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Waiting – Lent Day 40

Matthew 27:62-66 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Can you hear the stillness?  It’s the day after the crucifixion, and all of creation is holding its breath.  Didn’t he say he’d be back on the third day?  The disciples are still in hiding, some have gone back to their boats in Galilee.  Pilate was certainly hoping that any uprising Jesus seemed to be leading would just go away.  The soldiers remembered what he had said, so in order to prevent anyone stealing the body to support this ridiculous claim, they placed a seal on the stone of the tomb and posted a guard.

Waiting.  It seems like we are in a holding pattern, here in our part of the country, for the second Easter in row. We aren’t supposed to see loved ones, we are waiting for vaccine to be delivered and administered.  Waiting for numbers to fall, and ICUs to return to normal patient admissions.  Waiting for God to do a miracle.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  It’s not something most of us do well.

It’s our final stop on this Easter Journey together.  No pictures of the tomb (spoiler alert – it was empty!)  We’ve never made it into the Aedicule, but really the tomb was only borrowed for the weekend, and because I believe Jesus walked out of it, I’ve never been disappointed to see the actual spot.  For pilgrims who make this trip along the Via Dolorosa and the complete Stations of The Cross, we are all in that waiting period.  Before the ascension, Jesus promised that He would come back – and so we wait.

Our picture today show’s centuries of markings by piligrims stopping to let people know they had been there in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Rather like the Inukshuks that dot our northern highways.  I have repeatedly said, over this last year, that Jesus needs to come soon.  Until that happens, I and millions of other Christians wait for his return. He’s left us our instructions on how to live, and what our task is in the meantime.

Good Friday is a hard day, but I think waiting in the silence of Holy Saturday is a day to lament.  We grieve with his followers who were sure it was all over, the ministry, the promise, the new way of life.  But…

Sunday’s coming, and because we are an Easter people, we know how the story ends.  Don’t miss the chance to sit with the weight of sadness in the waiting, and then sing and shout your Hallelujahs tomorrow!

Friend, thank you for reading along with us.  Our planned pilgrimage for last year was cancelled, and there is no reset date at this point.  If you would like to know more about how you can bring your Bible to life and experience God’s Story in the land where most of it happened, please let us know and we’ll be in touch about when we will be returning to Israel.  We’d be honoured to have you join us.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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I Go To The Rock – Lent Day 39

Good Friday

John 18-19 So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

When you visit Israel, you notice that there are rocks – everywhere. It’s a country made of rocks, some are big, some are quite tiny, but they are there all the same. You see rocks that were once palaces, and rocks that held ancient manuscripts that confirm the authenticity and accuracy of our Bible today. You see shelters in crevices of rock, you stand on a rock where Peter declared who Jesus is, and you see where cities were built on top of cities using rock. And in Jerusalem, the rocks continue to tell their stories. I think they are my favourite ones of all.

Not because of their beauty or display, but because of the part they played in the most important act in History. Our pictures today take us on a part of that day long journey.

The week began with Jesus riding a donkey down the Mount of Olives, along the rocks that made the pathway through the Kidron Valley and up Mt. Zion.  Then he cleared the rocks we still see today at the steps of The Temple.  He met his friends at the rock-hewn cave that held Jerusalem’s olive press and prayed in the rocky garden grounds.  Later that night he was taken to the “recently” discovered stones that were Caiaphas’ Palace. Next were the cells used to hold prisoners awaiting their trial before the Court, and where Jesus was likely held before being taken to Pilate the next morning.

We’ve seen the flight of stairs leading down to the city, just one of the 3 places in Jerusalem we know that Jesus walked.  This was on his way to Pilate for sentencing. Today’s stone is, while not our final picture, so important to our remembering this week.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by Constantine’s mother in the 4th Century.  She had consulted with tradition and with those that knew the city well.  What makes it hard for people to picture, is that this site that holds Calvary and The Empty Tomb is within the city walls.  What we forget, is that the power-hungry Herod need his city to be more impressive, and what better way to do that than to expand the city walls.  This meant enclosing that holy hillside into the newly staked boundaries.  That happened before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. So, yes we have historical and archaeological proof that we have the right spots for Golgotha and The Tomb.

It’s dizzying with all the people, incense smoke and winding stairs.  It looks nothing like the garden we’ve pictured the tomb to be in, but there it is.  And the awe that you experience is profound – perhaps more so as you reflect on where you’ve been!

Our final picture, while not the end of the story is such an important one, it’s the very rock of Calvary. It’s the bedrock of Golgotha, the hill where Jesus hung and died for you and me.   You see, in archeology you can’t go deeper than bedrock.  It’s the foundation of everything. And this glassed-in section of bedrock is a part of the hillside where The Cross was in place.

The walk along the Via Dolorosa is distracting.  It’s busy, noisy with so, so many sparkly things to catch your attention and wallet.  But the closer you get to the church, the more focused you become and you don’t even realized you’ve been climbing a hill the whole time.

And then, you’re there.  You are about to enter the building that houses the holiest sites in all of Christendom.  The two places that are the very reason for the celebrations this weekend.

Here’s how a very dear friend described it, and our journey to find it, after our first visit there: “We get distracted by it all. We lose our focus. It stops making sense. Until. Until. Until we remember to look past it all, and return to the foundation, the cornerstone, the bedrock of our faith. The Rock we call Jesus, and what he did for you, or me, for all the hurting world, the world God loved so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes, that whoever builds his life on that Rock will never die. Friends, let’s put our distractions aside. Let’s regain our focus. Let’s build our lives and our church on the Rock, on the Bedrock of our faith, on the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. No other foundation will ever survive, no other foundation will do.” That’s the Rock that held the moment that changed everything.

May you go to that Rock anew today, and then…then I’ll meet you in the garden!

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Just A Small Detail – Day 38

Matthew 26:47-56. Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

When Pilgrims arrive at the private Garden at Gethsemane, it’s simply beautiful.  It’s a quiet refuge in the city and allows for prayer and worship away from the thousands of people waiting to go through the Church of the Agony.  Its view is the one we saw earlier in this journey of the Eastern Gate.  It’s easy to imagine the idyllic setting the night of Jesus betrayal and arrest.  But those quiet and lovely notions are far from the reality of what would have occurred.

We know that Jesus and his friends had been praying, having left the rest of 12 after the Passover dinner in the rented Upper Room.  Peter has been told of his coming trio of denials and Judas was told of his actions to come that very night.

We know that the location of the site of Gethsemane is historically correct, because history and archaeology know where the Olive Press on Mt. Zion was.  The cave that people will have sought shelter in is still there and is now a sanctuary for worship.  The gardens are the remnants of a huge olive grove.

It’s so easy for us to sanitize and clean up the hard and rough reality of the events of THAT Thursday and Friday in Jerusalem.  The peacefulness of the time in prayer will have been disrupted by the oncoming marching and aggressive sounds of the Roman Soldiers.  These men were trained to intimidate and control any situation they were in.  Even if the arrest went smoothly, the ensuing event in our Scripture passage will certainly not maintained any semblance of order.

Picture the scene, a Roman Battalion (as many as 600 men) plus a crowd of onlookers, looking for Jesus.  When they find him, it just Jesus and 4 of his closest friends.  He steps forward and is arrested.  While Matthew doesn’t name him, John’s gospel tells us that it’s Peter.  Oh, our dear Peter.  His typical hot-blooded response is to grab his sword and he manages to lop off the ear of a soldier.

Jesus’ rebuke is quick.  “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword shall die by the sword.”  He goes on to remind them that He has business to accomplish and turns his attention to the bleeding ear.  It is at this point that in Luke’s Gospel we are told that Jesus performs his very last miracle, he heals the Soldier’s ear.  I read once that Jesus couldn’t have even the smallest loss happen in his defence.  He knows that the only blood to be spilled in the coming hours can be his.

This miracle was not only his last, it was the smallest.  The soldier would have not suffered hearing loss, his life was not in danger, at the most it was a cosmetic wound. But Jesus had taught his followers to “love your enemies”, and he practiced what he preached – right to the end.  His last miracle was a response of kindness to an enemy.

Maybe it wasn’t such a small miracle after all.  He could have a called all the angels to come to respond, and let them see ALL his power, but he didn’t.  Maybe, just maybe, this was his greatest.

May our prayer today be that He would grant us the grace to confront life the way He did in that olive grove.  Take time to thank God that this last miracle reminds us that even the smallest details are important in the Kingdom.  Important enough to be tended to by the Saviour.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Chosen – Lent Day 37

Luke 22:2-30 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

17 Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”

19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.”

Remember when we were able to have meals together?  To gather with friends, break bread and talk?  It seems like a lifetime ago.  We are still waiting to have our 2020 Easter Breakfast celebration with our church family.  But waiting is the theme of these past 12 months, and it seems that we still have months to go.

The first event of Maundy Thursday (maundy comes from the Latin for “commandment”) is perhaps the most famous meal in history.  On Mount Zion in Jerusalem, there is a room. It’s been a Christian Church, (we know this because the room is oriented towards the Church of the Holy Sceptulcre and not the temple mount.  It is also full of Christian symbols in the stonework and not Jewish ones), and now has a mosque connected to it, but 2000 years ago it was likely quite nondescript. But it’s a room that was a part of the events that changed everything.



