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Immeasurably More

On Sunday afternoon, I drove Sydney back to school in Waco. Dropping her off always brings back a bit of nostalgia for me, thinking of my time at Baylor and generations of people before me who walked the same campus I did and she does now. We had spent the weekend attending the Baylor vs. Texas Tech game and I was reminded that those young men on the football field, with all the excitement surrounding them, were all born AFTER I left Baylor.

It was dark as I headed back up I35 to Dallas and I decided to catch up on my podcasts. One of my favorites from my years at Baylor is Louie Giglio, currently pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta. In my days at Baylor he led a campus wide Bible Study that was very popular. I noticed an old sermon in my Passion City podcast file entitled “The God of Immeasurably More,” and looking for some inspiration to launch my week, I decided to listen.

About halfway through the sermon, Louie talks about his early career in teaching at youth conferences and lock-ins. These were the days when he would preach and stay in the homes of host families, in fact up until this trip, he had never stayed in a real hotel in his life. But the hosts of this youth conference wanted to bless him so they gave him the nicest hotel room in the city. Louie talks about how they went on and on about wonderful the room was. When he checked in he admitted that the room was really nice, it had a king size bed and granite in the bathroom, it was a nice regular hotel room. It didn’t even cross his mind to try to open the door to the adjoining room until that evening when he ordered hamburger from room service.

As it was being delivered, he heard knocking down the hall for a long period of time and he finally decided to open the door to see where it was coming from. As he looked way down the hall, he saw the room service cart complete with his hamburger. The attendant walked down the hall and showed Louie that if he just opened the door to the adjoining room he would access a massive suite with a living room, a dining room and even a second bedroom on the other end of the suite. Sitting on the dining room table was a massive gift basket with snacks and a t-shirt for the youth conference where he was speaking and a wonderful note welcoming him. Somehow when they cut the key for his room at check-in they had given him the key to the bedroom section, but failed to tell him about the main suite that he had access to as well. But not expecting more, until room service arrived, he failed to realize what had been made available to him.

I reflected back to those young men I have watched on the football field this season. They have been talked about, written about and defined by the yards they have run, the passes they have thrown and the touchdowns that they have scored. My hope and prayer for them and for all of us this week is that we realize that what we have done, that who we are to the world, doesn’t define us in God’s eyes. We serve a God who wants immeasurably more for our lives than we can ask or imagine, but it is up to us to push beyond what we see in our current circumstances and how the world defines our lives. It is up to us to ask, imagine and watch for the great opportunities God puts before us when we surrender our vision of who we are to Him.

My prayer is that we not be so content with what we have and whom we are that we fail to realize that our “immeasurably more” God has and wants so much more for our lives.

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Our last day in Israel

Our final day in Israel focused on places where Christ spent the last 72 hours of his life. 

We walked through the Rabbinical Tunnels, a system of tunnels that Rabbi’s or other influential people still used to travel in the ancient City.  Here we saw some massive foundation stones that King Herod put in place to support the wall around the ancient city, some of them weighing in excess of 200 tons. 

At the end of these tunnels we saw where the Antonia Fortress would have been located.  It was here that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to die.  While walking through these tunnels, we were able to see what remained of the temple walls that existed during the time of Jesus, but also we were able to walk on the same stones that would have been on the streets in 1st Century Jerusalem when Jesus left Pontius Pilate and was led away to be crucified.

Next we moved on to view two different places where scholars/church leaders believe that Jesus might have been crucified and buried.  The first was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was acknowledge by the early church (in the 4th century) as the place they believe that He was crucified and buried. 

The second was called the Garden Tomb. This tomb is located near a rock that looks like a skull as well as another traditional crucifixion site of the Romans.  In more recent times, a family tomb, which would have been owned by a wealthy family, was discovered near this site. In this tomb is a cross over one of the burial areas that references Jesus Christ. 

Finally, before we left the Garden Tomb, our whole group celebrated communion together and talked about what this week had meant to each of us. 

We all then drove to the airport where, after goodbyes, the larger tour group headed back home and the Maccubbins spent one more night in Tel Aviv.

 

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Israel Day 9: Archeological Dig, Bet Shemesh, and where David killed Goliath

We spent the entire morning digging through archeological sites. It was pretty amazing! We started in a “tell” where inhabitants in the 3rd century BC had built their homes.  When the Romans came to invade the “tell” dwellers destroyed everything and buried it under the earth, so today, we spent the day digging up pottery and other 3rd century BC items in the archeological dig.  When we were done with that really cool project, we went crawling through partial excavated ruins that were lit by candlelight. 

The best way to share this day with you is via pictures, so please check out Facebook and Instagram.

