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Monthly Archives: November 2010


102 “Pilgrims” awaited to hear from an exploring party that went ashore at Plymouth on December 21, 1620.

As they heard back that the land was as good they would find for now they unloaded the Mayflower and started to establish the land and live.

Of the 102 Mayflower passengers, only half remained alive within four months. Cold, sickness and disease claimed their lives. What a huge sacrifice. Was it worth it? You exist today and have the quality of life you live today because of their sacrifice! To see the names of the Mayflower Pilgrims and see if you carry their name, check out this web page www.pilgrimhall.org/mayfpass.htm

History says that about 90 Native American Indians and 53 Pilgrims enjoyed the fruits of Thanksgiving together. To see the list of names and check if your last name was one at that first Thanksgiving feast, check out this web page, www.pilgrimhall.org/1stthnks.htm

These men and women risked it all. They are the founders of our great United States of America. They were in pursuit of religious freedom and fleeing control and tyranny. I am so thankful for their adventurous spirits and sacrificial actions.

Today our American culture seems to be missing the sacrificial spirit. I think its still exists in the hearts of some but it has been buried by layers of self help, self glory and entitlement. Oh, you are entitled to freedom and pursuit of happiness, but do not forget that freedom is truly being free. If in pursuit of your own freedom you actually harm and enslave others then you are not free either. Freedom is sacrifice. Freedom is contentment. Freedom is hard work. Freedom is “complete-ness.” Freedom will cost you something. What must you give to be free?

This thanksgiving let us DRIP with Gratitude and Grace.
The echoes of our Pilgrims past are calling out to you and me to keep the freedom ringing. Their price was high and their souls are witnessing our actions, so let us shake off all the holds us back and enslaves us and continue the great drive of the Pilgrims. How will you start your Pilgrimage today?

Twenty One Days…

The last 21 days are a blur of information and events that will take me the rest of the year to sort through and make clear. These days have led me to meet young couples who are risking everything they have to plant Churches that will some day be 100 year old churches. These days have led me to the most ancient of places on the face of the earth where civilizations have come and gone for 10 millenniums. Airplanes, Taxi Cabs, Hotels, Villages, community parks, ancient ruins. They all “said” one thing to me. WE ARE ALL THE SAME. Created Beings in pursuit of purpose and connection with our Creator. The same created beings with different inheritances, different colors, different sizes, different cultures, different beliefs all wanting the same thing. They, We…want Purpose and connection with the creator. Our Creator is Creative and this is evident in what I’ve seen in the last 21 days. Be creative. Be different. Be you. Others do not have to be like you. If we are all the same, the art wouldn’t be as beautiful. Celebrate our differences…Love our similarities and lets work together in unity in pursuit of our strongest desires of seeking purpose and enjoying the pursuit of our creator. “We” can do this together…better.

Sunday in Jerusalem

Today was our last day in the City of Jerusalem before getting back on the plane and heading back to the great U.S.A.

We only had a half day of touring today. We went into the Old City of Jerusalem and actually got a chance to go up on the Temple Mount. This is the area where the Temple…where GOD resided…used to be before it was destroyed in the year 70 A.D. by the Roman Empire. Instead of the Temple there today, what is actually built on the exact spot is what is called the Dome of the Rock. It is the Muslim’s 3rd most Holy Sight in the world. Inside the facility pictures is a the place where tradition says the Ark of the Covenant was located. Only Muslims are allowed to go in the facility so we stood outside and talked about Muslim beliefs and our similarities and differences. There are a lot of things that we as Christians have with the Muslim faith that would allow us to talk more openly and strive to reach them for Christ. We hold the truth. We should not be threatened to learn their ways and ideas so we may better relate with them. The hate and angst that is prevalent today amongst different religions is not good and is destructive. Jesus commanded us to Love our Enemies. We must never forget that. Here is picture of the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock now stands. It really is a beautiful building.

When we were finished on the Temple Mount we went back down and spent a half an hour at the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. This wall is very popular and you have probably seen it in the news. It is the location where all Jewish people go to pray for the rebuilding of the Temple. This wall is built with the stones from Herod the Great and they are the stones that Jesus would have seen when He walked by this wall. The picture is one of a Jewish man praying at the wall.

Speaking of the rebuilding of the Temple, this is what all people of the Jewish Faith want. In fact nearly a Billion dollars has been raised and there are groups of Jewish people working behind the scenes preparing to rebuild it. Our guide told us today that the money being raised to rebuild the Temple is actually being donated from Christians in America more than anybody else. The picture of the Menorah is the exact Menorah that will be placed in the new Temple when it is built. I thought that was pretty cool to see. It is overlaid with one solid sheet of Gold just like God commanded. Again, it is the exact replica of the Menorah put in the Temple in Solomon’s day.
The menorah is a symbol of light. God commanded that the Menorah be placed in the Temple and that the candles must be burning all the time. The 7 lamp stands on the Menorah represent several things. The seven days of Creation. Seven is the whole number representing God.