It was Passover, and Jesus and his disciples are gathered to have the traditional meal. They were about to spend a lot of time here, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  As the evening progressed, Jesus took the bread and cup and gave them a new symbolism. He told them that the bread was His body that would be broken for them, and the wine was His blood that would be spilled for them. Then, a promise that this was a new covenant, a new promise between them and God to be His people, and He, their God.  

To our 21st century minds, we instantly see this as communion, but to those gathered they will have known these words spoken as the promise made between a young man and his beloved as they became betrothed. The groom offered a cup of wine to his chosen, and with the drinking of it, she accepts and the covenant, the promise of marriage is sealed. After this, the groom would leave and prepare the place where they would reside together.

All this – the birth 33 years earlier, the teaching and healings, the giving us a new way to relate to God and each other, the invitation into this new promise and the coming agony and triumph – was all part of the plan from the very beginning. Jesus came to claim us, you and I, as His own beloved. He knew that he would seal the promise of union and then have to go away to prepare the home for us to live with Him.  

The invitation still stands. He still offers that promise to us. Friday is a hard day, the disciples were scared and hiding in the very room where this invitation was given. They were sure of arrest if they went outside and were recognized as His friends. They will have spent many of the coming 50 days, and it’s in this same space that the coming of the Holy Spirit happened – just as it was promised.

Take, eat. Take, drink. This is the new covenant. He chose you.  He chooses you still.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Here Is The Man – Lent Day 36

John 19: 1-5 “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

The Via Dolorosa is a must do part of a pilgrimage to Israel.  Wandering through the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, thousands of Jesus followers follow the route that Jesus was led to The Cross.  It begins at the Praetorium, where he was brought before Pilate and flogged.  It carries on through what has become known as “The Stations of the Cross”, until we arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which hold Golgotha and the empty tomb.  The architecture along the was is highly symbolic in places, and quite ordinary in others.

The first stop is at the Church of the Flagellation.  Its façade is quite a work of stone masonry. Carved into the stonework are crowns of thorns and strips to represent the whips.  Inside the church is a very detailed stained-glass window of Jesus being beaten.  It’s an active church, with places for worship to occur, as there are in so many spots along the route.  Moving from the church, it’s not a long walk to the archway that was added by Hadrian in the 2nd Century AD to the entrance to the public square where Pilate pronounced his sentence of Jesus with the words, “Here is the man”.

He was badly beaten, made to put wear a mocking purple cape and had a piercing crown of thorns shoved onto his head.  The blood will have been shocking, even for Roman standards of punishment.  Despite the crowd demanding his death, Pilate isn’t able to find any reasons to support the condemnation.  Hoping for compassion, he presents this very broken man.  “Here is the man”, is his final attempt to change the crowd’s collective mind.

We are in a society that still needs us to present Jesus to them.  People have become so jaded against any organized religion, and sadly the press loves to give airtime to those who show the very worst side of the Christian worldview.  We need to show them the true Jesus.  The one who laid his life down to secure ours.  The one who modelled how to live in right relationship with God, the Father.  The One God sees when He sits in judgement of those who have made Jesus the center of their lives.

I wonder if, looking upon the badly beaten and humiliated Jesus today, would I still be able to sing this favourite Holy Week hymn.  I pray that I would.  Bernard of Clairveaux wrote the words in French in the 12th century, but it still powerful words resonate in our day:

O Sacred Head, now wounded,

With grief and shame weighed down. 

Now scornfully surrounded

with thorns, Thine only crown;

O sacred Head, what glory,

What bliss, till now was Thine!

Yet though despised and gory, 

I joy to call Thee mine.

What thou, my Lord, has suffered

Was all for sinners’ gain;

Mine, mine was the transgression,

But thine the deadly pain;

Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!

Tis I deserve Thy place;

Look on me with Thy favour,

Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow

To thank Thee, dearest Friend.

For this Thy dying sorrow, 

Thy pity without end?

Oh, make me Thine forever;

And should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never

Outlive my love to Thee

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Sit With Me Awhile – Lent Day 35

Matthew 26:36-38 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.””

At the bottom of the Mount of Olives, there is a church built beside a beautiful garden filled with olives trees.  We’re going to visit there again on Friday this week, but today I wanted to show you the church.  It’s called the Church of the Agony.  History proves to us that the location of the garden is correct because that’s where the city olive press was during the 1st century, and in Hebrew Gethsemane means olive press.  So, the church is built on the grounds of the olive grove connected to Gethsemane.  On those grounds that Jesus went to pray before he was arrested.

The first picture is of the Church from the Mt. of Olives.  The second is the mosaic over the front entrance.  Picture 3 is the Crown of Thorns altar – this is the actual bedrock from the area where Jesus will have been praying and finally picture 4 is of the mosaic work on the ceiling.  This church is also called the Church of All Nations, because Jesus died for us all. To honour that, there are medallions worked into the design, and this picture includes the one for Canada.

In our Scripture focus today, Jesus has come to the garden to pray.  He says to his best friends, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  He knew that weight of what the next 24 hours held for him and his time here on earth.  Surely, he knew that part of the agony was to experience God’s silent response to his cries from the Cross.  But during the prayer time, Jesus knew the value of having friends near when going through times of great sorrow.

If you’ve ever walked through a crisis, or through the dark days after the death of a loved one, you’ll know how valuable the support of others can be.  I remember one of the scariest days of our lives.  Jeff was having routine wisdom tooth removal surgery, and so we went to the hospital for the early morning procedure fully expecting to be home by lunch.  It was not to be.  While I was in the waiting room, an ambulance attendant went past me with an empty gurney, and after some time, returned with it just as empty.  He was asked about that by a nurse, and his response was that “they’ve changed their minds”.  No sooner had he left again when a nurse came and got me.

Turns out he had had an allergic reaction to one of the drugs in the anesthetic and had to be admitted to the ICU until he was able to breath on his own again.  I was alone with this, or so I thought.  A volunteer came and sat with me, brought me something to drink and eat (a thought I hadn’t even entertained).  She just stayed and chatted until I was able to go into the unit to see him and start to prepare to head home.  We left the hospital by days end, 4 hours longer than anticipated.  It wasn’t until I reflected on the day that I realized just how important her presence was for me.  It’s a life lesson I’ve never forgotten.

We can learn 2 things from this encounter with Jesus’ request:

1 – Don’t hesitate to ask for your friends support when you are in crisis.  It’s not a sign of weakness, but a flare in the dark for help as you walk through these moments.

2 – Be that friend.  The request for your company may not be convenient or even comfortable, but it takes courage to even ask, so honour that.  Your presence will be calming, your help can make the burden lighter.  Offer to pray with them, or just sit quietly if that’s what they need.  It’s hard, but silence can be comforting and healing.Ask God for courage to be in either role, to be able to ask for help or to respond when you are needed.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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One Foot Infront of the Other – Lent Day 34

Matthew 27:1-2 “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.”

The night will have been long.  First there was the dinner where He told Judas and Peter what they were going to do before the sun came up.  Then, that agonizing prayer and pleading with The Father to “take this cup”.  Even his most faithful friends just couldn’t stay focused and awake to pray with him.  As the time of prayer ended, Judas came with that purse of silver.

He got so close to Jesus, he was close enough to kiss him.  It had to be a friend to betray Jesus, because a stranger would never be able to come that near to Him.  And only a friend’s kiss was cruel enough to seal the betrayal.  The soldiers had been anything but gentle – Rome was not known to employ gentle men to carry out orders.

The time before the High Priest, the man who was set apart to teach people about the love of The Father, was full of accusations and people lying with false charges.  The night in the dungeon at the Priest’s palace was dark and cold.  And now it’s daylight, and He knows how the day will end…

Matthew tells us that they “bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate”.  Our picture today is the flight of stairs that led from Caiaphas’ palace down into the heart of Jerusalem.  These stairs were found over 100 years ago and have led to the discovery of many more artifacts that prove the location of the palace.  These stairs are one of the 3 sites in Jerusalem that we know, with Biblical support, Jesus walked on.

Jesus walked down those steps knowing full well that they were necessary steps toward the very reason he had come to dwell with us.  The certainly were steps that held sorrow at leaving his friends, but (and this is just me pondering) steps that knew the grand event that was on its way in just 3 short days.

There is so much more of the story to get through before we get to the beautiful ending, but what if those stairs became a symbol of the life that follows Jesus?  We know that there will be hard things ahead of us.  Trials and accusations, goodbyes that are harder than we can imagine.  But as we walk the road to our final destination, we also know of the triumph that is promised us when our time here is finished.

We will have steps that feel insurmountable at times and easy to skip along at others.  All the same, they are our steps to take.  So today, as you go through the routines of the day, ask that God will let you never lose sight of the win we, as Jesus followers, are promised.  Especially on the very hard days.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Didn’t I see you? – Lent Day 33

John 18:15-27  “One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?”27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.”

Built on the grounds that we now know was Caiaphas’ palace is the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (from the Latin “where the rooster has crowed”) has had a church there since the 400’s.  What stands now was built in the 1920’s and fully restored in 1997.  Symbolism is plentiful in the design of this church; the rooster on the roof, the relief door with the trial scene, Peter after his denials in mosaic, all masterfully crafted to remind us of the events in this significant place in Jerusalem.

