word and prayer?  Do they see your relationship with God being of the highest importance to you?  Here’s one that hurts – do they see you actively putting sin to death? Even when it includes confessing sin and asking for forgiveness from family members? Until your own spiritual growth is a priority, it doesn’t make much sense to try to lead others.
  2. Your Wife’s Heart.  Next to loving God, we are called to love others as much as we love our own selves, as the second most important commandment.  [Matthew 22:39]. There is no closer neighbor than the one you share your bed with.  Are you pursuing your wife?  Knowing what is going on in her life? Her cares, concerns, victories?  What is battling for territory in her heart?  Are you leading her to God’s Word to encourage her? Are you initiating prayer with her regularly?
  3. Your Kid’s Hearts.  Now that you’ve addressed the most important two commandments, we have a foundation for getting after our kids.  We are called to not exasperate them, but bring them up in the fear and instruction of the Lord. [Ephesians 6:4] Are you praying for them regularly?  Are you asking them how they are doing in their spiritual walks?  Are you having the hard conversations with them about the sin in their lives and teaching them how to handle it?  Are you having family times of being in His Word and praying? Are you prioritizing church attendance and membership? Which leads us to…
  4. Your Service In the Church. It’s critical that you are plugged into a solid, Bible-preaching, Christ-centered local church where you can serve others.  [1 Peter 4:11] Does your family see you serving?  Even better – do you serve together?  Do you celebrate the church or tear it to shreds on the ride home?  Do you show them you really value worshipping God as you stand and sing, track along with the sermon, and prioritize serving the body in humility.

Rest assured, this is not an exhaustive list, but it hopefully is helpful in getting our arms around what it means for a man to spiritually lead his family.

Let us all strive to better understand and walk in this as we all grow into the image of Jesus by His grace.