Our final stop of the day was Bet Shemesh.  Several things happened here:  It was the hometown of Samson and it was the place where the Philistines chose to return the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites via oxen driven cart after it was causing them some significant problems (2 Samuel 6)

We also stopped at the riverbed where the Israelites fought the Philistines and David used small stones and a slingshot to defeat Goliath. 

Tomorrow is our last day in Israel, and then we fly home.

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Israel Day 8: — Dome of the Rock, the Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall, the Southern Steps and Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

Our morning started out at the Dome of the Rock.  This is a Muslim shrine that has been built on top of the Temple Mount (the place in Jerusalem where both Temples were built and later destroyed).  While we were unable to enter the Dome of the Rock, because we are not Muslim, we were able to walk the Temple Mount and share the history of the temples being built there. 

From the Temple Mount we descended through the Arab Market and then to the Wailing (or Western) Wall.  Since Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount (we were not even allowed to bring scripture there).  The Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall was the closest place to the Temple Mount that Jews today can pray today.  We joined them and placed our prayers on the wall.

From the Wall we moved through the old town market and also to the Southern Steps.  Some of these steps are still the original steps that were in place from the time of Jesus.  They would have been the same steps that were used to enter the Temple Mount, but also the same steps where Jesus would have taught his followers. 

We had a great meeting in the middle of the day with an Orthodox Jew who did a great job explaining the ideas and relationships challenges that Jews and Christians struggle with.  His name was Moshe Kempenski and he owns a shop in Old City Jerusalem.  You can find that here:  http://www.shorashim.com/

Our final stop for the day was Hezekiah’s Tunnel.  You can learn much more about this one here:  http://www.cityofdavid.org.il/en/virtual_tour/hezekiah%E2%80%99s-tunnel-city-david

Tomorrow we are heading out on an Archeological Dig….

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Israel Day 7: Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Israeli Holocaust Museum, and Bethlehem

Today was interesting because while we spent time in Jerusalem, we also had to cross the border into Palestinian territory in order to visit Bethlehem.  Our guide, who was a Jewish citizen, was not allowed to travel into Bethlehem with us, so we left him at the border and a new tour guide met us inside the city walls. 

Our morning started out at the Mount of Olives where we overlooked the old City of Jerusalem.  We traveled the path where Jesus would have made his ceremonial entry into Jerusalem on the donkey and we also visited a private garden that would have most likely been very close to place where Jesus came on that last evening to pray before his crucifixion. 

The middle of our day was spent visiting the Israeli Holocaust museum after which we traveled to Bethlehem. 

It was great to overlook the hills where the shepherds would have been on the night of Jesus’ birth and even to look up the mountain to where David was anointed King by Samuel, but our visit to the city of Jesus’ birth was a bit crazy (and not just because the Italian Prime Minister was there at the same time we were).  Bethlehem is definitely a bit overwhelmed by tourists and while we enjoyed seeing the spot where Christ is believed to have been born and even where he spent the early years of his life, the crushes of the crowds and the street vendors make seeing Bethlehem a bit crazy.

Tomorrow we spend more time in the old City of Jerusalem. Some exciting times to come.  If you aren’t following @ambassador_pancakes on Instagram (or on Facebook), you are missing some of the best pictures of our vacation!

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Israel Day 5 and 6 – Beth Shean (Sycthopolis), Harod’s Spring, Bethany by the Jordan, The Dead Sea, Masada, Qumeran, Jerusalem

Last night we did not have free internet access in our hotel, so my blog posting has been delayed.  It might have also been delayed because I spent too much time in the Dead Sea Water pool at the hotel.  Either way, I am combining days and back tracking.

Sunday morning started with a visit to Beth Shean and the roman city of Sycthopolis, here we saw some beautiful ruins from the Roman City that was the capital of the ten decapolis cities in the region.  This city was so advanced that it had indoor plumbing and a shopping mall in the 6th century AD.  It was a massive city with beautiful columns and mosaics that even in ruins it is massive.  Sycthopolis was destroyed by an earthquake that would have registered 8 or 9 on today’s scale in 749 AD.  While the region is still inhabited, the city was never rebuilt after the earthquake.

Beth Shean sits upon a hill above Sycthopolis.  It was made famous when the Philistines displayed the bodies of Saul and his sons after they were killed in battle.  You can read about that in 1 Samuel 31-2 Samuel 1 and how David rescues them and gives them a proper burial.

We then spent a bit of time visiting the cave and Harod’s spring where Gideon was told only to take 300 men into battle against the Midianites in Judges 7.  Gideon narrowed down those men by first asking those to leave who were afraid to fight.  Then God instructed him to further narrow those men by sending home those who lapped up the water like dogs. This left him with 300 men to fight the armies of Midan.

Our final stop on Sunday, before we reached the Dead Sea was Bethany by the Jordan, a place that for 1900 years has been accepted as the site where John baptized Jesus.

