Dropping the coffee cup got my attention. What happened next got my respect.
“She looks just like you!”
I said that to someone I had recently started working with, about her daughter. Then she told me their daughter was adopted.
My sister was adopted. It was public and well known. Most adoptions are not that way, but this was different.
- They adopted when I was 10, my brothers were 13 and 12.
- When you show up for church one Sunday with a baby, it gets noticed.
- Everyone knew my parents didn’t have a baby girl.
- And she didn’t resemble either parent.
- She was from Viet Nam.
No, she obviously didn’t favor either parent. But when she learned to talk, she talked like us. Her mannerisms reflected those of our family. She ate what we ate, did what we did, and went where we went. She was ours and we were hers. We belonged to each another. We were the same, we were family.
How That Happened?
Here are some things that made her one of us:
- She had our name.
- She had our values.
- She was believed as we believed.
- She was loved equally and in the same way as her brothers.
- She was a Fyffe, through and through.
A Spiritual Adoption
Paul wrote in Ephesians that God adopted us into his family, 1:5. That we are the Father’s workmanship, the result of his divine will, 2:10. That we were given his name, 3:14. And that we grow to become like him, 5:1-2.
We were created in the image of God, but that wasn’t about appearance. My sister didn’t look like my parents, but they were her parents, she was our sister, and we were one.
Our spiritual identity comes from God. We wear his name, reflect his values, and share his purpose. We became one with him.
It all came from him, it all points to him.
We look different, but we were adopted and fitted into God’s family. It’s not about who you look like, but who you belong to.
I said to my friend, “She looks just like you!” Spiritually, we all look like the Father.
Good morning and welcome to a new week and a fresh Monday morning. There are things to do, places to go, and kids to get to school. It’s a new week but I’m not sure I’m finished with last week.
Here are some things that were going on:
- Chemical storage tanks were on fire in the Houston Ship Channel and air quality warnings were issued for several communities.
“Oil byproducts from a damaged storage facility contaminated the Houston Ship Channel and created a cloud of cancer-causing benzene over the waterway, the latest mutation of one the worst Gulf Coast chemical disasters in more than a decade.”
2. Yesterday morning, Sunday, we all came in for church to find that the A/V system was down and was not going to be up. We used a portable sound system and sang from something called a song book. Wow, I’ve seen them in museums.
3. I got to take a friend to lunch, a precious 10 year old who I’ve known since she was a baby. I have a picture of her sitting in my lap in church when she was a year old. She is one of my favorites. We went to Outback Steak House and shared ribs, fries and a brownie covered in fudge and ice cream. I love kids.
4. I got to see a movie with one of my kids. He is 34 and we like going to movies together, always have. I’m never happier than when I’m doing something with one or both of my kids.
Last week was scary, dangerous, frustrating, sweet and fun. I’m guessing this week will have its own ups and downs, its own heart beat. There will be people to spend time with and the likelihood of something unforeseen, a surprise that may or may not be welcome.
However, I love life. I love my family and I love my church family. On this fresh Monday morning of a brand new week I am feeling especially blessed. God be with you!
Let me begin by saying that big things do indeed come in small packages.
I meet with a group of men every week. There are seven of them and they are high functioning, bright and motivated men. They are also strong believers. The goal of the group is encourage, instruct, and mentor them. I hold a strong belief that each will go on to serve our church with distinction. They already do. I’m just trying to encourage more.
Funny how often they end up encouraging and mentoring me.
Several years ago I was in Jerusalem, on a Holy Land tour, and our group stopped to shop at a store that sold hand-carved olive wood figures of Bible characters and motifs.
I saw one that I fell in love with, it was Jesus with an outreached arm grasping the hand of Simon Peter to lift him out of the water. He was in the water because he had taken his eyes off of Jesus and began sinking in the churching waves of the Sea of Galilee.
It resonated deeply because in many ways I am Simon Peter.
Because I, like Simon Peter, yearn to walk on the water with Christ. I start off with faith and good intentions but often falter through self-determination and self-dependency. What happens? I sink, every time.
