Friday, September 12, 2008

Most of us remember where we were on 9/11/01.  I remember coming home from taking Anna to school, she was 5 and in kindergarten, Luke (3) was still at home.  Celina was getting ready for the day in the bathroom and I walked into our bedroom to finish my own preparation.  On the TV Matt and Katie were commenting on the surreal site of a plane sticking out of one of the WTC towers.  They wondered aloud whether or not it was a hollywood stunt or a tragic accident.  At that moment a second plane flew into the other tower.  "What is going on?"  I shouted so loud that Celina heard me over the hairdryer.  I got ready for work and went into the office.  As I monitored the events of that morning, we all remember the horror of other planes at the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania.  We all wept together that night as we gathered for prayer.  I remember the sudden concern for our military and those we loved who were serving.  The quietness of the skies over those next few days was ominous.  The sudden anger in my soul towards those who were attacking us was impossible to ignore.  Today, seven years later, the taste of all that emotion is still fresh to me.   I bowed my head to remember and pray  just as I am sure most of you did.  As I did I was reminded that terrorism is not isolated to America.  There are those who have struggled under the terroristic threats of oppressors for centuries.  To think that we are alone in this struggle is awfully small minded and short sighted.  By definition terrorism is the use of violence and the threat of  violence to create a sense of fear and influence the ideology and doctrines of a nation or people group.  Terrorism is not new and continues today all around the world.  Wickedness and stupidity abounds in the hearts of those who inflict this insidious fear against others from the KKK, to Hezbollah, to Hamas, to al Quaeda, whether it is a burning cross, a bomb at an abortion clinic, or a suicide bomber in a crowded city street everyone around the world suffers from this evil.  Thursday the 11th became for me not only a day to remember my own country but also all those who struggle beneath the hatred and terror of those hate-mongers.  I want you to join me and pray continuously for those who live daily under the oppression of these terrorist.  I just read Psalms 10:1 - 18 (NIV)  and it really helped me to see this from God's perspective.  Maybe it will help you too.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Today we started visiting Nazareth Village a ministry dedicated to the re-enactment of first century life as it would have been in the day of Jesus. As they tell the story of Jesus they do so from a wonderfully 3-D perspective. We heard and saw the carpenter’s shop, the shepherd and his sheep, the fields next to the paths where the farmer would sow his seed. The Bible came to life in an explosive way to me as I saw the world that Jesus lived in fleshed out before my eyes. That has been the way this entire trip has been for me.
In the afternoon we visited the ruins of Caesarea Philippi. There the Bible continued to become so much more real and alive. The passage of scripture in Matthew 16 where Peter makes his confession of Christ’s identity now has an actual location and archaeological setting for me. The words on the page now have depth and color and texture. There are a lot of little bitty rocks there, there is one really big rock there, there is even a place called the Gates of Hades there. And I did not have to read about it, I have been there and have seen it with my own eyes.
Tomorrow we will be on and around the Sea of Galilee. We will see the Church of the Beatitudes on the sight where Jesus is thought to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Can’t wait to see it all. Can’t wait to get home. See you soon.
To be honest I’ve never given more than a glancing thought to Israel. As a believer and a pastor the Old Testament has always been examples of what not to do as I and others relate to God. The New Testament is the gospel for the Jew and gentile alike, salvation through Christ, the inclusion of all into the Kingdom of God. For me the Jews had been washed out through history, lost in the shuffle of rebellion and cruelty. But being here in the land of Israel I see their earnest yearning for Messiah, the devoutly religious practice, the hope that through extreme orthodoxy their Messiah might come. For all of their devotion they remain in the dark. For all of their religious structure they are confused, walking very deliberately, yet on their way to nowhere. Even as Christians come and go in their land worshipping the God who seems so far from them Israel waits for the appearing of the One who has already come. I can now better understand Paul’s frustration with his brethren at their unbelief and unwillingness to hear the truth. I can sense the fervor of Paul when he prayed that if it would bring his brothers into the Kingdom he would sacrifice his own place. I now have a better grasp of the depth of his faith as the tradition of his fathers found its completion in Christ. I am ashamed that I have been so glibly ignorant of the people called Israel. The Father awaits His beloved to awaken to His love that has never changed and never will. The peace that I pray for Israel to know is not political or an end to the period of military conflict, but peace with God that comes from being justified in Christ alone (Romans 5). The promise of God is that it will come, when the hardening of Israel’s heart is over and the number of Gentiles is complete, it will come.

