Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Go to Israel!

OK, so I have been slacking on the blog lately. But in my defense, Easter just finished a few weeks ago, and I have had a lot going on. One of those things that went on was an amazing trip to the Holy Land. Back in February, I went to Israel with a group of 40 from my home church, Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. The group was led by my role model in ministry, Dr. James Howell. Dr. Howell holds a Ph.D. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, and really knows his stuff. It was was a once-in-a-lifetime treat to sit at his proverbial feet and listen to his wisdom on Scripture, archaeology, and the ministry. On top of that, it was great to meet and spend time with some wonderful disciples of Christ, including my parents (who I don't get to see very often).

Instead of giving you a boring travelogue, I thought I would share some of my favorite pics (I apologize that they are a little out of order from the chronology of our itinerary). My short message is "go". Don't listen to the news- the Muslims were the nicest people I encountered there and the only fight I saw was between two Jews (another story for another time). To place yourself in the very geographical context of Scripture will open your mind, heart, and soul in fresh and life-giving ways. Enjoy!

 Our group at the top of the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, looking into the Old City of Jerusalem
 A monument to the Hebrew vowels in Tiberias, where they were created. This is only important to biblical language nerds (guilty).
 Me by the waterfall in Banias/Panias. Was this the place the author of Psalm 42 had in mind?
 Caesarea Philippi, a center of Greek and Roman worship. This is also where Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"
 A view of Mount Hermon, the northernmost point of Israel, covered in snow
 The site of Herod's palace, which once jutted out into the Mediterranean Sea, in Caesarea Maritima
 The Mona Lisa of the Galilee tile in Sepphoris, where Jesus and his father may have worked
 A view of the Jezreel Valley from the Mount of the Precipice
 Modern-day Nazareth from the Mount of the Precipice
 The library cave at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found (again, only nerds are interested)
 A view of the Dead Sea from Masada
 The Church of the Beatitudes on the supposed site of the Sermon on the Mount
 Me floating in the Dead Sea with the ashen cross on my head
 A typical street in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter
 Looking over Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem's Old City
 A Franciscan friar tending to the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane
 Rev. George Ragsdale and I presiding over a communion service in the Garden of Gethsemane
 The Pool of Bethesda inside of Jerusalem's city walls. This is where Jesus healed the lame man in John 5 and told him,  "Take up your mat and walk!"
 A Coptic shrine around Jesus' tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
 Joseph of Arimathea's tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. This tomb is unadorned and gives us a better idea of what Jesus' tomb would have looked like in the first century.
 The "Jesus Boat" in a museum by the Sea of Galilee
 Our group taking communion on the supposed site where Jesus fed the 5,000
 The second synagogue in Capernaum, the city in which Jesus spent most of his ministry. The temple during Jesus' time likely lies beneath this structure.
 The city gates at Bethsaida, hometown to some of Jesus' disciples. Can you spot the bull-like god/idol in the middle of the frame? Somehow it has lasted in this location approximately 2,800-3,000 years.
 Me at the archaeological site of Hazor, a city conquered by Joshua
 The site of Jereboam's altar at Dan. If you climb up the steps in the background, you can look into both Lebanon and Syria. As we were approaching this site, we heard several rounds of gunfire coming from the direction of Syria (where their inhumane civil war is still going on).
The Canaanite city gate to Dan. This site dates to about 1,800 BC and it is reported in Genesis 17 that Abraham entered this gate to look for Lot.