The olive wood figure spoke to my soul, not only because I identify with Peter’s sinking, but because like Peter, Jesus always lifts me up, every time.
I didn’t buy the figure because it was way out of my price range, but I never forgot about it, and have spoken of it often. I’ve even “drooled’ over it on subsequent Holy Land trips, but again, its price was always over my head. (no pun intended)
Then yesterday a small package came to the church office. Inside was the very figure. Actually, I had held it again three weeks ago in the store in Jerusalem. Some friends who were with me on the tour gathered around to say that my men’s group had arranged for its purchase and delivery to Houston. They had even recorded a video message that I saw in the store on a cell phone.
I wept with tears of joy and overwhelming gratitude.
I’ll conclude with the beginning. Big things do come in small packages. You know what else comes in small packages? The bits and pieces of time, trust and fellowship that form great friendships with great friends.
It’s been one and a half weeks since returning from the Holy Land. My sleep seems to have readjusted. My daily routines have resumed and the bad cold I caught on the last day of the tour is almost gone!
BACK TO NORMAL?
What hasn’t returned to normal is the levels of enthusiasm and excitement regarding what I learned. This was my fourth trip to the Holy Land and yes I am still learning, still receiving new thoughts about God and his word, and it’s thrilling.
Thoughts About Meeting With God
- God calls me to the desert to meet with him.
- He always has a message I need.
- It may be personal or a new insight, or an assignment.
- It begins the moment I arrive and is completed by the time I leave.
- He calls me there to get my attention.
If you read your Bible you will find examples of people receiving messages from God while in the desert. There are many.
No, I didn’t go into the wilderness as Jesus did and certainly not for forty days. I didn’t go up on a desert mountain as Moses did. I didn’t spend time in the Arabian desert like Saul of Tarsus. Just the same, I was there, by His invitation, and he spoke to me.
Did I hear him audibly? Yes, but probably not in the way you think. I heard him through the teaching of our Jewish guide who is a strong believer, a Messianic Jew. I heard him through Moshi, a brilliant Orthodox Jew who is open to Christians and Christianity and had an understanding of the New Testament that was impressive. I heard his voice through Joseph, and Muslim who converted to Christianity through the example of his believing wife.
I heard his voice while walking in the Desert of Zin, a place the Israelites camped on their journey to Canaan. I heard him while on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I heard him while standing on the stone floor of the Capernaum synagogue where Jesus taught and healed. Frankly, I’ve been to those places, and many more, several times. But they never fail to connect with me.
I heard him through the voices, comments, and insights of those who joined me on the tour. I heard him while communing with them in the Garden Tomb. I hear him every day I am there.
No, I don’t think God speaks to me only when in Israel. But the Holy Land is like how one of my friends on the tour put it,”The Holy Land is like camp for kids. It’s where we slow down, disconnect from daily life, and finally listen to God.”
She was exactly right.
HOLY LAND TOUR-FINAL DAYI’ve not blogged as much as intended. Some of the lapse was the internet and some was me.
There’s been many powerful and overwhelming days, as if God himself invited me to meet with him in the desert so he could speak with me. He did and he has.
On this last day we will visit Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, then spend some in the Garden Tomb, have an early dinner and then go to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. It’s a light schedule but an emotionally heavy day. Glad to be going home. Sad to be leaving.
Visiting the Holy Land, and this is my 4th visit, you begin realizing that there is nothing divinely powerful in the ruins, the sites, or the ancient synagogues.
The power isn’t found in ancient stones of the past but in Jesus the living stone. The blessing we seek isn’t in the stories of great men and great events, but in the the sacred scriptures.The resurrected Messiah has power, the places and people of past events have none. But, they remind us of who does, and vividly.
I’ve walked where Jesus walked. Iv’e stood where Abraham lived. I’ve stepped through the ruins of King David’s Palace. I’ve sat in the temple courtyards where Jesus taught his disciples and healed and people.
