A Couple of Cool Mountains

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.

TO CLOSE

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

A Walk On the Beach

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.

LAST NIGHT 

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.

COMING UP

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.

TO CLOSE

So, stay tuned and walk the holy land with me. It’s a beautiful thing.

SHALOM

14,000 and Couting!

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.

SIMON PETER

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

IN CLOSING

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

The Little Big Things

BIG THINGS

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.

SMALL THINGS

Throughout the morning, as we appointed the new shepherds in both services, I was approached by people, one at a time, asking for prayers.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

Jerusalem's Wailing wall

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. 

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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.

Western-wall-prayer

TO CLOSE

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. 

Shalom

A Perfect Day?

A quote that I’ll use out of context:

“We aren’t here to make things perfect.

The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect.

Not us.”

snowflake
Snowflakes are perfect

That means God is perfect since he designed the perfect stars and snowflakes. I’m not perfect, nobody I know is perfect and there isn’t anyone who to know who would be perfect if I knew them. Perfection isn’t our thing.

But every now and then we get close, we touch the hem of the garment, scratch the surface and catch a glimpse of perfect.

Such was Sunday morning. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

A new birth happened. At the start of 2nd service I baptized a man who was as excited, grateful, and humble as anyone I’ve ever immersed into Jesus. He came up from the water, raised his arms in victory and shouted enthusiastically. It was a great moment for the Kingdom of God and a wonderful start to our service. Wow!

Man-at-cross
There is such victory in Jesus, such hope through calvary.

Later, I had the honor of leading a Baby Blessing for a young family and their newest addition, an infant son.They came with their family and grandparents and our shepherds surrounded them for a prayer of thanksgiving and affirmation. We prayed he would be raised in the love and will of God and that their home would always be a haven of the Holy Spirit. It moved me deeply. 

Then I introduced the Development Director of Hope For Haiti’s Children who was there to support the sponsorship drive. He built us up with words of appreciation for helping the Cite Soleil school over the past 12 years. He was so encouraging!

Then I got to share some of my Haiti experiences and the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of many. When the day started we were sponsoring 232 kids in the Cite Soleil school and by the close of 2nd service sponsorship swelled to 301, an increase of 69, and many left their names to sponsor children when they are available. There was so much love and compassion and such a desire to serve the least of His flock.

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Such a beautiful thing, watching so many chose to sponsor a Haitian child!

TO CLOSE

I’m still glowing and still so very thankful to the Shepherd of our souls. It was so exciting to be there and richly fulfilling to be part of it. It was a glorious Sunday and an almost perfect day.

Or maybe it was perfect! 

Shalom

A Sunday to Remember!

I don’t often blog on Saturday mornings but today is different. It’s about what’s happening tomorrow morning. It’s Sunday and it will be especially good. 

BABY BLESSING

 Like many churches, we value new life and love blessing new babies. In 2nd service tomorrow will be a Baby Blessing. The family will come on stage, be surrounded by our elders, and then I’ll share words of love, meaning and a scripture with the parents. Then one of the elders will say a prayer of blessing. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Not me or the baby blessing of tomorrow morning, but its celebrating New Life at SE!

SPEAKING OF NEW BIRTH

Also in 2nd service will be the baptism of a young man who has realized that his infant baptism was something others decided for him and not through his faith but the faith of others. So, tomorrow morning he will born again. It’s a beautiful thing.

IMG_1399
Celebrating New Life With Those Who Are Born Again

SPONSORSHIP DRIVE

For 12 years our church has been heavily invested in Haiti. We parter with a faith based non-profit called Hope For Haiti’s Children, a ministry doing Christian Education, Orphan Care, Health Care and other services in Haiti for 25 years. Families and individuals in our congregation sponsor some 240 children in the Cite Soleil school in Port-au-Prince. Tomorrow morning we aim to sponsor seventy more. It’s a beautiful thing. 

NEW LEADERSHIP

We are in the process of appointing additional leaders for Southeast. Tomorrow morning, in both services, will be a video of the candidates. We will see and hear the husbands and wives speak of their experience at SE and share what it means to be an Elder. It’s a beautiful thing.

TOMORROW MORNING

  • A NEW BIRTH
  • A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
  • NEW SPONSORED HAITIAN CHILDREN
  • NEW ELDER CANDIDATES

It’s going to be a wonderful day at Southeast, you don’t want to miss it and may God be praised for his providential blessings. Thank you Lord!

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Home of the Southeast Church. It’s Going To Be a Great Day Tomorrow!