After this we headed to the East side of the Old City and we walked up the steps that Jesus would have walked up to enter the Temple. It is an area where Jews performed their ritual bathing and ceremonial washing to cleanse themselves before entering the Temple Mount. There are nearly 100 baptismals (Mikvahs) in this location which tells us one other cool fact….In Acts 2 Peter preached to the crowd and 3000 people were baptized…there is only one place in the whole city of Jerusalem where that many people could be baptized and there we were standing on the ground! Wow.

We walked around a bit more and saw the destruction that the Romans created in A.D. 70. Jesus predicted this when He told His disciples this about Jerusalem…he said, “Not one stone will be left standing.” The picture below shows the destruction that fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy. The archeology professionals chose to excavate this area and then leave it just like it was. The stones you see piled up in the picture are exactly as they were on 70 A.D.

Jerusalem is the most popular city in the world. It has been a true inspiration to spend time here. I do hope you can join me on a future trip!

As I type this…Kelli is packing up some suitcases and we are preparing to return. It was weird tonight as we were eating dinner at 7:30PM and knowing that at the same time Parkway was having its Sunday morning worship services.

We will be home Monday Night at 10PM. I’m thankful that Thanksgiving is this week, because I’ll need a couple of days to recover from the 9 hour time change. I’ll see you this weekend at the Parkway facilities if not before!

Again…if you are praying…pray for travel mercies as we head back to the states.
I’m excited to get back to American food and even more for a Dr. Pepper!

What a pilgrimage!
Please join me for another one in Nov. 2012.

In Jerusalem…

Sorry for the delay in getting this blog out. I got extremely sick last night. I don’t know if was the food or water or something…but I got painfully sick.

So here is the adventures of Saturday.

We started the day with a great breakfast with one another and then we loaded up the bus for a full day of checking out some sights where Jesus spent most of his time while in Jerusalem. Our first stop was the Mount Olives. It’s the same hillside as the Garden of Gethsemane, but the mount of olives is a location where Jesus would spent time praying. The top of the Mount of Olives gives a great view over the entire city of Jerusalem and no doubt Jesus would have prayed for His favorite city and the people in it frequently. The picture shows how you can see nearly everything.
This is the spot where the Bible references that “Jesus Wept” as He thought about how the whole city was going to be destroyed in 70 AD. This is also the location where Jesus traveled through when He went out to Bethany to visit Mary and Martha and later raise Lazarus from the dead. The Gold Dome in the background is where the Temple was in Jesus’ time.

In fact, right after our visit to the Mount of Olives we loaded up and shot off to Bethany and got to go down inside Lazarus’ Tomb. History and Tradition show this as the actual sight. Imagine the entrance and then about 20 steps down curving to the bottom of the tomb where Lazarus would have been laid. He had been dead for 4 days. Jewish tradition says the Spirit lingers for with the dead body for 3 days. So for Jesus to purposefully wait for 4 days demonstrates that Jesus really wanted to make a point about how He is “the resurrection and the life.” You can read the story in John 11.

As we were getting back on the bus in Bethany after visiting Lazarus’ tomb, we saw an opportunity for some $5 camel rides!

When we came out of the tomb there is a cool gift shop just outside and a guy sells the Sling of David. I some slings and will have them in my office is you would like to see what David’s sling was like. I think you’ll be surprised by how “whimpy” it seems, but the man selling the slings demonstrated for us by putting a rock in it and letting it fly. It was pretty impressive. The rock left the sling with such power I’m guessing it flew 80 to 100 feet and most definitely had the power to penetrate the head of Goliath.

What was cool about leaving Lazarus’ tomb and then getting the sling is the fact that we then headed off to the Valley of Elah. This is the location where the Philistines marched against the Israelites and the giant named Goliath shouted out a challenge and David took it! You know the story. So we walked out onto the Valley of Elah and then down to the dry river bed where everybody picked up a smooth stone just like David would have picked up from that spot. Pretty cool location. You can see in the picture that its out in the middle of nowhere, but you can see the ridge where its possible Goliath stood and offered up the challenge!