Peter, the quick to respond with enthusiasm disciple, declared that Jesus was the Messiah.  He’s walked on with water with his Lord and has learned at Jesus’ feet for 3 years.  At the Passover meal just earlier in the evening where today’s events occurred, he has emphatically restated his commitment to following Jesus.  Jesus himself knew of what was to come.  Brought before the High Priest, Jesus begins his trial and final moments to The Cross.  There is a crowd gathered in the palace grounds, and someone recognized Peter.  When he denied even knowing Jesus for the third time, the rooster crowed – just as Jesus had told him.  It must have been a crushing reminder for Peter, of just how imperfect he was.  He had been so certain of himself just short hours ago at dinner, and now…

We often write our own version of our narrative.  We justify behaviour, purposely convince ourselves that outcomes from our decisions were out of our control.  Making up time in slow traffic is the reason we got that ticket, not because we chose to drive outside the law.  Needing to work extra hours is the fault of all those interruptions, not because we got side-tracked with shinier attention-getters.  That friend we never hear from just dropped out of sight, as opposed to getting tired of never having their calls or texts returned.  You get the idea.  And then, as reality comes crashing in around us, well we crumble under the truth of our true nature.

Yet, at the same time Jesus gives steadfast testimony before his accusers and those who pursue him – ‘I am he’. Peter is on trial too, subject to minor interrogation from servants and others while he waits outside. But three times he denies who he is, a disciple of Jesus. Am I afraid, like Peter, or steadfast like Jesus?  

We are like Peter, and like Peter Jesus has big plans for us.  It was through the conversation on the beach after the resurrection that we see the depth of God’s forgiveness.  Even after denying Him, Jesus tells Peter to care for his followers.  There is nothing we can do that can remove us from God’s love.  He calls us to share the game-changing news of His death and resurrection and to help people come into right relationship with him – even when the pressure of knowing Him is harder than makes us comfortable.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Coming Forward – Lent Day 32

Matthew 26:57 – 66 “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.”

The Temple leadership and the Sanhedrin have had enough.  They have successfully had Jesus arrested, and have brought him to the home of the High Priest, Caiaphas to begin his trial.  They are angry and are willing to stop at anything to confirm the charges against him.  They have to get a conviction and so they even bring people to give false testimony.

Today, we have a picture of the relatively recently archaeological find of Caiaphas’ house.  Heading up the hill from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount we climb Mount Zion.  Most of the way up that hill, is the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (we’ll talk about that in a few days), and on the grounds of that church is this pictured archaeological site.  Caiaphas was the High Priest and certainly lived in this area, and other finds have confirmed that the high priests lived in luxurious housing. Set on the hillside, the view of the city would have been spectacular, as well as giving easy access to the Temple.  The ruins pictured here show large rooms, and outer walls showing spacious living.  There are also dungeons at the site that are likely where Jesus was held over night before heading into the city to appear before Pilate.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where someone is needing to fully discredit you – a work mate, a boss, a member of a club you’ve been in or someone at church – but it’s painful to go through the lies and dirt people will search for as they try to make their case.

Sadly, it’s human nature, but it’s awful to live through all the same. Once you’ve lived through something like that, you’d think that you would do everything in your power never to do the same to anyone.  But it’s so easy to fall in with crowd and join the accusers.

We’ve read Ken Gire before in this journey, and today I want us to pray part of his prayer written regarding this event in Jesus’ trial.  Taken from the book, “Moments With The Saviour”, make this your prayer – it’s certainly mine:

“Give me insight, I pray, into what went on in those chambers where Jesus was taken the night he was betrayed.  Those very religious chambers.  Where your Son was so shamelessly treated.

Who would have thought that there, in those sacred halls, lived such insecurity, such hostility, such treachery?  Who would have thought the opposition to the one you anointed would come from the very offices you ordained?  From priests and temple officials. Their Scriptures, their sacrifices, their holy days, their rituals, they all prepared the way for his coming.  How could such religious people, so steeped in the Scriptures, so trained in theology, how could they miss him?  How could they miss the truth when the truth stood right before them, staring them in the face?

And yet how many times have I failed to see the truth when it was standing right in front of me?  How many times have I failed to see the eyes of your Son in the eyes of (people around me)? Or failed to hear the voice of the Spirit in the pages of the Scripture?  How many times, Lord, have I been deaf to the sounds of heaven, blind to the sights of spiritual things, ignorant to what you are doing in me and around me?

Help me, God, never to sit in a judgment seat where the only purpose is the destruction of another person’s reputation.  Help me never to raise a question that is aimed at putting another human being on trial.  Or raise a hand that is aimed at hurting. Help me not to take the role of the high priest, thinking I have to question everything, judge everything, condemn everything that in some way is different from my way.  Help me not to take the role of the temple officials, thinking I have some office to defend or some person to protect.

Help me to remember that the people in that chamber read the same Scripture as Jesus did, believed the same theology, worshipped in the same temple, observed the same rituals.

Yet their hands were the first to strike him.

Grant that I would never have a hand in such a thing, never be a part of what took place in those chambers.  Those very religious chambers.  Where your Son was so shamelessly treated…”

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Out of the Mouths of Babes – Lent Day 31

Matthew 21:14-17 “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise.”

Today’s view is looking from the Garden at Gethsemane toward the Temple Mount and the Eastern, or Beautiful Gate.  You’ll notice that the gates in the wall have been bricked in to prevent anyone from entering the Mount.  This is the gate that the Jewish people believe their Messiah will enter to liberate Jerusalem, and as a way to prevent that the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman sealed it in the 16th century.  The Golden Dome is the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, now a Muslim holy site, built over the remains of the Temple.

It was through these gates that the Palm Sunday procession ended, it was here Jesus will have entered into the Temple. It was then that he cleared the temple for the second time, and then invited in the blind and the lame.  They were seen as non-desireables and kept out of the holy sites by the leadership.  Once again, the agitated Priests and teachers confronted Jesus.  

Part of their irritation was hearing the children singing “Hosanna to the Son of David”.  Children were non-persons, and the simple fact of their making any sound inside the Temple gates was deemed to be unacceptable.  But Jesus uses the words of the Scriptures the leadership will have known so well, “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise”, to once again rebuked them.” 

His answer to their complaint gives the reason why the children may rightly praise Him. He quotes Psalm 8:2, a passage in which the “mouth of babes and infants” establishes “strength.”  Can you just see body language of the Priests at this point, the irritation will have been palpable!

The correction holds a great reminder for us.  The children who were singing His praise would never have known who Jesus was without having heard and seen their parents praising him during the parade into town.  It’s the same for us today.

Children watch how we, especially their parents, respond to matters of faith.  They see your participation in worship – do you sing the worship music, and engage with the message?  As you do, so will they.  Do you make worship attendance, (virtual or in-person) a priority in your week or an after-thought?  You are setting their view of church for them.  Children learn by example.

This reminds me of a friend’s daughter.  I’m sure that as soon as she was able to talk, she knew she was a Maple Leafs’ fan.  Not because she did deep research into the quality of their playing, but because her father was (and still is) a HUGE fan.  Thankfully, her parents love Jesus more than their sports teams, and because of that example, she learned to love Him too.  Children’s praise is honest and wonderful to hear.  They don’t learn it in a vacuum though, faith is taught not caught.

If you have children in your life, let them hear your worship so that it might become theirs.  If you were a child with strong faith influences in your life – thank them for that legacy, and thank God for placing them in your way.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Short Lived Hosannas – Lent Day 30

Luke 19:28-47 “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.””

We’re heading into the final countdown to Good Friday and Resurrection Day, and although Palm Sunday is this weekend there are too many sights I wanted you to see between now and then.  Today we begin the sights and events of Jesus’ last week.

Starting at the edge of the Mount of Olives and ending at the Garden of Gethsemane across the Kidron Valley is the road in our picture.  It’s in much more manicured than the parade heading into the city would have encountered, but it’s an ancient travel way.   The route is just shy of 1km and descends 400m.  About ½ down the route, is the church in the middle of the first picture.  It is called the “Tear Drop Church”, as it was built to remember the moment Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The second picture is us heading down the route towards the Garden. (We were all quite spread out by this time.)

The tension between Jesus and his followers and the religious leaders is coming to a head.  After directing the disciples to go and find a colt of a donkey, he begins his triumphant ride into Jerusalem.  This fulfilled one of the Old Testament prophecies from Zechariah 9:9. As he heads into the city, the people begin to yell, “Hosanna” (Save us!), and the Pharisees tell him to quiet them.  Jesus rebukes them and says that if they do not proclaim it, even the rocks will cry out!  All of creation knows who He is, and this ride is the beginning of the hardest and best week in history.  The entire procession will have had an energy of celebration.  While it will have faded quickly, and the shouts of joy quickly turned to shouts of anger.  But on this day, Jesus knows most of Jerusalem missed the meaning of who he was.  He stops and weeps over the city, for he knows of its pending destruction by the Romans.  

Does our knowledge of who Jesus is make us so excited that we need to tell others? Or does it make the music of praise just bubble out of you?  If your answer is, “Yes”, don’t stop it.  If Jesus were to ride through your main street, would you be celebrating, or would He be weeping because your community missed the point?

I leave you today with this poem by Malcolm Guite:

Palm Sunday

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,

The seething holy city of my heart

The Saviour comes.  But will I welcome him?

Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;

They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,

And think the battle won.  Too soon they’ll find

The challenge, the reversal he is bringing

Changes their tune.  I know what lies behind

The surface flourish that so quickly fades;

Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,

The hardness of the heart, its barricades,

And at the core, the dreadful emptiness

Of a perverted temple.  Jesus, come

Break my resistance and make me your home.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Watching for the Homeowner’s Return – Lent Day 29

Mark 13:33-37. “…Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

It’s quite a view as we look over the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  It’s hard to notice in the modern scene, but the lowest point of the picture is the Kidron Valley, and we are looking across at the Temple Mount. 

The Mount of Olives is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as the route between Jerusalem and Bethany.  It would be the place where pilgrims would have had their first up-close view of the city.  This is where the Lord Jesus was greeted by the crowds on Palm Sunday and is probably where he wept over Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus is also said to have spent time on the mount, teaching and prophesying to his disciples, and also came here on the night of his betrayal: “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”.  At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies Gethsemane.  Acts 1:9-12 identifies the Mount of Olives as the site of Jesus’ ascension and the Angel’s words have suggested to some that this is where he will return, linking that day to the prophecy in Zechariah.

In our passage today, Jesus and his disciples have returned to the Mount of Olives from the Temple. As the group commented on the beauty and grandeur of the building, Jesus tells them  that the stones they were looking at will be not be left standing.  They are confused, and as they arrive back on the other side of the Kidron Valley, Jesus gives this explanation.

He tells them of the coming destruction of the temple, and of the end of times.  With all the promises of things to come, he tells the disciples that they must keep watch and be ready for the arrival of the “homeowner”.

Steven Curtis Chapman has a great song called “The Next Five Minutes”.  The lyrics are a great reminder of why need to lived in constant preparation for Jesus (our homeowner) to return and claim His own.  The first verse and chorus are(I’ve put the Youtube link at the end, take a listen today): 

I can reminisce about the already
I can worry and fret about the not yet;
But when it all comes down I know it really
Really all comes down to the right now
So right now

I’m living the next 5 minutes
Like these are my last 5 minutes
‘Cause I know the next 5 minutes
May be all I have
And after the next 5 minutes
Turn into the last 5 minutes
I’m taking the next 5 minutes
And starting all over again

People have been predicting the second coming, ever since Jesus returned to heaven.  1st century Christians quit their jobs to be ready and not miss his coming.  The Shakers slept fully clothed, and in bed that were so narrow in order to assure they were dressed and ready to rise should Jesus come while they were sleeping!  The Oil Crisis, The Gulf War and now this pandemic have all fuelled peoples belief that the end is imminent. We have a choice, we can panic and listen to all the untrustworthy, foreboding voices.  Or, we can trust that God has a plan and because we follow Jesus, we will be fine no matter what and/or when the end happens.

We don’t have to live a life in fear of the unknown or uncontrollable.  We are children of the Author of Time, and we are to always be ready for Jesus’ return.  May it be soon!!

(Have a listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMgFRTfeGYI)

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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On The Steps – Lent Day 28

Mark 11:15-18  “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”

The Temple, we’ve not actually been to the temple mount.  It’s a Mosque now, and not available to those who of a different faith – save a few hours each day.  But the Temple was HUGE and getting to the worship areas involved climbing many steps and going through many sections.  The section we are stopping at today is one of 3 areas of Jerusalem we know with certainty that Jesus walked there.  We’ll talk about the others before the end of this journey together.

It’s a treasured part of our time in Jerusalem.  To sit on the steps leading into the Temple, to spend time on the very stones that Jesus will have walked on to enter into worship. He may well have stopped on them and taught, and in our passage today, reclaimed sacred space for God’s purposes. The stairs are irregular, with both original and replaced stones, which forced the faithful to pay attention as they ascended the alternating wide and narrow steps. It also prevented a hurried approach to the Temple, which would be tempting with the thousands of people here. Just think of all the bustling social interactions, the throngs chatting, the buying and selling, and the meeting of family and friends. It would have been a major event. Such an uneven pace up these stairs hopefully forced time for personal reflection on the solemnity of approaching God and leaving the noisy crowd behind. This very spot was the main entrance for the common man to enter into the Temple.  There were 2 sets of gates at the entrance, both are still visible in the wall at the top of the steps.  While sealed with stones in the Arab/Crusader times, the outlines of the arches are still visible.

It was necessary for people coming to the Temple needed to have animals and birds for offering sacrifices.  Often, it was impractical for them to bring those offerings with them, making purchasing necessary.  So, those who sold them made purchasing easy.  Then, fully in human nature, some merchants chose to take advantage and created quite the inflated market with unfair prices and practices.  No doubt, their behaviour prevented some travellers and faithful worshippers from entering into The Temple.  That in turn will have prevented them from being able to come before God, for forgiveness or blessing.  That will have made Jesus the angry teacher we read of in this passage.  Mark notes that this behaviour caused the chief priests and teachers to fear him.  I wonder if it was because of the sharp conviction they felt at his correction and righteous anger.

The question must be asked, would Jesus need to cleanse our “temple steps” if he were to arrive at our churches today?  I fear the answer is a highly probable “yes”.  We place expectations and restrictions (no, I’m not talking about Health and Safety issues for the prevention of COVID!!) on people attending.  Do they dress and behave in suitable ways?  Do they know the right people, sit in the right spot, know our Scriptures well enough, etc?

It breaks my heart when I hear of someone who attended a church and was made to feel so unwelcome that they never went back.    I know of instances that have seen folks criticized for their attire, or hair, or behaviour of their children.  How often do heads turn if a baby makes a peep in the worship space?  These responses can prevent the subject from being in God’s presence and among God’s people.

May we who are the Body of Christ, be willing to welcome in whomever wishes to worship with us (when number restrictions allow us to do so).  May we not put blocks in their way, and may we not fear the teaching of God’s truth.  And may we ask forgiveness for the times when we have been like those Jesus challenged on the steps.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Health and Wellness – Lent Day 27

John 5: 1-9 “Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

It’s a most impressive place in the Old City.  The Church of St. Anne sits very near-by and it brings my spirit such joy to sing in its sanctuary.  But that’s not the focus of today.  Today, we are at the Pools of Bethesda.  The Gospel of John (5:2) describes the miracle that took place there, but for centuries, historians argued against its existence.

John described a pool in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate of the Temple, which was surrounded by five covered colonnades and which in Hebrew was called Bethzatha (or Bethesda) meaning “house of mercy”.  Until the nineteenth century AD, there was simply no evidence outside of John’s writing for the existence of this pool.  Because of this, many scholars argued that John’s Gospel was written by someone without first‑hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem (and therefore not the disciple John), and that the ‘pool’ had only a metaphorical, rather than historical, significance.  Then in the nineteenth century, archaeologists discovered the remains of a pool fitting the description in John’s Gospel.  Archaeologists discovered a large tank situated about 100 feet northwest of St. Anne’s Church, which they contended was the Pool of Bethesda.  Further archaeological excavation in the area, in 1964, discovered the remains of Byzantine and Crusader churches, Hadrian’s Temple of Asclepius and Serapis (gods of healing), the small healing pools of the Asclepieion, the other of the two large pools, and the dam between them over which the fifth portico ran.  This archaeological discovery proved beyond a doubt that the Biblical description was indeed the pool that had been uncovered, and that John truly had first-hand knowledge of the location.

People believed that there were angels that lived in the water, and if they could be the first to touch its waters each day, then they would be granted healing.  Our encounter begins as Jesus walks up to a man who had been unable to walk his entire life.  Every day, he had hoped that someone would assist him in getting to the waters first, so that he could be healed.  Every day though, he was disappointed again.  Surely, as Jesus struck up a conversation, he was sure of the inevitable outcome.  Instead, he is asked, “Do you want to get well?”

At first glance, Jesus’ declaration of healing is simple and straightforward, but really read it again.  There are 3 commands here, and they completely changed the man’s life.  “Stand up.” Jesus is telling him to rise, and take his place among others, for people who couldn’t stand were held in the lowest regard.  “Take your mat”.  Pick up and remove that which was giving you your label as unworthy.  “Walk”.  Be active again, in your interactions with people and in your everyday life.  You and I may not be spending our days on a mat beside and ancient pool, but we may well be longing for healing.  Jesus still asks us, “Do you want to get well?”  Some may honestly say “No”.  It’s hard to break out of our wounded routine.  The coat of pity and self-depreciation is easier to wear than seeing the full person God created us to be.  When we are fully healed, our job is before us, and it begins with the same 3 commands: stand up; take your mat; and walk.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Here’s Mud in Your Eye – Lent Day 26

John 9:1-38 “Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him.”

Today, we’ve left the quiet landscapes of the Galilee, where so much of Jesus’ ministry happened, and we turn our sight to Jerusalem.  The city we see today is complex, an overwhelming mix of ancient (2000+ years), old (1000-500 years) and new.  Coming into the city, you truly notice that you are ascending quite a hill.  The Temple was built on the peak of the city, visible from great distances.