It’s inspirational, and life affecting, to see it and imagine it happening. But there is not a single once of divine power in the ancient ruins, the Jordan River, or the Temple Mount. It’s all in Jesus and it all points to him.
Visiting the Holy Land is about understanding how the Kingdom of God, in one form or another, has always been here. It’s embracing that God has been with his people since time began, that he is with us still, and will continue to carry out his purpose for all time to come.
God isn’t finished with Israel, he is still here, still working, as he is everywhere and with everyone.
HOLY LAND TOUR
If you feel that you’ve missed some blogs you aren’t wrong. I’ve had internet issues and my blog has been wonky to say the least. However, here is something we learned a few days ago.
Some of you know this word and some of you have heard me speak about it in lessons. It’s a Hebrew word meaning to cleanse, or cleanse for ritual purification.
When visiting the ruins of ancient villages it becomes obvious that the Mikveh was an essential part of the home, an essential element of Jewish life. The Mikveh was a square or rectangle shaped hole in the ground that was lined with rock or stone and filled with enough water for an adult to submerge. Kind of like a bathtub, but not. .
The Mikveh was used for ceremonial cleansing and not for washing off dirt. In fact, next to the Mikveh was a clay jar with water used to clean the outer person so then the ceremonial waters could clean the inner person.
Cleansing of this nature was done for many reasons. It was used when you were defiled by touching a dead body or animal or when coming into contact with anything that defiled you. It was used at the Temple in Jerusalem, in fact there were hundreds of them, for no one could enter the Temple unless they were first ceremonially clean.
For Christians, the Mikveh is known by a different word: baptism. For us, full immersion in water is done in the name of Jesus, and signifies experiencing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It’s where the old is crucified and buried and the new is raised to live life in Jesus.
The word “baptism” doesn’t mean ceremonial cleansing, it can’t be defined that way. Baptism comes from a Greek word that was made into an English word and it means immersion. But translators didn’t want to translate it as immersion for fear of offending many denominational churches who sprinkle or use some other form of “baptism.”
We wouldn’t call John the Baptist, “ John the Sprinkler.” We wouldn’t teach that Jesus went to the Jordan River to be sprinkled by John.
Homes in first century Palestine were about community, it was where parents, grandparents, and grandchildren could dwell together in separate rooms but rooms and space that was all connected. But one of the most important things they all shared was the Mikveh. The ability to immerse themselves in the blessing of ceremonial cleansing, to be pure before YHWH. What a beautiful gift to families. What a lovely thought for us all. Thanks you God.
HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY FIVE
Yesterday was day five of our Holy Land tour. We spent our time viewing the excavations and ruins of some of Galilee’s villages and synagogues. It’s interesting how people who lived 2000 years ago aligns with how people are trying to live today.
It was a fishing village on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was home to several of the apostles. It was well know for it’s synagogue which was built with money donated from a Centurion.
– Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum to launch his ministry.
– He lived with Simon Peter and his family for about three years.
– Some of his greatest miracles were performed there.
– He taught, healed, and lived among the people, he was one of them.
Just a couple of miles from Capernaum was the village of Chorazin and its synagogue. Perhaps not as large a village or as grand a synagogue, but a village that offered a beautiful setting in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.
– Jesus performed many miracles in Chorazin.
– He became displeased with the community for their lack of faith.
– It was obvious that the village was constructed around family.
An interesting observation about the two villages, and others like them, was that their culture totally revolved around family.
– Every family had to make a living
– Few could afford to hire outside help
– They needed a growing work force
– That happened by having many children who married and had many children
– The sons brought their brides home to live with the family
– The daughters married and moved with their husbands to their families
– It was an agrarian culture and deeply dependent on family
An interesting aspect to that culture was how they all lived together. Today, because of prosperity and a different culture, our families separate and live elsewhere. Our children grow up and get married and move away, either near or far, but away from the parents.
