Archive | February, 2013
The Most Important Place I’ve Ever Walked

The Most Important Place I’ve Ever Walked

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Jerusalem

 

I just returned from a 10-day trip to Israel that was truly incredible.  I had never been to the Holy Land and was so glad to experience this life changing trip with my wife and some close friends.  I find it very difficult to express just what it meant and felt like to actually walk in places where Jesus himself would have walked.  For the last 20 years I have taught church members and college/seminary students all about these places.  Only the Lord knows how many pictures and maps I have shown in lectures.  And then to finally see it all for myself was indescribable!  On the way home, my mind was flooded with favorite places/memories and the major takeaways of the trip.  Here are just a few:

One, I was struck with just how amazing a teacher Jesus Christ was.  As a teacher myself, I often struggle with how to make the subject/material come to life for my students.  I realized in a fresh way that Jesus was the master teacher.  This hit me as I stood looking at the cliff face in Caesarea Philippi.  This place in the first century was the hot bed of paganism.  Jesus brought his disciples here to point-blank reveal to them his identity (Matt. 16).  It was here that he asked the disciples who they thought he was.  Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This was an amazing statement in a region where there were countless gods.  Jesus responded to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Chills went up my back as I imagined Jesus saying this with the giant rock cliff face in the background.  At that rock people worshiped the Greek god Pan, threw their children to their deaths as a sacrifice, and worshiped goats.  A lesson to us all that whenever we follow false gods the outcome is devastating.  But upon the confession that Jesus is the one true God, we will find a rock of truth, peace, and eternal security.  What an amazing teaching with this giant rock in the background!

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Caesarea Philippi

 

Two, I was reminded of the truthfulness of Christianity and the Bible.  In Israel, civilizations have been living in the region since the beginning of human history.  Thus, ancient artifacts are perpetually being uncovered.  Site after site that we visited only confirmed that everything ever dug up out of the ground only proves the accuracy of the biblical record and never disproves it.  Over 90% of the cities/villages recorded in the Bible have been discovered in the place where the Bible says it was located.  Names, tunnels, palaces, temples, etc. that are mentioned in the Bible have been discovered.  Our culture today believes that if you believe in God, and that he created the world, as well as believe in Scripture as the authority in life then you are a misguided simpleton who cannot think critically.  Archaeology clearly demonstrates that to be a Christian and believe in the Bible does not mean you have checked your brains at the door.

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The Abraham Gate at Tel-Dan.  Abraham would have walked through this gate to rescue his nephew Lot (Gen. 14)

 

Three, perhaps the strongest takeaway I had from this trip was that in the end what matters most is not that I have walked where Jesus walked, but that I walk the way he walked.  The accounts in the Bible of Jesus teaching, ministering, healing, dying, and rising again are all real.  Walking where he walked brought all of that to clear, colorful life for me.  And yet, Jesus came to this earth and did all that he did not just to establish some really neat holy sites to visit, but to change my life.  Yes, he really did walk on the earth, and he did so to really transform me.

Our tour guide brought us one day to a place known as the Southern Steps.  These are the steps leading out of the south wall of the city of Jerusalem that Jews would have used when they exited the Temple in the first century.  It was here that Jesus would have done most of the teaching he did while in Jerusalem.  I noticed when we came to this place our tour guide went sat on a rock that was part of one of the ancient steps.  He sat there for a moment, wistfully looked around, then got up.  He then told us this story:

The guide said that years ago he served as the personal tour guide to a famous pilot from the United States.  This pilot was an atheist- a self-proclaimed “man of science” who didn’t believe in the supernatural.  The pilot was promoted to be an astronaut and on his first mission into space he looked at the earth from that new vantage point and immediately in his heart knew that the world was not the product of random chance/evolution, but was created by a Higher Being.  When he returned to earth this pilot gave his life to Christ and lived passionately for the Lord.  After he retired, he came to the Holy Land for a visit.  This pilot told our tour guide that he wanted him to take him to a place in Jerusalem that he knew with 100% certainty was a place where Jesus would have walked.  So, the guide brought the pilot to the Southern Steps.  The guide then said that the pilot sat down on that same rock the guided had sat on, looked to his left toward the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane and then said, “You know, of all the places I have ever walked, this place is the most important.”  The guide then explained to us what an amazing statement that was because the pilot’s name was Neil Armstrong.  Even more important than walking on the moon, was walking where Jesus walked.