From now until Easter, we’ll spend our days at the points of ministry around the city talking about what those sights have to say to us even today.  Our first stop is at the Pool of Siloam, in the oldest inhabited section of the city.   The Pool was built by King Hezekiah about 700 years before today’s encounter with Jesus, to collect runoff from his tunnel.  The Pool in our picture is what has been excavated. It was expanded by King Herod to be a much grander site than what Hezekiah knew.  It is the pool that Jesus sent the healed blind man to wash in.  Roughly the size of a community pool and paved with Jerusalem limestone.

This same pool was a very important part of the cleansing ritual during the feast of the Tabernacles.  Priests would draw water from here, carry it up to the Temple and pour it around the altar.  They would then remind the congregation that in Zechariah, it is promised that living water would flow from Jerusalem.  They couldn’t imagine just how true this prophecy was!  It was during this ritual that Jesus spoke up and declare that, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38).  Living water comes from a constant, replenishing source.  It was from this living source that the man found himself healed.

The blind man’s healing happened in a couple of ways.  His sight, obviously, but he also received the courage to publicly tell people what Jesus had done for him.  This man had been judged and shunned by people his whole life, and now he is able to declare that “I am the man!”  The passage tells us that the Pharisees argue that Jesus was breaking the law by healing on the Sabbath, and the man declares that Jesus is a prophet.  When, finally, the healed man is driven out of the Temple, Jesus goes to find him.  After an exchange, the man says to Jesus, “Lord, I believe.”  Now, not only does he see with clear eyes, but eyes of faith as well.

What has God cleared from your eyes?  What has he healed that has given you the courage to tell others of His work in you?  I have heard the stories of people who have had unexplainable healings, physically and mentally.  It’s astonishing, and incredibly encouraging to those who have also heard the account.

Perhaps today, God has planned for you to encounter someone who needs to hear your story of what He has done in your life.  Tell it with joy and be sure to give thanks to the Great Healer and Provider. 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rock and a Hard Place – Lent Day 24

Matt 16:17 – 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. “

Here we are, still at Ceasarea Phillipi, and Peter answered that most important question of who he says Jesus is – the Son of the living God.  The setting was full of statues of Greek gods; Pan, Echo, Hermes, and the worshippers were there to have their desires granted.  Part of that ritual was to offer a sacrifice in that rather large cave in the rock.

It’s not visible in the pictures, but inside that cave it’s quite dark (duh, that’s what caves are).  In the center is a large stone table, and the cave was often filled with water.  The pagans of the day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.

To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld – “The Gates of Hell”.  In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.

Jesus, after Peter’s answer and declaration of who Jesus is uses the setting to deliver this powerful object lesson and affirmation.    “I tell you that you are Peter, (means “rock”) that on THIS rock I will build my church (as opposed to the rockface behind them, used to build the temple and niches) and not even the Gates of Hell (that cave of unspeakable things and home to ungodly creatures) will not overcome it.”

This statement of Jesus was one of fact.  Even though he knew what Peter would do that Thursday night in Jerusalem.  Peter, the rock, was given the keys to the Kingdom and from his ministry in the days after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Church of Christ still stands.  

You and I are still invited to be a part of this Body on earth.  Satan and his minions work pretty hard every day to wipe us out.  To discourage us, to tickle our ears with engaging but false teaching.  C.S. Lewis wrote a wonderful book that was true when it was first published, and sadly is still pretty accurate today.  The Screwtape Letters is a series of conversations between the powers of senior demon Screwtape to his nephew demon, Wormwood as they plot the demise of “The Patient”.  The tactics shared are still in use today.

The Gates of Hell aren’t just a cave in Israel, they are any way we allow Satan to bite away at our foundation of faith – personally or in the Church.  The promise has remined true for 2000 years, and no matter what happens in our flawed, human congregations, the Church of Christ will always be the Church of Christ, in spite of us.  Its foundation is solid, and nothing will stand against it.    

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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An Important Question – Lent Day 23

Matt 16:13-16. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Saturday’s reflection left us at the foot of Mt. Hermon, at the headwaters of the Jordan River.  As you approach this site, you find the rock face with the niches for ancient Greek gods, and the ruins of a huge Hellenistic temple.  It is said that the temple would see over 100,000 visitors a year.  It’s quite a site, and it the place where my biggest “aha” moment happened the first time we completed a pilgrimage.  Its contemporary name is Banias, but in the first century was known as Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus and his disciples have made their way north, and they enter this area of pagan worship.  There were statues to Pan, the god of fright (thus our word “pan”ic, “pan”demic, etc) to Echo, Pan’s consort and Hermes, Pan’s father.  The temple itself was built by Herod to worship Ceaser.  Of course, other than Ceaser at the time none of the gods were living beings.  And Jesus, wanting to teach the ultimate object lesson (we’ll finish that tomorrow) asks his disciples a question.

He turns to them, in this very grand setting, and asks, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  They reply with the things they have heard in the last 3 years – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.  And finally, the question that is still needing to be answered today, “Who do you say I am”?

Peter, of course, is the first to answer.  He says, “You are the Son of the LIVING God”.  Jesus makes the most wonderful response, but that will wait for tomorrow…. Remember, they are standing among these statues of non-living, false gods and Peter, dear Peter, states the truth that all Jesus’ followers must realize for themselves.  Jesus is the Son of the LIVING God, the God who still moves, who did, is and will still live among His people.

There are so many things that call for us to give our lives to, aren’t there?  Fame, more money, control, corporate climbing, family, etc.  The list seems endless, and although we haven’t built temples to all of them, they certainly act as gods in our lives.  A god is anything that takes our devotion away from the God who created everything in the first place.

Jesus came to earth to show us how to be in right relationship with God, the Father. Then, he remained faithful to that mission by giving Himself to die in our place as the ultimate payment for our disobedience.  This payment secured the way for us to re-establish the connection with God. This relationship requires us to answer the question, still today.

Who do you say that Jesus is?  Your eternity is in your answer.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Clouds and Sunshine – Lent Day 21

Mark 16:6-7   “Don’t be alarmed,” he (the Angel) said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

It was a pretty dreary day while we were at The Primacy of St. Peter.  We heard the account of the breakfast and Peter’s restoration with our umbrellas up and hoods pulled tight.  But the shells on the beach were plentiful and some folks went beachcombing for keepsakes, while others were in prayer and reflection in this place of forgiveness.  Just before we left, we had this glorious parting of the clouds and these streams of sunlight broke through.  Just one more stunning moment of God’s reminders of His grace and presence.

We’ve read the fulfillment of this directive the past few days.  The women have come to the tomb, and finding it empty, they instead see a “man” in the space where Jesus had been laid.  This man, we are told, is an angel. He tells them to not be afraid, and that He is risen!  Then, this directive that is easy to gloss over, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…”.  He goes on to say that Jesus will meet them in Galilee.  Where was that breakfast and restoring conversation?  In the Galilee and it was Peter who was the person Jesus sought to speak to most specifically.

I have to admit – preparing this is the first time I’ve noticed how the account in Mark connects to the account in John.  These 2 men who related the truths of Jesus ministry won’t have written their accounts at the same time.  Mark was very likely the man we see named in Acts and may have been a Greek interpreter for Peter during his ministry there.  John was most certainly the “loved Disciple.”  But between them, they tell the before and after of Jesus’ appearance on the beach.

I want to camp with that phrase, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…” for a minute.  The weight of his words on the night of Jesus trial will have haunted Peter.  So proud to pronounce who Jesus was, and so quick to denounce him when it wasn’t safe.  I imagine he was so ashamed of himself. Wouldn’t you be?   And now the Messenger in the empty tomb tells the women who had come to tend to the body of Jesus to go share the news.  He even stresses to tell Peter.  

A sign of things to come.  God’s message of the joy of the resurrection was to be shared with the disciples, and especially the one who had broken their relationship.  Peter’s dark clouds will have surely parted as he was singled out in receiving the news.

We’ve just passed 1 year with this pandemic.  1 year of being away from family, friends, routines.  Days have been challenging, moods have been up and down.  God still has messages for us in those dark days. They may come in a text, or a phone call or even an unexpected gift at your front step.  Watch and listen and wait for the clouds to part and the sun to shine.  His love will be loud and clear.  

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2021 in Family ideas

 

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Do You Love Me? – Lent Day 20

John 21:15-17 NLT. “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

It was a rainy morning while we were at the Primacy of Peter. Not a drenching rain, but enough that I was happy to step into a sheltered area, while my fellow pilgrims were still on the beach. What I wasn’t expecting to find was this scene. Not only was it a refuge, but it was a beautiful reminder of grace. I wasn’t even aware that it was there, and it became my very favourite moment of that trip. 



I imagine that the conversation was unexpected for Peter, too. The memory of his triple denial of knowing Jesus will have been still fresh in his mind, and now here they are on the beach. His risen Lord has cooked breakfast for them.  He could have been doing much more important things, but Jesus chose time with friends over grand appearance.  Because he was so much like us – Peter must have felt awkward and desperately trying to find the right way to apologize for what had happened the night of Jesus’ trial. Instead, John shares this exchange with us. Jesus asks Peter 3 times (one for every time he denied him) if he loves him, Jesus gives Peter the job of feeding His sheep.

Imagine! You’ve damaged a close relationship to the point that you repeatedly refuse to acknowledge that you even know them, and that very person tells you to take care of the people they love most. That is truly unmerited grace. Jesus restores Peter and gives him his job description.  Not just that, but He entrusts his beloved followers (you and me) to Peter’s care.