Not so in first century Israel. They built their families with a “family dwelling” model. Mom and Dad had a house and as children came they added rooms. As children became men and married, they moved into added rooms that expanded the house with more walls and living space. Over time, the “house” became a community of family, perhaps 50-60 people living together. With such numbers were additional field hands, fishermen, and the workers they needed to expand their fields, reap a greater harvest and so forth.
In John 14 Jesus told his apostles that he was leaving to prepare a house, or mansion as some versions put it, and that he would return to take them to be with him.
We think of heaven as mansions on streets of gold. But what Jesus was saying was that he was leaving to go and build a room on his Father’s house for each of them. A place for everyone, a home for everyone to be together, to be a family.
Think about it. It’s the new way of old. We look forward to an eternal dwelling based on how people lived 2000 years ago!
HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY THREE
Yesterday was a great day. Our group is drawing closer to each other and bonding over the shared experience of the Holy Land. It’s been wonderful to see it happen.
Our second day took us to two places:
1. The Desert of Zin
2. The Fortress of Masada
At first glance the two have little in common, but not true, they share many similarities.
They both are:
1. In desert locations
2. Exist in mountain terrain
3. Centered around famous people
4. Significant to the biblical narrative
THE DESERT OF ZIN
There is in Zin a massive and mysterious canyon where Moses provided water for the people and their live stock. Provide water he did but the way he did it changed his life.
Moses had been distraught over the people. Their constant grumbling and desire to return to Egypt were demonstrations of a faithless and impatient spirit that was all to quick to give up. On that day, while they demonstrated their lack of trust Moses demonstrated his growing anger. He took the Staff of God and, in full view of the people, hit the rock twice which greatly displeased YWEH. Moses failed to demonstrate God as holy and as a consequence was forbidden from entering the Promise Land. It was a tough day for Moses.
THE FORTRESS OF MASADA
This incredible mountain escape was commissioned by Herod the Great who was a prolific builder of great structures and palace retreats. He was not the rightful heir of King David and he wasn’t even Jewish but of mixed ancestry. He used his political skill to curry favor from Rome and got himself declared King of Judea.
His great fear was that the Jews would revolt or that Rome would revoke his power. So, in case of the worst case scenario Herod would need somewhere to go. Masada was built just for that purpose. It was in the middle of nowhere, on top of mountain, out in the desert of Judea. It’s a magnificent and impressive place.
A FEW THOUGHTS
1. Moses was a great servant of God, Herod never served God.
2. Moses delivered his people from Egypt, Herod enslaved his people.
3. Moses wanted only to help them, Herod wanted only to rule them.
4. Moses worshipped the Lord God, while Herod worshipped himself.
Two mountain experiences, two impressive things to see. The Canyon of Zin was of God’s design with immense beauty and majesty. The fortress of Masada was of man’s design and revealed the empty heart of a wicked man.
Let us not be overly impressed by what men can achieve but amazed at what God has done and still does. What are we building? Our we seeking to glorify ourselves or are we seeking to glorify the Lord God? The Canyon Rock or the Fortress of Masada? Which are you pursing?
Shalom From the Holy Land
HOLY LAND TOUR: DAY ONE
Well, it’s Monday morning and I’m blogging not from my desk at home but from my room at the Leonardo Hotel in down town Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m here with a group from my church to see the Holy Land. We arrived last night in time to eat dinner and take a walk on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. It a was beautiful moonlit evening, cool and breezy.
In a few minutes we’ll have breakfast and then we’re off on the grand adventure, the first day of our tour. I’ve been here several times but it’s the first time for those in the group. I’m so excited to share it with them, to watch their eyes and to see their reactions to what they’re about to see.
MY FIRST TRIP
My first time here was a life changing experience. It deeply affected me: it reinvigorated my faith, put a zeal in my preaching and gave me a whole new enthusiasm for bible study.
As we worked our through the downtown traffic our guide, a good friend and fellow Yeshua believer, suggested that we are here because God wanted us to be here, that no place else could we expect to have the meeting with God that God wants to have with us.