About mid-afternoon we checked into our hotel on the Dead Sea and soaked in the salt rich pools.  It was a fascinating experience and I’m sorry I didn’t get a family picture of everyone floating on the salt water.  Next time we need to stay for a few days to get all the medicinal benefits of this wonderful place.

Monday morning we started out early and boy was it hot.  We headed into the Judean wilderness to explore a few places there before we headed to Jerusalem where we will spend the remainder of the nights on our tour.

Our first stop on Monday was Masada.  You can read the story of Masada here or watch the mini-series on Amazon or a short video here.  What was so amazing about this palace fortress is how much is left from the days of King Herod.  There were original frescoes on the walls, mosaics in the inlaid floors of the public bathhouse and even the original plaster on some of the walls that was faux finished to look like marble.  It was amazing how much archeologists have been able to find, preserve and restore.

After leaving Masada, we headed to Qumran where they have discovered the biggest portion of the Dead Sea scrolls.  We learned about the Essenes and their ways of living in isolation and the dedication of their lives to fully studying God’s word.  When they were afraid of Roman attacks they hid their hand copied version of the scripture in the caves to keep their scrolls safe from attack.  Unfortunately, their secret died with them in the attack and their scrolls were found in the 1940s and not by the right people.  They were practically destroyed before the reached the hands of historians who wanted to make sure they were preserved.

Finally we entered Jerusalem!  Our guide Ronnie is a wealth of knowledge about everywhere that we stop and he does a great job of setting the stage for each venue.  As we entered Jerusalem, he played the song “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” over the loudspeakers.  I can’t tell you how many years it has been since I have heard that song.  But it was amazing to enter the city while hearing that song.

Until tomorrow….

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Day 4: Israel — Military Outposts, Nimrod’s Castle, Caeserea Phillippi, Tel Hazor

Today’s tour had less to do with Biblical events but it did provide us with an interesting overview of the geo-political landscape of the country.  Our morning travels started in the Golan Heights, the northern part of the country where we saw some old decommissioned military outposts.  Our guide is not only an expert in the biblical history of the area, but he is also well versed on the military history of Israel, in part because he has been involved in a lot of it, serving in the Israeli Army.  I can’t even begin to tell you the some of the great history lessons of the military battles that were won (and rarely) lost by Israel, but in most cases, with a great number of armies against them, Israel always came out on top.  Our guide gives God the glory for every victory and for the reason that Israel has the land that it does today. 

Our second stop was Nimrod’s castle that was built during the time of the Crusaders around 1200 AD.  Although it changed hands numerous times, it was used by both Muslims and Christians until around the 15th century, when it was abandoned. 

Next we headed to Caeserea Phillippi, a town with both Christian and Pagan roots depending on who the ruler of the time was.  It was originally named just Caesarea, but to distinguish it from the port town of Caesarea, Herod’s son Phillip, added the name Phillippi when he became ruler over the region. 

Biblical references that include the region of Caesarea Phillippi include Jesus sharing with Peter and the disciples “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:13), but for the most part the region was occupied by pagan idol worship.  The farther we move from Jerusalem, the greater the prevalence of pagan idol worship. 

Our visit here also gave us a chance to visit the headwaters of the Jordan River as it flows into the Sea of Galilee.  This included a visit to a beautiful waterfall called Banas Falls. 

Finally as we headed home we visited another Old Testament town that Joshua conquered, Hazor.  If you read Joshua 11, you learn that Joshua destroyed the city and burned it to the ground.  While today it is just an excavation site, the gates are very similar to Megiddo (which we visited on Day 1).  Our guide was even able to show us some of the ashes that they had uncovered from the burning of the city (you’ll have to check out my husband’s Instagram or Facebook photo of the ashes which he held in his hand). 

Tomorrow we will leave the shores of the Sea of Galilee and we will head to the Dead Sea.  We will float in the sea and learn even more about the interesting things about this country.  We will stay there for one night before we spend our final four days in Jerusalem.   

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Day 3: Israel — Sea of Galilee, Mount of the Beatitudes, Primacy of Peter, Capernaum, and Baptism in the Jordan River

It is hard to say exactly what my favorite part about our day was today.  We started out our morning with worship and teaching on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  Much of the landscape around the sea has been unchanged since the time of Jesus, so it was easy to imagine that we were sitting on a boat seeing the same things he saw 2000 years ago.

As we got off the boat, we were treated to a view of the remains of a 1st century boat that was discovered on the shores of Galilee in 1986.  They have gone to great lengths to preserve this boat and display it for others to see.  This is a boat that would have been in operation around the time of Jesus’ ministry in the area.