Friday, September 5, 2008

With Jerusalem being the Holy City and in the forefront of our religious thinking, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t the home of Jesus or even the sight of the majority of Jesus’ ministry. Home for Jesus is the Galilee, and once you see the two with your own eyes it’s easy to see why. To Jesus Jerusalem was a place of death and hate, a rocky mountain not so pleasing to the eye, filled with the religious mafia who crushed Judaism’s followers with burdensome rules and regulations. Nazareth, on the other hand, is a garden by the sea. The vegetation is lush, the Sea of Galilee is beautiful; there is just a different feel here. While those very familiar major events of Jesus’ life take place in and around the hills of Jerusalem, the majority of His ministry of teaching and miraculous works happens in the Galilee. (The Israelis call the area “the Galilee” the same way we call the area around Amarillo “the Panhandle”.) We will spend our last few days in and around this area of fishing and agriculture following the footsteps of Jesus as he taught the life changing truth of His gospel and worked the life changing power of His love for all. We can’t wait to tell you about it all!
David and Celina

Friday, August 29, 2008

Almost ready

We are in final preparation for the trip.  I am trying to imagine how the children of Israel left Egypt over night.  I am thinking they weren't worried about the charger for their Ipod or whether or not the cell phone worked in wherever they were going.  Thanks for your responses and your prayers for us and for the kids.  Will try to keep the reports going.  


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Refreshed and Renewed

What a day Sunday (August 24) was!  Celina and I and the kids want to express our deepest thanks for your displays of love.  It was all overwhelming and humbling.  It is enough that we get to serve Crossroads, the relationships and friendships that we have in this body and community are priceless.  Your recognition and celebration of our anniversary was over the top.  It has stirred in me a fresh vision and commitment to love people and preach the Word.  I pray that even in your heart there is a renewed commitment to love God and others as Christ commanded.  The necessary church is HERE!  It is me and you serving the living God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, armed with the message of the risen Christ.


Feeling the Dirt

By the time you are reading this (August 31-September 9) Celina and I will be on the ground in the Holy Land of Israel.  Today it is a nation wrought with territorial conflict, religious division, and terrorist violence.  Once upon a time though it was the petri dish for a nomadic nation set apart by God to be the conveyors of blessing to the rest of the world.  Over time and throughout a topsy-turvy relationship with God Israel has never been what it seems God intended them to be.  However upon closer examination, though Israel’s history seems rather tragic, this nation is the reason why you and I have the opportunity to be God-lovers and Christ followers. For as Paul writes, “Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?  Not at all!  Rather, because of their transgression (rebellion against God and rejection of Christ), salvation has come to the Gentiles (that’s me and you!) to make Israel envious.”(Romans 11:11)  Though God’s purpose seems for now to exclude Israel we must not forget, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” (Romans 11:25b)  Therefore, God still holds Israel in His heart and will include all those who will recognize Christ as SAVIOR and LORD!  There will be a uniting one day of the true Israel and the Father much the same way the reunion of the faithful father and the prodigal son is described in Luke 15.  The prophet Zephaniah puts it this way,

                        “Do not fear, O Zion(another name for Israel);

                        do not let your hands hang limp.

            The Lord your God is with you,

                        He is mighty to save.

            He will take great delight in you,

                        He will quiet you with his love,

                        He will rejoice over you with singing.

                                                                        Zephaniah 3:16-17