Over the next two weeks my blog will offer a day by day travel-log with my observations and insights. This isn’t a vacation. It’s not a stroll down a historical memory lane. It’s an opportunity to meet God in the desert, to see him on the waters of the Sea of Galilee and to better imagine Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem as he was led to his death.
So, stay tuned and walk the holy land with me. It’s a beautiful thing.
HOLY LAND TOUR: DAY TWO
Monday was a full day of interesting sites and fascinating history. We completed Day One in fine fashion and all are healthy, happy, and hungry for more.
We spent some time in Joppa, the home of Simon the Tanner where Peter was staying when he received the vision about Jew/Gentile equality for the Gospel. That vision changed the course of Christianity, beginning with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. It was a good place to visit and was inspiring to be in the place God gave Peter such an important message!
THEN TO AYLON
In 1945 a group of college kids accepted a challenge that would put their lives at risk for three years. They were asked to build and operate a highly secret bullet factory, and do so while under cover of an operating kibbutz. The factory used 47 workers, working 10 hours a day, six days a week, in an underground factory roughly the size of a tennis court. They made 9mm bullets for a machine guns their brothers used to fight for independence. In three years they manufactured 2.25 million bullets, averaging 14,000 a day. They were never detected.
It’s an amazing story and some of those amazing young people are still alive and living in Israel. They are now in their 90’s and occasionally visit the museum that was once their top secret underground factory.
ON TO TEL BEER SHEVA
We next visited the ruins of an ancient village some 4000 years old, a place dating beyond Abraham and Isaac who both had wells dug there. It was an impressive place, especially the underground caverns and cisterns for storing water. It was a remarkable demonstration of building techniques and construction beyond what most of us would have thought even possible. It was life in an ancient time
Seeing the Holy Land puts much in perspective. It was home to many of the Bible characters that we learned about as children. They were real people, with families, and lived their lives as best they could, serving the Lord by carrying out his will.
Our lives are different from those who lived here thousands of years a go. On the other hand, perhaps not all that different. We pursue the living of our lives, the raising of families, the advancement of our careers, and we mow the yard and clean the gutters.
Simon Peter, Cornelius, Abraham and Isaac, they all lived as best they could and strove to serve God as best they could. And those young people who sacrificed so much and worked so hard in the underground factory, well, they lived as best they could too. In any age, God is.
Praise be to God. Shalom
Yesterday, the Southeast Church added 4 additional elders, bringing the total to 18.
The purpose for more elders is to have more shepherds to care for a flock of 1,100 sheep. Does it seem like 18 will be enough?
The service was beautiful. Prayers were led for the new elders and their spouses and families. Each new elder received a shepherd’s staff and a servant’s towel. Two reminders that they have been called to serve the needs of the flock.
Throughout the morning, as we appointed the new shepherds in both services, I was approached by people, one at a time, asking for prayers.
- The First Request: a member told me she is taking in a family in need who will live in her home for some time. The request was that God’s peace, calm and understanding would fill their hearts in the days and months to come.
- The Second Request: a member came asking prayers for another family who is experiencing some difficult challenges. Their situation is known to me, I’m aware of what is happening. It’s hard and sad and needs prayer.
- The Third Request: a member shared that her spouse has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable disorder causing severe pain that will never go away.
The prayer was written on a folded piece of paper and the request was that I place it in the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall of the Temple. She knew I was leaving for the Holy Land this week.
I have stood and prayed there on several occasions. It’s a humbling place to pray, and if our feelings and emotions matter to God, and they do, then our Lord gives much attention to the prayers rising from the Wailing Wall.
I will place her prayer between two of the ancient limestone blocks along with thousands of others. We both know her prayer isn’t any more powerful in Jerusalem than it is in Houston. But I understand why she asked. I’ve left a few prayers of my own in that wall.
On a day when big things were happening, a day of anointing new elders, a day that made our church stronger, there were also small things happening, things that went unnoticed, things very private.
However, I suppose in the Kingdom of God, there really aren’t any small things.