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The Southern Steps where Jesus would have walked down to exit the Temple in Jerusalem and the location of where he taught when in the city (I’m sitting on the rock Armstrong sat on)

 

The world tells us to walk according to what it values as true and best for you- a walk that pursues wealth, power, and self-gratification.  But of all the ways you can walk, or live your life, the best way to walk is the way Jesus walked- in faith, humility, commitment, perseverance, and total dependence on God.  This is why Jesus came and walked this earth- to enable us to walk as he did.

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-24-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-24-13

podcastimage 2Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 24th, 2013.

Reflections from Todd’s Trip to Israel.

Sufficient Grace

Sufficient Grace

graceThere are times in life when we experience storms that seem to never end.  Paul endured what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”  And yet, Paul discovered that even in the most painful and enduring trials the grace of God was sufficient.  2 Cor. 12:8-9, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”  The word order in Greek can render the phrase to read, “Sufficient for you is the grace of me.”  Indeed, what we need first and foremost in the storms of life is the grace/presence of Jesus.  More than looking within ourselves or to the world’s answers, we need Jesus.  He is the comfort, strength, and provision we need in painful times.

How do we connect with God’s grace/presence during storms of life?  It is important that we elevate our study of the Word.  Psalm 119:71- “It is good for me that I was afflicted,
 that I may learn Your statutes.”  In times of struggle, our perception and understanding of God’s Word is heightened.  Martin Luther once said three things are necessary to understand a text of Scripture: prayer, study, and suffering a trial.  The reason God allows us to be in a storm is to teach us a lesson; to mold and shape us into the person he wants us to become.  In storms, God is trying to get our attention.  Thus, we need to spend quality time in the Word.

Another thing we need to do is elevate our prayer life.  Like Paul, Jesus prayed three times for his “thorn” or as He called it His “cup” to be removed- the cross (Matt. 26:36-44).  In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed if there could be any way for Him to fulfill God’s will without the torture and pain of the crucifixion for God to make it so.  Yet, for Jesus and Paul, it was God’s will for them to endure the pain of the trial.  It was prayer that enabled both to move forward, despite the difficulty, in God’s plan for their lives.  The “thorn” and the “cup” were not enjoyable, but Jesus and Paul knew that the grace/presence of God would strengthen them to thrive through the storm.

Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher of the 19th century, was a man who endured many storms in his life, but experienced the grace of God.  He experienced strong bouts with depression most of his adult life.  His wife whom he cared for was an invalid most of their marriage.  He took unpopular stands against the theological liberalism of his day and endured constant ridicule and threats.  He spent one-third of the last 27 years of his ministry out of the pulpit because of his own physical illness.  There was hardly a weakness, hardship, or difficulty he did not know.  And yet he knew his trials would result in strength and God’s grace. Spurgeon wrote:

“It is easy to believe in grace for the past and the future, but to rest in it for the immediate necessity is true faith… At this moment, and at all moments which shall ever occur between now and glory, the grace of God will be sufficient for you.  This sufficiency is declared without any limiting words, and therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our Lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee, sufficient to strengthen thee, sufficient to comfort thee, sufficient to make thy trouble useful to thee, sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it, sufficient to bring thee out of it, sufficient to bring thee out of ten thousand like it, sufficient to bring thee home to heaven.  Whatever would be good for thee, Christ’s grace is sufficient to bestow; whatever would harm thee, his grace is sufficient to avert, whatever thou desirest, his grace is sufficient to give thee if it be good for thee, whatever thou wouldst avoid, his grace can shield thee from it if so his wisdom shall dictate… Here let me press upon you the pleasing duty of taking home the promise personally at this moment, for no believer here need be under any fear, since for him also, at this very instant, the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient.”

It is so very true: even in the darkest and longest of storms, the grace and presence of God is sufficient to enable you to thrive through the storm and be made stronger in His will.

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-10-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-10-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 10th, 2013.  “Why Do Some Trials Never Seem to End?”  2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-3-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-3-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 3rd, 2013.  “How Do I Avoid Failure in Trials?”  Hebrews 12:12-17