God’s offer of grace and restoration to us is often unexpected and becomes a moment of refuge. Our history of breaking relationship with Him seems beyond repair. But there is nothing we can do that can outweigh the love God has for us. The Cross and resurrection made it possible for the break to be healed – completely. We just have to willing to see the offer, and step into its refuge.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2021 in church life

 

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Blessings and a Beach Breakfast – Lent Day 19

Luke 21:1-14 – 13“Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”

While not in chronological order, today’s locale in the Galilee is an important one, although the events happen after the Resurrection of Jesus.  Some of the disciples have left Jerusalem and returned to the life they knew before their time with Jesus.  Peter, the one who had denied him, was among them.  (Spoiler alert, he’s pretty important in the rest of our weeks reflections).  

So, they are out fishing and having a frustrating time.  We are told that they fished all night and caught nothing, and now there’s a man standing on the beach.  Can’t you just feel their frustrations mount knowing they are being watched, not yet realizing who it is.

We don’t know for sure which part of the shoreline this encounter took place on, but the beach near the Primacy of Peter is a very well- educated guess.  It is not far from Peter’s hometown, but it wasn’t part of a settlement, so it will have been quiet.  If they returned to their livelihoods, these fishermen turned fisher of men will have returned to their families too.  

We have a painting of this biblical scene that hangs in our living room.  It was created by a dear friend and is a piece I am honoured to look at every day.  It is mostly a picture of the view from this very beach, but if you look closely enough, 3 fishermen are approaching a figure standing near a fire.  What I love most, aside from the friend who gave it to us, is that at first glance you miss the most important part of the picture.  It is only when you lean in and stand in its presence that you see all that is there.

Back to our frustrated disciples, Peter is not succeeding at a task he had done well before.  He is at a loss.  He’s been through the events in Jerusalem and sees no future now that he is not travelling with Jesus, especially since he proclaimed he didn’t even know the man.  But, when he hears instructions to fish on the other side, they do.  Even in their astonishment, it takes John realizing it’s Jesus before Peter catches on to what is happening.

Perhaps that’s been your experience.  Something completely unexpected blesses you beyond anything you can imagine, and it take someone else to point out that it was God’s hand that brought it to you.  

The best part of this story is about to come – stay tuned.  But Jesus – the resurrected Son of God – is here on the beach, and he’s cooking!  He’s come to find the ones he loved and want to spend time with them.  It surely must have been a hint for Peter of what was coming.  After all, sitting at table with someone you are angry with is not a comfortable experience.  

Jesus wants you – and that includes spending time away from the crowds.  Find some time to be in quiet fellowship with him.  Let his words feed you and his blessings surprise you.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2021 in church life

 

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Go Home – Lent Day 16

Mark 5: 1-20  “Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

Have you ever taken a trip (well not in the last year!!) that you never wanted to end?  To have had such a life changing experience that you could see yourself always being a part of that experience?  We’ve had a few, although honestly, when we travel, we’re both done and ready for home after about 10 days.  We once took a trip to the States, and even with 5 days left of our vacation, we drove straight through from Nashville to home – just to be home.  But, put us in the Rockies or me in Israel – it’s much harder to leave.

Our trip around the Galilee has us at the north end of the lake today.  If you draw an imaginary line through the lake – the east is where some of the 10 communities of the Decapolis were in Jesus’ time, and was populated by Gentiles.  The miracle of healing took place in the community of Kursi.

Our account today records an encounter with a man who under the possession of demons, and because he refers to himself as “Legion”, we know that there were many demons to be dealt with.  Jesus drives them out and has them settle in a herd of pigs (that’s how we know it was the Gentile area of Galilee). Those pigs then run off a cliff and drown in the waters of the lake.

At the excavations of Kursi,  the ruins of the 5th Century Byzantine monastery were first unearthed by road construction crews.  The major excavation of the site took place between 1971 and 1974.  The monastery was surrounded by a stone wall, the entrance of which faced the Sea of Galilee and was guarded by a watchtower, with a paved road leading down to a harbour where boats could berth – the site of an ancient fishing village.  You can still see caves and a long cliff that fit the description of the situation in this Jesus encounter.

After the healing, the man wants to join Jesus and travel with him.  Jesus tells him to “Go Home” and “tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”  

“Mountain top” experiences are easy to stay in, but life happens in the valleys.  Mountain tops are beautiful and enticing, but valleys are real, and rough and sometimes, pretty dark.  But, when you’ve been taken to the mountain top and had your life changed, your job is to go back to the valley and tell people what God has done for you.

That can be scary, but no one but you can truly tell your story.  No one else has had your experience of God’s presence and work.  Let the memories of your “mountain top” keep you energized and be a reminder of God’s work in your life when times are hard.  But, let them be an encouragement to others so that they might seek their own “mountain”.  As God to show you just one person who need to hear your story this coming week, and when He does, “tell them how much the Lord has done for you”.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2021 in church life, family ministry

 

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Withered and Healed – Lent Day 13

Luke 6:6-11 “Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored.”

One of the most exciting finds at the excavation site in Magdala was found in the centre of the Synagogue floor.  It was the routine that they would roll open the scroll for the leaders to read and teach from on this stone.  It was similar to an altar, or to our modern Communion Table.  It was set aside for holy purposes, and that purpose was to hold the Torah Scroll for the community to learn from The Law given by God.  The stone is carved with religious symbols, with the most significant being a 7-armed Menorah.

Today’s passage again has Jesus teaching in a Galilean Synagogue.  Luke doesn’t tell us which one, but we know that the Pharisees were just waiting for a chance to catch him breaking one of their many, many laws.  In the congregation that day was a man with a withered hand.

In those days, any physical challenge was a matter of shame, so imagine the shock of the man being told to stand in front of all who were assembled.  As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus then asks which is unlawful – to do good evil or to save life or destroy it.  Their response is not noted, but Jesus goes on to do a miracle – right in front of his accusers.

The instruction is to stretch out his hand.  Jesus asks him to present to him the very thing that brings him shame, the thing that stands between the man and full fellowship in the congregation.  When the man does that – he is healed.

Notice this very important detail and know that the same is true today.  Jesus did not ask the man to present that which was not shriveled.  The instruction was to present that which needed healing.  The part of him that he will have kept hidden but was in need of redeeming.  He still does that for us.  God wants all of us, but his most beautiful work is done when He heals that which we would rather hide, or that which others have taught us to be ashamed of.

Offer Him your withered heart, spirit, emotions, choices, etc. – and see just how fully He restores them and makes them healthy and whole.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2021 in church life

 

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Because They Asked – Lent Day 9

Mark 1:29-34 “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.  That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.  The whole town gathered at the door,  and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

Yesterday, Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue in Capernaum, and Mark goes on to tell us that “as soon as” they left, they went to Simon’s (Peter) house. Our picture today, shows just how accurate that statement is. We took this picture on the steps of the Synagogue and our view is of Peter’s home – there is much archeological evidence that this was a home, then an early house church, as Peter described himself, and by the middle of the first century it was a larger site for worship. In the oldest part of the find, they found inscriptions of prayers on the walls that included that names of Peter and Jesus.

The very strange building above the stone ruins, is the church for public use today. The floor is glass and it allows pilgrims to view the house below, and protects it at the same time.

It had been a big day, Jesus had been teaching and wound up driving a demon from a man. Either of those activities as tiring, and when they happened one right after the other, Jesus likely just needed a good meal and rest. Heading to Peter’s house, he will have been hopeful for both. These were his people, and it was a place of comfort. Mark makes the point that those gathered told Jesus about the health of Peter’s mother-in-law.

Because he was God Himself, I imagine Jesus already knew how sick she was. But, it was after his hosts told him of the sickness that he went in, took her hand and she was healed.

There is much that could be said about this passage: how Peter’s mother-in-law got up and served everyone; how Jesus kept the demons he exorcised silent. But what jumps out for me in this passage is this – the family asked Jesus for help in their concern. They didn’t assume he knew, they didn’t apologize for bothering him. No, they told Jesus of their need and his response was clear and exacting.

Do you wait for God to respond to a need without ever talking to Him about it? Be certain of this, He already knows, but when we communicate our need we are ready for Him to act. When we trust that an answer is forthcoming, (it may not be the one we are wanting, but it will always be the answer we need), it continues to build our relationship with Him.

There’s a great old hymn that reminds us to “Take it to the Lord in Prayer”. There is truth to be cherished in the stanza,

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”

Talk with him about your concerns and triumphs today – He’s always ready for a chat, after all, you are his favourite!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2021 in church life

 

Hear the Widsom – Lent Day 8

Luke 4: 31-37 “Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.”

There’s just something about coming into Capernaum. So much of Jesus time was spent here, and it was in the Synagogue that we first read of his public ministry here. It’s fitting, that in his new adopted home, Jesus would first be about his Father’s business. Today’s pictures are the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum. You’ll notice 2 colours of stone in the walls. The upper white stones are Roman era, but the dark stones – they are basalt and are certainly from the time of Jesus. Additional archaeological finds show ruins of stones that would have topped the pillars around the building. The carvings on them indicate that this structure was indeed the centre of worship and business in the village.