After the Valley of Elah we stopped in a place to have lunch and then headed back into Jerusalem area where we visited the Israel History Museum. We were able to trek through Israel’s history and also view the most important archeological discovery in the last couple of hundred years…The Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls proved for all of us the accuracy of Scripture because they found a Scroll that has the entire book of Isaiah written on it and it perfectly matches what our Bibles have in them today. Proof that God has preserved his Scriptures and that the original language translations of the Bible today are perfect and uncorrupted. At this museum was 50:1 model of the city of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time. The picture shows the Temple.
After the museum we had a 3:30 arrival time and appointment for a communion service in the Garden Tomb area. This place is surreal. You can see Golgotha. You can actually walk into the empty tomb and see where Jesus’ body would have been laid. There are two traditional sights around the City of Jerusalem where they debate which one is the actual empty tomb. We’ll never know for sure, but the sight we visited is in a garden and you can see Skull Hill and the tomb we got to walk into is a rich man’s tomb and wasn’t finished…just like the Bible says it was. See Pictures. Arriving in the Garden we encountered hundreds of people from all over the world singing songs about the crucifixion or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There people of different color, different language and the only unity factor was Jesus! See the pictures of the skull hill…do you see the skull? Also pictures of the garden tomb area with all the people.
By the time we were finished in the Garden Tomb area we actually had a 3 block walk back to the hotel. Had a great dinner and called it a night. What a full day.

Amazing First Day in Actual Jerusalem…

How can I describe the whirlwind we just experienced in this day? I’ll just start with a narrative of how it all happened.

We wanted to get a head start on all the crowds. Of all the trips I’ve taken here with groups this by far has been the busiest. Tons of tour buses everywhere. People of all shapes, colors and languages. Jerusalem really is the most popular city in the world. It draws in every faith because it is a city that is holy. The most popular faiths that honor this sight are Christians, Muslims and people of the Jewish faith. There are two key parts to Jerusalem. You have the Old City of Jerusalem and you have the new city. The closer you live to the Old City the more expensive it is. Its pretty amazing to think that in the Jewish faith, when you are buried you are buried in nearly a sitting position and you are always facing the city of Jerusalem and more specifically the Temple or in this case where the Temple should be rebuilt.

So we got up early and were on the bus by 7:30AM after a great buffet breakfast. We took off to the Old City of Jerusalem where we were going to walk the Via Dolorosa. Via means in Latin, “The Way” and Dolorosa means, “suffering.” The Way of Suffering. It is the path that Jesus took as he carried his own cross to Golgotha to be crucified. It is just under one mile and mostly uphill with many stairs. It has what tradition calls 12 stations. I can’t remember them all right now but some of them are where you pause to commemorate where he was judged by Pontius Pilate. Three of the stations are where Jesus fell while carrying the cross. One is where Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross for Jesus…this station made sense as Simon of Cyrene was asked to carry it just before a long and steep incline. After Jesus’ extreme whipping and beating there is no way he could have carried his cross on his own strength. We were tired just walking up it ourselves. The last three stations are where they strip him, nail him to the cross and then where they buried Him. It is a powerful experience.

A quick note on the cross. It is not likely that Jesus or any criminal to be crucified actually carried the entire cross. They would have just carried the upper “cross” beam. The beam would have been tied and nailed to a tree trunk and Jesus would have only been a few feet off the ground. Contrary to popular opinion and songs…Jesus would not have been crucified, “ON A HILL Far Away.” He would have been hung on a cross just on the roadside…much like a ditch in today’s time. This was so passers by would be warned not to break the law…or else!

One more note about the crucifixion area including what is called Golgotha or Skull hill. Tradition has it in the location we visited today where The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built. There is also a possibility it is in another location that we will visit tomorrow. I like to think its in the location we visit tomorrow. But tradition in Jerusalem is pretty accurate. So…who knows…the exact location doesn’t really matter and the fact that we visit both takes away all doubt. We definitely will have stood on the ground where Jesus was crucified. Pretty Amazing. I didn’t have any pictures of this walk but you can check out facebook, I’m sure many of the others took some photos. The picture I have here is of George, our tour guide sharing with us some great facts about the Via Dolorosa.
After the Via Dolorosa we took a break on a roof top café and had some coffee or other drinks. It was in the shade and it was overlooking much of the old city. Very nice half hour break just relaxing, laughing and enjoying the company of each other. I love our church in that it is full of people who enjoy getting know each other. I pray we never lose that focus and desire.

