Day 1--Sunday, March 26
Today we woke before the sun was up to enjoy the lights and stirring of Tel Aviv. As I write this it is now Sunday night following a long day on short sleep, and the slow WIFI is urging me to surrender. Let's finish this tomorrow!
There. that's better. a little more sleep, another day of wonderful exploration, and I'm back to share some more reflections. This day was our first adventure following travel, so all were eager to go. This morning began on the cool side but quickly yielded to the sun and nearly perfect conditions in the low to mid seventies (F).
The group traveling together represents three geographical regions: eight of us from central Washington, three from the Portland area, and 26 from the high desert in Victorville, California. It's a lot of fun to be partnering with my brother Kurt and colleague Ken Wilmot in this joint effort. The group shares time in God's Word each morning on the bus and is learning to become acquainted and to build new friendships as we reflect on how to live out the teaching in Romans 12:9 and following.
It's especially fun to have our group from Yakima experiencing this unique time together: Kellye Holder, Rick and Debbie Phillips, Ken and Marcia Keifenheim, Marv and Judy Stewart, and myself. And our skilled bus driver Meir and experienced local guide Jacov (Jacob) have been so helpful.
We began today by making our way through Tel Aviv, following the coastal route down to Jaffa (ancient Joppa). This is where the ancient Jewish prophet Jonah tried to escape God's assignment (Jonah 1) and centuries later where the apostle Peter was summoned to encourage some Jesus followers grieving the loss of their friend Tabitha. What transpired would change that community for a long time (Acts 9:32-43). While in Joppa we explored some of the local sites including what is believed to be the ancient house of Simon the tanner with whom Peter stayed when visiting that city. To learn more, go to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jaffa.
Our journey along the coastline took us northward to Caesarea Maritima, a massive resort community that Herod the Great had built over a span of twelve years and completed in 10 BC. The city was a marvel, including a palace, an amphitheater, a hippodrome for chariot racing and blood sport, and a fresh-water pool on the edge of the sea. Where did the fresh water originate? Herod constructed a massive aqueduct system to deliver the water from about eight miles away. Impressive. Less impressive is the man himself because he refused to acknowledge God's right to rule and paid for it with his life (Acts 12:23-24). To learn more, go to http://www.caesarea.com/en/home/tourism-and-leisure/harbor/general-info/caesarea-harbor-national-park-map.
As we continued north along the coast we passed through Haifa and onto Akko (ancient Acre). After a delicious lunch we ventured into a compound constructed during the Crusades where forces and prisoners were housed in this strategic location (Hospitallers Fortress). What makes this site so fascinating is to see how well it is preserved after centuries of being filled and hidden. I felt like a little kid again, finding our way through narrow passageways and into grand rooms of stone. Whoever designed this structure had a vivid imagination! To learn more, go to http://www.akko.org.il/en/The-Hospitaller-Fortress-.
We departed Akko and headed for Rosh HaNikra at the border with Lebanon. Through the years ocean waves have pummeled the rock near the border creating a series of grottos that can now be accessed by the public. Just for fun, some of us tried to get our picture taken with an Israeli soldier on the other side of the guarded gate. He was a good sport. To learn more, go to https://israel-tourguide.info/tag/grottos/.
Finally we traded the serene view of the Mediterranean for the serenity of the Sea of Galilee, a body of water roughly the size of Lake Tahoe in California. By the time we got to our hotel it was late in the day, we were eager to eat, and we were desperate for a good night's sleep. Thank You, Lord.
What did our Father teach me today?
Greatness is always a reflection of God's great glory.
When men and women think they can become great or take credit for being great they have missed the main thing: only God is great, and all greatness is a reflection of God's great glory. "What about great people who do evil things?," you ask. My answer is that we mistakenly equate accomplishments with greatness. Our society--in fact, our very human nature--is bent on self-glorification. To do so is not to be great in the eyes of God. God is the measure of true greatness.
Consider This: Matthew 6:1-4