To stand in a place where Scripture tells us that Jesus taught, and to have archeological evidence to confirm that this is indeed the place, “Right Here!!” is overwhelming. It was appropriate to read some of his teachings while we were there. It was Jeff’s joy to be able to share some of Jesus’ words with us in that spot the day we were there.

People marvelled at Jesus teaching, and found that his words has authority and wisdom. In the remainder of the this passage, they have the front row seats to seeing just how much authority his words held. Jesus commands a demon to leave a man. Even that demon knows who Jesus is, and request that he leave them alone!

How easy it is, with our digital Bible apps, multiple translations of Scripture, television preachers, etc., to forget the awesomeness of what God has chosen to say to us. It’s a little like living near Niagara Falls, you forget how incredible it is until you take someone there for the first time.

Today, let yourself be amazed by Jesus’ teaching. Let those words jolt you from the dullness and be awestruck again. The people of that time were astonished and surprised, because His teachings stood in stark contrast to not only the demonic spirits but to the established teachers. He still does that, we only need to be open to hear the words.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2021 in church life

 

What’s That You Say? – Lent Day 6

Luke 4:24-30. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”

When the time of temptation was completed, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, filled with the Holy Spirit.  He had begun his time of ministry, and in this full passage, he went into to the synagogue and began to teach, and his new reputation preceded him.  To say those who had watched him grow up were unimpressed would be an understatement.  Especially as he read a passage from the Scroll, and then pronounced that “today the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.  Imagine!  

The crowd was so angered by his pronouncement that they forced him to the edge of a cliff just at the edge of town, with the plans to throw him off it.  We don’t have the reason given to us, but he managed to just walk away from them.  This is the view from that cliff:

The people in Jesus’ hometown thought they knew him so well that there was nothing new he had to say to them. When Jesus first proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom to his own townspeople at Nazareth, he was met with angry incredulity. Their very familiarity with him blinded them to his colossal mission. Many of us have been familiar with the words of Jesus from childhood. We have heard the narratives, the sermons, the parables so often that it is difficult to imagine it the way the author of Hebrews describes it, ‘The word of God is living and active’.

God can speak to us in the most unexpected way and through the most unexpected people and means.  If we are so fixed in our own conclusions, like those in the Synagogue that day, we leave no room for Him to work in new ways.  Pray that you will experience His Word afresh in this Season of Lent. Spend time reading from a translation you understand, (if you don’t have one, message us and we’ll see that we get you a contemporary Bible) and read with the expectation that God will speak to you.  He won’t disappoint, surprise and challenge maybe, but never disappoint.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2021 in church life

 

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Let Me Introduce You – Lent Day 4

Mark 1: 9-11 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

This morning, I want you to recall a few things. Imagine taking a bite of a fresh apple. Can you hear the crunch, and taste the tart and sweetness on your tongue? Next, picture a grape. Can you feel the juice rush as you bite down on it? Now, picture the smell and taste of a pomello. How your mouth reacts with the first bite, how much work it took to prepare it for eating. You likely can’t do this, because you’ve never been introduced to the fruit. (It’s a like a very large grapefruit, with an extremely thick skin, and a slightly sweet sectioned fruit).

Well, the main character in today’s account is a bit like picturing the eating of that fruit you’ve never tried. The Israelites knew that the Messiah was coming – eventually. But they had nothing to be able to picture what he would look like or where they would encounter him. Just as you need to be introduced to new foods to be able to know what to expect, Jesus had to be introduced to the people he had been sent to save.

Our picture today is roughly the spot where that Baptism occurred. We can’t know exactly, but we do know the area of the Jordan and we know how close it is to the Wilderness that Jesus would spend the next 40 days in, and it is here where we find the centuries old church and location that generations of piligrims have come to remember that event.

It’s not the cleanest of water – it travels from Mt. Hermon in the north down through fields and valleys and picks up who knows what on its way to the Dead Sea. That structure you see is on the Jordanian side, and it was only in 2012 that this site was reopened to the public again after years of unrest between the 2 nations.

It’s a powerful moment during a pilgrimage, and while I have not been in the water, I still marvel that this site is there. It was in this area that Elijah and Joshua split the waters, the power of God through Man. But it was in this area that God split the Heavens to show that Jesus was the power of God to Man.

Today, thank God for that moment and that person (or people) who introduced you to His Son. Then, ask Him to show you to whom you can do the same.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2021 in church life

 

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Growing in Stature and Wisdom Lent – Day 3

Matthew 2:21-23. “…and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

Today’s focus takes us back to just a few years after the Christmas account of Jesus’ birth. The little family left Bethlehem for Egypt to escape the madman, King Herod. And, after another dream telling him it was safe to go back, Joseph heads home for Israel. However, not back to Judea, because Herod’s son was now on the throne. So, it was back to Nazareth.

This is the community where Jesus grew up, learned his father trade and studied the Jewish scriptures. It was here that the Bible tells us that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”.

The picture today is from a wonderful Christian ministry in the very Muslim city of modern Nazareth. Nazareth Village is a bit like our Black Creek Pioneer Village. They have done some arecheological excavations, and found some first century buildings and pottery. From those findings, they have recreated what the community will have looked like when Jesus lived there as a boy. They have actors who take on the characters, including Joseph in his carpentry shop. People from around the world come here to volunteer their time. And their focus is to help people know about the culture Jesus lived in so that we can know him a little better.

I love visiting here. It’s a wonderful retreat from the busyness of Nazareth, which is visible just over the walls of the village. And when our time here is finished, the tour bus returns you to the filled streets and constant sound of honking horns.

Lent calls us out of the “hurry” of our lives, although this year it’s a little more of coming out of the “worry”, and into the quiet presence of God. We know the outside world is just outside the walls of our home, but we can need to refresh and focus on the Author of the Scriptures. He longs to show us His plans, and His heart. Quiet times with His Words will hep us continue to grow “in stature and wisdom”.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Your own Gilboa – Lent Day 2

1 Samuel 31:1-8. “When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.”

One more picture from Mt. Carmel, this time a better view of Mount Gilboa.

Yep, that’s the valley referred to in this passage. There are ancient ruins dotted along there, some found and some still to be discovered after these millennia. But Gilboa is an important reminder for us, as we prepare to head to the fertile Galilee tomorrow.

It was at Gilboa, where facing complete defeat, and certainly struck with fear, King Saul refused to have his life taken from him and he threw himself on his sword. (This where we get the phrase, “To fall on one’s sword”). The Israelite army fled from the Philistines and the entire nation left that region in order to avoid what that would mean for their lives. Not the kind of leader to hold up as a great example, is it?

For me, Gilboa is a reminder that our responses driven by fear, are typically for self-preservation. But in our response, do we take away the opportunity for God to do something spectacular with our circumstances? Sure, fear can be a life saving response and it’s good to pay attention to that. But when we fear change, or a decision that is out of our hands, do we choose to walk away or see if God’s best for us could be in the new direction? I strongly dislike change, but when I take a minute to step back to see the reasons behind it – it’s usually a good thing.

Your response to fear not only affects you personally, but those around you. Your family sees and responds right along with you, your co-workers and friends too. Never underestimate your circle of influence. We live in a season of fear, don’t we? We can choose how to respond to it – smartly or by retreating from everything.

If you don’t know the God who conquerors all fears, and in whom we draw our strength – ask Him to be just that today, and then let us know so we can be praying for you.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Ash Wednesday – Feb. 17/21

Today is the start of Lent. A time of reflection and preparation for the Main Event in the Christian Year – Easter. Lent is a period of 40 days, not including Sundays, for each Sunday is to be a little Easter!

This year, as I have in years past, I’ll be doing a daily reflection. Often it’s been on a prescribed set of readings, but this year we’re going to go on a bit of a journey together, no tickets or Covid tests required. Each day, we’ll see one of the sites connected to Jesus ministry. These are pictures taken during our own trips, and all have historic and Biblical significance. In most cases, there is also archeological evidence to support the Biblical account. So, come along with me, to walk the regions where Jesus and his disciples lived out the years and weeks and days leading up to the Cross and the Resurrection.

Today’s picture is taken from the roof of the Carmelite monastery at Mt. Carmel. I love to start our tours here because it sets the stage for all that we will see in the Galilee. Lying before us is the land of Israel’s history. So much of the Old and New testament happened on those plains before us.

Lying before us is the Jezreel Valley – where Elijah killed the prophets of Baal, the Tel that Deborah carried out her duties as a judge of Israel, Moung Gilboa where Saul was ultimately defeated, The Mediterranean shore, the ancient trade route that led to and from the Sea, and so much more.

As we begin this journey with our faces set towards the Cross and Empty Grave, it is good for us to stop and take stock of all that God as done for us. It’s been quite a year. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, lifestyles of travel and socializing and it’s been hard. But, there have been blessings too. Take some time today to think back on what the last 12 months have held. Lament those things you miss, and give thanks for those things that God as brought to you.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2021 in church life, Uncategorized

 

Stay – Anjuli Paschall

When this title was included in the Nuts About Books June offering, I mused “How appropriate”, and requested the opportunity to review it.

How wrong I was in my supposition, and I am so glad it was not at all what I was expecting. Anjuli Paschall writes about times of life what have been a challenge for her, and then turns those experiences into lessons and application for us all.