From the Sea of Galilee we moved up the hill to what is known as the Mount of the Beatitudes, where tradition says that Jesus shared the Beatitudes with the crowds.  It was fascinating to see the natural amphitheaters that were created in the hillsides around Galilee.  These hills have been closed off in recent years, but our guide told us of times that he would take groups to these natural amphitheaters and he could speak with his own natural voice and be heard for great distances.

Our third stop was back on the shores of Galilee where there is a 4th century church commemorating the spot where it is believed that Jesus asked Peter.  “Do you love me?”  Three times Jesus asked Peter this question and in John 21:15-19, the New Testament details Peter’s response.  Steve shared a great message on how Jesus challenged Peter to love Him with Agape love, yet Peter could only respond with Phileo love, even as Jesus was preparing (relying on) Peter to be the rock on which He would build His church here on earth.  Steve asked us to challenge ourselves about how deep we are willing to go with Jesus in our lives.

Finally we headed out to Capernaum, a seaside town where Peter lived and where Jesus spent a good amount of time.  Here we saw the home that early Christians from the 3rd and 4th Centuries have preserved as the home of Peter.  We also visited the remains of the 4th century synagogue that were built on the remains of the 1st century synagogue where Jesus taught and questioned the religious leaders of the time.

One theme that seems consistent in many places that we visit is the preservation of  places of importance by the early church.  While it is impossible to know for sure where Peter and Jesus talked or where Mary and Joseph lived or even where Peter lived, the fact that the early church physically documented these places within a hundred or two hundred years of Jesus’ life gives a great amount of credibility to these sites.

Our final stop may have been my favorite of the day.  It was an optional opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River.  Most of us took the chance to do this and we were really glad that we did.  While almost all of us had been baptized by immersion at an earlier time in our lives, this was a wonderful opportunity to be baptized where Jesus was baptized and to recommit our lives to Him.

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Day 2: Israel — Caeserea, Megiddo, Nazerth and Mt. Arbel

Before I start my post I need to give you a sense of our schedule.  We are up at 6 AM, we have an amazing, but intense schedule. We return exhausted, have dinner at 7 PM and then it is time to blog. 

My intention for these next 9 days or so is to share as much as I can of our trip, but if I miss a day or two, please forgive me. 

Our first stop this morning was the seaside port of Caesarea (not Caesarea Phillippi, an inland city we will see later in the week). In my research I had really written this stop off as pretty unimportant, but it turned out to be my favorite stop of the day. 

Herod the Great was the creator of this deep water port on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s worth a good research project to understand how it affected the trade routes at the time, because it was pretty important.  In addition to creating a major deep water port where one did not previously exist, Herod built a massive palace for himself and had the Roman army (in their down time) construct over ten miles of aqua ducts to funnel fresh water from the western part of Israel into this port town for his palace.  The remnants of his swimming pool and palace floors can still be seen at the site. 

For Christians, Caeserea was important because Paul was held prisoner here.  His prison experience here and his ultimate release to Rome (Acts 23-27) played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles. 

Our second stop was Megiddo, the Greek word for Armageddon.  In Revelation, John prophecies that the “gathering” will happen here in the end times. (Rev. 16:16).  But Megiddo – a “tell” (look that one up), has been in existence since the 6th century BC.  According to our guide, the city (tell) was destroyed and rebuilt 26 times.  Rebuild #15 involved a rebuilding by King Solomon (to give you a real sense of how old this place is).  Because of the strategic position of Megiddo between Europe and Africa and Asia, Solomon (and many other world leaders) have used this place as a vital position to control trade.  It was also positioned high on the hill above the Valley of Jezreel which made it a great spot to defend.  There are some great layers of amazing ruins that went down thousands of years.  The oldest church in Israel has also been found on this site.  See that one here.  I also found it interesting that the Israeli Air Force had a base quite close to Megiddo.  Quite a smart move on their part, in my humble opinion. 

Our last two sites — Nazareth and Mt. Arbel, were great sites, but quick views.  Nazareth was a quick stop at the Church of the Annunciation which was built on the site where 3rd century leaders believed the home of Mary and Joesph existed.  We got a small view of what their grotto looked like as well as some other 3rd century ruins. 

Mt. Arbel offered beautiful views over the entire Galilee region.  My husband got much better pictures than I did! Hopefully we can share some of those soon.  I hope you can see the pics that correspond with this blog on Instagram and Facebook.

Until tomorrow….

 

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Good morning from Tel Aviv!

Today is a bit of a rest and relax day in our vacation.  We arrived in Tel Aviv late yesterday afternoon and we will meet our travel team this afternoon around 4 PM when they arrive from Dallas.  It will be so good to see everyone.  In the meantime, I finally found a way to upload our itinerary to my blog so you can follow us day by day and see where we will be traveling! Have a wonderful day!  Janet

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