Best Part of All: The People

I was at an awesome party last night. The food was delicious and there was plenty to go around. Everyone was excited and ready for a fun filled evening. Some really sweet kids were there too, kids I’ve watched grow up over the past eleven years. Yep, I was with friends. 

There was also a game on TV, the last one of the season, and the biggest. 

SOME OBSERVATIONS

  1. The women filled their plates and went to the dining room.
  2. The men filled their plates and went to the TV.
  3. The kids filled their plates and went to an undisclosed location.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE GAME

  1. It was a defensive battle, that’s code for low scoring and dull.
  2. Many of the commercials were well crafted but beyond my comprehension.  
  3. Twice I went to the dining room to ask them to please lower their voices.
  4. Twice those in the dining room laughed heartily and shooed me away. 
  5. Nobody cared that much about the Rams, only that the Patriots wouldn’t win.
  6. The jalapeño poppers were excellent. 

THE BEST PART

The food was excellent, the house was lovely, spacious and comfortable and the game was the largest event of the football season. But for me, the people were the best part!

I didn’t see the first half because I was in the kitchen engaged in conversations with others who, like me, were from our church. It was so enriching to connect and catch up. They were the best part of the game. But I did get to watch the second half and it was almost exciting there at the end.

TO CLOSE

I don’t know if the Lord was rooting for a team, I mean, the Cowboys weren’t even playing. Nevertheless, I congratulate the World Champion New England Patriots, again.

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World Champions, Again 

And I’m grateful for sweet people who are dear friends. I would have watched the game regardless of who was playing. But the fellowship, the sense of belonging, and the expressions of love and care were what was really super about the Super Bowl.

Thank you Super Bowl 53, until next year!

Careless, Clumsy, and Confused?

THE THREE C’s?

Those would be: careless, clumsy and confused, along with the three F’s: forgetful, fatigued, and falling. 

The three C’s and the three F’s pertain to getting older, to aging. I did’t notice it until I turned 62. Being 61 was fine, it seemed like 60 or 59. But 62, oh my goodness have I noticed.  

A Few of the C’s

  • Sometimes lose track of what day it is.
  • I’m bumping into things more than I used to.
  • It’s taking longer to get the caps off of bottles. 
  • My mind is giving me the word I need but I say something else.
  • Find myself not caring as much about some things.

A Few of the F’s

  • I sometimes can’t summon the name of people I know.
  • Sometimes can’t remember what day it is.
  • I go to a room to get something and when I get there can’t remember why.
  • I remind myself about something and half way down the driveway I remember. 
  • And then, there’s falling down the stairs. 

I realize that what I’ve said risks making me look like a doddering fool or a man drifting into senility. I’ll assure you that it’s neither. 

Most of the C’s and F’s only occasionally happen, and I’ve always done some of them, but now it seems to have increased a bit.

FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS?

You might have wondered about that one. Well, here’s what happened. We had a kitchen table and chairs that wasn’t being used and offered it to our son who gladly accepted. He lives in a 3rd floor apartment. 

So, it took a couple of trips to get everything up there, but we did, and we got it put together. So, as I was leaving and going down the stairs I accidently missed a step, lost my balance, and went crashing down onto the landing. I missed a step and wished I hadn’t. Bang goes the dynamite. 

My head crashed into the corner pillar of the landing and wrenched my neck. My left shoulder hit the railing attached to the pillar. My right ankle felt like it was sprained or broken. My left foot was in immediate pain and shooting up into the knee.

stairs 2
Not my sons’ apartment stairs, but close, really very close!

THE EXPERIENCE OF IT

  1. It happened in a blink and I couldn’t react fast enough to prevent it.
  2. I knew on the way down it was going to be bad. 
  3. I haven’t fallen like that since slipping on ice when I was 32.
  4. I had the presence of mind to think: “I hope no one is watching.” 
  5. Nothing broken, no major injuries, except to my pride: ouch. 

It’s got to be the aging? Right? This is my first time to fall down stairs and hope to never do it again. I’m not clumsy or careless. As least I didn’t use to be. However, I have twice crashed through the ceiling from up in the attic, but that happened back in my 50’s. 

I’m fine, a little sore and banged up, but fine. If the fall had been recorded I could submit it to America”s Funniest Videos, I bet I’d win. 

I’m gearing up though. I turn 63 in May.

TO CLOSE

I’ve never been more productive in my work. My best life and best years are right now. I write a BLOG, have a VLOG, have published two books, working on the third, and I’m in my 10th year serving as Senior Minister for a great church. In a few weeks I’ll be leading a group to the Holy Land, my fifth trip to Israel.

You are as young as you feel. Age is just a number. Watch out for those stairs. 

Shalom