We then took off towards Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Words can’t describe as we worked our way through 9 phases of the horrific things that Nazi Germany did to groups of people. Most people think that Hitler was just after the Jewish people. 6 Million Jews were murdered by Hitler and Germany but an additional 6 Million people from other nations were also killed. Some of these people groups were from Romania, Soviets, Polish, also homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses and other political or religious opponents. The total number of people murdered by Hitler’s Leadership could be up to 17 Million people. I wonder what Hitler thinks now as he sits in Hell? I’ll bet he wishes he would have lived very differently! The Holocaust museum tells the story of how it all happened in a breath taking way. It started by showing the good life of the Jewish people and then it transitioned to how Hitler began to win the favor of the people . When Hitler came into power…the people of Germany Voted him in by an overwhelming popular vote. People crowded and cheered for him. He was an incredible communicator and a great vision caster and then it all turned ugly. Hitler slowly trained Germans and others to believe that Jews were actually the embodiment of the devil. He taught them that Jews where not even true human and that their very existence will ruin all of mankind. Over one million children were shot, gassed and starved to death. Mother’s were ripped away from their sons and daughters. Humiliation, annihilation and sheer atrocity were performed. I wonder why it took America so long to respond and stand up to such a cruel thing? I hope someday you can spend some time in a Holocaust museum. It all happened not that long ago. There are still survivors alive today. In fact…a Parkway member has a grandmother I met recently who is a survivor of the Holocaust. I spoke with her about a year ago about her experience. It was an honor to speak with her.

After the Holocaust Museum we ate lunch and then took off for The pools of Bethesda. This is the place inside the Old City of Jerusalem where Jesus healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years. The pool area doesn’t have any water in it anymore but it is most definitely the location. You can read about this story in John 5:1 and following. When done with that we visited a little ancient church that has amazing acoustics because of its concrete domes and walls and we sang a couple of songs just to hear the cool bouncing of our voices. It was fun and actually a spiritual experience.

Next we headed off to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the place where Jesus went up the Mountain of Olives and into the Olive Tree Gardens and asked his Apostles to pray for him as he withdrew about a stones throw away to pray. This is the location where Jesus asked His Father to “take this cup of suffering away, but not my will be done.” This is the location where Jesus was so stressed he sweated drops of blood. This is the place where Judas betrayed him. We took a group photo at this sight. I took a picture of one of the Olive Trees in the garden. These trees were carbon dated and they are around 2000 years old! If those trees could speak…what would they tell us about their experience with Jesus in the Garden. Gethsemane means, “Olive Press.” The intense pressure they used to crush olives and squeeze their oil for our consumption is a fitting depiction of what kind of crushing Jesus would receive on our behalf. Here is a picture of one of the great olive trees in the area.

After this we headed off to the area where Jesus went into the upper room and ate his Last Supper with his apostles. It isn’t the exact room but it is a room preserved and it gave us a great image and understanding of what the room would have been like. It is a popular place and the crowds were immense on our way there…see the picture to see the crowds.
Next we went to one of my favorite places on the trip. We visited what is biblically known as Caiaphas’ house. Caiaphas was the High Priest who most likely organized the capture and killing of Jesus. The house of Caiaphas is the place where the Jewish authorities held prisoners. I took a picture of our group in front of the church that is built on top of Caiaphas’ house.
The prison in Caiaphas’ house has a special pit in it that has only one entrance. A carved hole in the top where they tied a rope around the prisoner and lowered him into the pit. There would be no way out except when the guards lowered a rope again and then hoisted you out by it. There is no doubt in my mind that this very pit is where Jesus was kept. Imagine a square pit that is about 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide of pure darkness, cold limestone and Jesus sitting in it all by himself for one night before he was crucified. It would be a dark, lonely and scary night. You can read the prophecy in Psalm 88…it’s a prayer that Jesus would have experienced in this pit. The pictures I took, may be tough to understand but I hope they help you envision it.
After this sight we walked up on a high point that overlooked what is called the Potter’s field. It is the place where Judas committed suicide after he was overcome by guilt for betraying Jesus. Its amazing to see all the growth in the City of Jerusalem. The economy is good here. But…nobody will build on the Potter’s field. It is a cursed place. So it is in nearly original condition and you can imagine Judas hanging himself and the Bible says his bowels ripped open and they came out.

And our final group stop was just outside Caiaphas’ house where there is a small set of Limestone steps called the Steps to Zion. These ancient steps are no doubt the very steps that Jesus was forced to climb as he was betrayed, captured, and then pushed off to be put in the pit I talked about earlier. See Pic.

And to the end night…the rest of the group hung out around the hotel, had a great dinner, some when out and walked around Jerusalem on this Sabbath night and I went and played basketball with our tour guide and some of his freinds. I had to wear my running shoes because I didn’t bring my basketball shoes or ankle braces. I did sprain my ankle very lightly but its okay. Just a little sore. It was fun to play hoops with a group of guys who I couldn’t understand one word they were yelling. There is no doubt that Israeli’s argue calls more than Americans. After every play they argued. I just watched and laughed. I played well and represented America and Parkway well! That a nice way of saying…I kicked butt! It was fun.
Tomorrow is another amazing day. Stay tuned. Our trip is almost over.
Wish you were here!