Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jacob's Trip to Haran and Back

Two weeks ago, we talked about Jacob and his trip to Haran.  We talked about the dream he had at Bethel—the dream of the ladder—and the promise he made to God there.  We also talked about how he fulfilled that promise many years later when he got back to the Land of Israel.  

Today we’re going to talk about the rest of Jacob’s adventure:  his time in Haran and how God used that time to shape him into the man of God he later became.  Because if there’s one thing we know for sure about Jacob, it’s that when he started off in life, he was trouble.  Oh yes, he was a good boy, a mama’s boy (Gen. 25:27,28).  But he was also a liar and a cheater; a deceiver.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jacob's Vision at Bethel

Bethel:  site of Jacob's Vision

Do you know the song “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”?  It’s an old Negro slave spiritual.  It expressed the slaves’ faith that after this life of difficulties and trouble, they would be admitted to heaven.  Notice that the song understands Jacob’s ladder to be a symbol of the believer’s spiritual ascent into heaven:  “we are climbing Jacob’s ladder.”  The ascent is agonizing, but the result is glory. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Images of Prayer in the Worship of Israel

Acts 3:1:  "But Peter and John were going up into the Temple for the hour of prayer, the ninth hour." 

So often through the years, Christianity has been presented as a total break with Judaism, a completely different religion that has nothing in common with the ancient religion of the Jewish people.  Instead Christianity has been presented as a philosophical faith that has more in common with Greek philosophy than with the Bible.  But if that's true, why were Peter and John coming here, to the Temple, to pray, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus?  (Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts chapter 1, this is chapter 3.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Scripture Garden II

Well and Watering Troughs

Last week we talked a little about the Scripture Garden where my wife and I used to work.  We covered about half of the items in the garden, and this week we’ll take a quick look at the other half.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Scripture Garden I

Biblical Resources Scripture Garden at Tantur

Today I’d like to share with you the first part of a walk through a Scripture Garden that my wife Karen and I used to work at in Israel.  This garden was located halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  It's no longer there today, but has inspired many imitators that carry on the tradition. What was in the Scripture Garden?  More than two dozen full-sized models and restorations of objects from daily life in Bible times.

The purpose of the garden was to help you understand the imagery of the Bible.  Many times we read about different things like wells or threshing floors or wine presses or olive presses in the Bible, but we really don’t understand what they were or how they worked.  And since so much of the imagery of the Bible depends on this knowledge, we often don’t understand the meaning of this imagery, and so don’t understand the meaning of the verse or section it appears in. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hebrews 2

Last week, in Hebrews chapter 1, we saw how the book of Hebrews begins:  by identifying Jesus as the Son of God, who is the “character”—the impress or exact likeness—of the Father.  Because of this, he is infinitely greater than any of the angels.  And to prove it, Hebrews quotes verse after verse from the Bible, to show that Jesus is far greater than the angels.  The angels are spiritual servants, but Jesus rules and reigns at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Land of Israel

This is a quick draft of the sermon from Sunday, April 12th.  Sorry about some of the rough spots and abbreviations (N is north, S is south, E is east, W is west).  I know this is difficult to understand without the maps and photos.  I hope I’ll be able to add them some time. 

CREDIT:  This is one of the lectures developed by Dr. Jim Fleming and the staff of Biblical Resources in Jerusalem that we would give to Christian tourists when they first arrived in Israel as a general introduction to the land.  We sometimes call this the 5-4-3-2-1 lecture. 

The Bible is like the script of a play or film.  By reading it, you can get a good sense of the plot.  You can appreciate much of the dialogue.  But you have to rely on your imagination to fill in the details.  That's fine if you're reading a story of events in your own country and your own generation.  It’s easy to understand the customs and the setting of your own time and your own people. 

But what if the story takes place far away, in a distant time and culture, with a different language and people?  Your imagination will paint a picture--but that picture will be quite different than the reality.  You will miss the point of strange customs and sayings.  And you will misunderstand some of the actions.  This is the problem we have when we read the Bible:  the action is in Israel in the Middle East, thousands of years ago, in the Hebrew (or Greek) language, and among a Semitic people and society very different than our own.