Life comes with hard times, and we spend energy trying to avoid it, or get out of the way of pain. Like an insight to her journal, the reader is invited to wait for God’s presence to be tangible in the midst of the brokenness, anger, shame, anxiety, etc. She beautifully reminds us that it is during those moments (days, weeks, years) when God comes the closest to us.

“Anxiety is the lighthouse in the storm leading me back to my tender need for God.” What a radically different and helpful way to put a positive turn on anxiety. When in the throws of it, it’s when I feel the very furthest from God’s care, yet this reminder has served to pull me back to Him. A reminder to be in His word, listening through prayer – sharing the yearnings of concern.

Each chapter is presented to the reader as an invitation: to remain present through awkward and upsetting things. Then, to wait and watch as God reaches to us in the mess. What a gift during these days of being forced to be still.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2020 in book reviews

 

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Set The Stars Alight – Amanda Dykes

Set the stars alight

It was the reading experience I had been waiting for this summer.  A campsite, the sound of waves on the beach, a fire and the newest offering from Amanda Dykes.  Perfection.  Why?  Let me tell you.

I became enchanted with Amanda’s writing when I read her first full-length novel last year.  “Whose Waves These Are” was such a captivating store, that it was a few weeks before I could pick up something else.  Well, she’s done it again.  This time she takes us to England in the search for the answer to a lost story.

A watchmaker’s daughter, Lucy Claremont learns to love stories and the mystery of the seas.  Her best friend, Dashel develops his exploration of the stars.  While time has led to the two drifting very far apart, their life’s works bring them back together again fur the ultimate treasure hunt.

Amanda takes us into this adventure, and capturing our imaginations as Dash shares the things the stars can help us know (historical facts and not astrology bumpf), combined with Lucy’s knowledge is historical events  we journey along with them as they seek the proof of a story her father told her from hundreds of years earlier.  Along the way, they see signs of the Creator who put all the elements into place.

This novel, while with a bit of a romance story, is an historical adventure.  It was one I was only too happy to accept the invitation to join.  I am excited to add this to our church library shelf, and to recommend to those who enjoy great fiction.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2020 in book reviews

 

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A Mosaic of Wings – Kimberly Duffy

 

a mosic of wings  Social Distancing and a warm summer Saturday were the perfect combination for this historical novel by Kimberly Duffy.

One of my favourite things is reading about places I’ve visited, recalling my time in the local area.  This offering is set between Ithica, NY – a place we’ve camped near on occasion, and India – a place I’ve only ever visited though others and their experiences.

Nora Shipley is a graduating student at Cornell, from the entomology program her deceased father taught in.  She is fascinated by bugs and the ways that they point to God’s marvellous creation.  She is torn between the opportunity for further study, saving a piece of her father’s legacy and an adventure of discovering in a vastly foreign land.

Set in 1885, she is truly not your typical young lady.  She’s not interested in being traditional in any way and she’s truly an independent spirit.  Through a series of events, she finds herself on the other side of the world, hoping for a special find that will aid in making her future plans come true.

Being a female scientist in this era is not easy and Kimberly paints this picture quite clearly for us.  We meet local people through Nora’s eyes, and see her deeply caring, Christian heart in how she interacts with them.

As I had hoped, this was a great read for an easy day.  Kimberly has given us a fine historical peek into late 19th century struggles for women to be accepted into non-traditional roles, and helps us to see the wonder in creation that is all around us.

I look forward to placing this into our church library. We will recommend it to those who enjoy romance, historical fiction and definitely as a starter novel for anyone venturing into Christian fiction, including our teen girls.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2020 in book reviews

 

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Living Lies – Natalie Walters

Lane Kent returns to her home town of Walton, Georgia. Fighting a dangerous depression after the death of her husband, she and her 5 year-old son hope to start a new life.

Out on a walk, she finds a highly disturbing find – a murder has occurred in this quiet town. And the discovery of the body gives a sizeable challenge to the new Deputy, and this all occurs on the first chapter!

Natalie Walters has given her readers an gripping mystery. I found myself not able to walk away from this read, until the last page was turned. She brings the audience into the lives of her characters, and fully into the mystery of the death that affects the whole town.

Lane’s father is less than supportive – unless it makes him look good in the press, and her mother is a willing participant in that behaviour. Her boss is a loving “grandma” who cares for the town through her cooking at the town cafe, where gossip and news get shared with equal zeal, right alongside of caring for others.

While both Lane and Charlie try to establish new normals in their lives, this murder is at the centre of everything. The novel is engaging, a mystery that holds on.

I would recommend this to a “new to Christian Fiction” reader, a John Grisham fan, and those who enjoy intrigue. Natalie is an author I’ve not read before, but be very sure – she’s one who’s work I will seek out again!

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2019 in book reviews

 

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Cost of Betrayal – Henderson, Pettrey and Eason

the cost of betrayal pictureI am a complete suspense fan – perfect reading for travels and time away. This offering for review as just that. 3 novellas in one edition, and a chance to “meet” 2 authors I’ve not read before.

The first story is by Dee Henderson, Known for her suspense filled series. “Betrayed” returns Paul and Ann Falcon to the reader. This time, they trip into the mystery of a murder, and the case the woman who’s been convicted of it – all because of an auction purchase. Ann thinks she’s picking up props for a new painting…

It was with this novella that I was reminded why I don’t often read this form of fiction. There just isn’t the space for the development and details that a full novel offers. Dee’s Known for her forensic details, and this presentation just doesn’t allow for it. Perhaps this is just the jumping point for a new trilogy?!

Dani Pettrey is an author I’ve not read before, but I know I’ll be picking up again. “Tenni” and her cousin, Julia have a tradition of racing each other to the buoy off the island as a way to end the season. But this time was different. When Tenni arrives at the marker, there is no sign of Julia, but there are signs that something terrible has happened to someone! A storm requires her return to safety, and the dark mystery begins to unfold. And how well this novella draws you in!

Lynette Eason’s contribution is the final section of the book, and “Code of Ethics” is the tale.  An officer is wounded on duty, and despite surviving the surgery – his life is in danger during recovery.  That threat comes because of retaliation of his having reporting a dirty fellow officer.  Lynette weaves this tale with great suspense and is yet another author to add to my list.

This book is a must for church libraries, as well as the readers who want to read the story quickly or for those who are fans of a well constructed suspense story.  Each author skillfully writes the characters faith into the plot line – without it feeling like an afterthought.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in book reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Little Women Movie – 2018 release

I’m always suspect when someone decides to remake a classic book into a movie or TV show.  So, it was with intrigue that I requested the link to review this movie that hits theaters Sept. 28th, and my screening was provided by Graf-Martin Communications and Pure Flix.  To them I say, “Thank you.”

Little women 2018

I think it must be my age, because the only actor I recognized was Lea Thompson as Marmee.  And because of that, I was able to watch the story unfold with basically no “history of roles” to cloud my viewing, or give in to expectations.

What a wonderful way to spend my afternoon off this week! I was completely enthralled, and had to get the tissues out more than once.  The story stays quite close to the book, but the updates for a 2018 audience are spot-on and quite clever.

The relationship between the girls and with Marmee is so special, it almost jumps off the screen.  And then throw Laurie into the mix, and well…it’s just as I pictured things in the book.  This movie has all the feels – and none of them are out-of-place to the situation.  It’s wholesome without being campy.  Proof that Hollywood can do quality family films, this is one I’ll likely invest in the DVD when it is offered.  I know I’ll want to see it again and again.

This is the 150th anniversary of the book, and with this wonderful version – a whole generation will discover this classic, and see just how timeless good writing and stories can be.  Fitting for the whole family, although rated PG-13 (not for language, but a few tense situations), I highly recommend an evening together enjoying this movie.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Paul: Apostle of Christ – a movie review

Paul movieThe latest faith-based movie has hit theatres.  Paul: Apostle of Christ starring Jim Caviezel, better know as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”.  As Executive Producer, he was able to bring this movie to life.  In a recent interview he said it was just something he had to bring to the screen.

The scene is Rome in AD67.  The situation for Christians is not good, in fact – we know that they are being used as candles for the Roman court – and Paul is in prison, nearing the end of his life.  Luke, the author of the 4th gospel, and the doctor among the disciples heads to the prison to write down Paul’s memories.  This account will become the book of Acts that we know today.

We see the compound where the Christians are living, and where Priscilla and Aquilla are living.  They are amazed at the gifts the other communities have been sending them.  One of my favourite lines to describe this was, ” even the Corinthians gave generously, if you can believe it!”.   One of the residents is a young boy Tarquin, and he offers himself to be a messenger between this community and some sympathetic Roman families who may be able to assist the Christians in leaving the city.

Luke is able to get someone to covertly get him into Paul’s cell, and he begins to record the accounts of Paul’s journeys.  I always find it fascinating to learn how the events in Acts connect to his letters, and this movie does that well.  For one not acquainted with the Pauline letters though, the skipping of the timeline would be confusing.  It’s impossible to present Paul’s writings in a chronological order when presenting them as memories.

I enjoyed this movie, although I found the settings dark in their lighting.  It would be better in a theatre setting I’m sure.  There were moments that tied themselves up just a little too neatly – but to delve deeper into these issues would have necessitate a much longer presentation.

Thank you to Graf Martin Communications and Sony Pictures for the opportunity to independently review this movie.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2018 in Uncategorized