Tag Archives: Israel

The Stone Carpenter

One of the things I learned in Nazareth, was that a carpenter in Jesus day meant more than someone who worked with wood. It was a person who worked with stone also. There wasn’t a different word for the two. It’s interesting to me because it changes how I think about Jesus versus how I thought of Him as just a woodworker. Knowing that Jesus could have been a stone worker as well, brings other verses to life that didn’t quite make as much sense before.

One of the first scriptures I thought of when I heard that was I Peter 2:5. It says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (NLT). You and I are living stones that Jesus, the stone carpenter, shapes, molds, and builds with. No matter how hard our hearts might be, He can use His divine chisel to form us into who He needs us to be.

Another one I thought of was Matthew 16:18 that says, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” I’ve always thought of this verse as just Peter being the Rock, but when we think of what Peter said above, each one of us are the Rock with which Jesus builds His church. We are the ones also who the powers of hell will not conquer. We are stronger than we think and we have the power of God in us causing us to be able to withstand anything the enemy brings.

Go one more step with me. Mark 15:46 says, “Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.” I don’t think it was coincidental that Jesus was buried in a rock. When we become Christians, we accept Jesus into our hearts. He fills the void inside of us just like He did that tomb.

The list could go on and on throughout the Bible. These are just a few examples I’ve thought of while sitting in Nazareth. Jesus was more than a wood carpenter, He was a stone carpenter. He’s a builder who uses what is available. No matter how little or much we think we have to offer, He can use it to build His Church because we carry His spirit inside of us. We are living stones because the One who lives forever, lives in us. We are His workmanship created to do good works, as Paul put it in Ephesians 2:10.

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A Prayer For Israel


Lord,

I want to lift up Israel in prayer today. I pray that you would lead and guide its leaders to follow your truths found in the Bible. This country has a long history of following you and leaving your commandments. I’m asking that you bring repentance to this nation followed by revival. I pray not only for the Jews and Israelis who live here, but for the Arabs and other ethnicities and nationalities represented here. Send your revival fire to tall of them.

As psalm 122:6 tells us to, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for all its inhabitants. You know each one by name and love them. I pray that you would protect this city from hate and terrorism. Since the time of David, this city on a set of hills has been a place that has pointed others to you. I’m asking that you would continue to use this city to bring your word to life, but also to bring others to the cross where they will be saved.

May you cause people not to worship the stones and temples erected here, but to use them to find you. It broke my heart to see people worship stones, images, and icons that were designed to point them to you. Open the eyes of all who come here and live here to see you and to out their faith in you. I know that you are alive and well, and that your desire is that none should perish. I know that includes Jews and Gentiles from what I’ve read in your word.

I pray that your love would reign supreme in the hearts and lives of all who live here and in the surrounding territories and countries. I know this is a big request, but I believe it’s in line with your heart. John 3:16 tells us that you loved the whole world and sent your son to die for everyone here. Please hear this request and have your way in this land. As Jesus said, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In Jesus name I pray,Amen 

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Good News


For me, one of the greatest things about taking a trip to Israel is being able to put a picture with a story. For a lot of people, it’s the ability to walk where Jesus walked. There is something about being here that makes the Bible come to life. You get a new appreciation for the stories you have read your whole life. You see the caves of En Gedi that David hid in while running from Saul. The Kidron Valley is deeper than you have imagined. The terrain that Jesus and others had to walk through is formidable. I’d like to share one of my take aways with you.

First, there is a strong, vibrant Christian community of Arabs here. I know most people think all Arabs are Muslims, but that’s not the case. We went to two church services with Arab Christians and felt God’s presence strongly. Not only are there Arab Christians, but there are Arabs who don’t hate Israel or Israelis. These pastors we met reminded us of Romans 1:16 that says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” (NLT).

These men and women are not ashamed of Jesus, and preach His name to Muslims around the Middle East. They know their lives are in danger every time they preach the Good News, but they do it anyway. They know that God loves Arabs and Muslims and He wants them to find the truth. One of the ways they do that is to remind Muslims that the Quran says that not only was Jesus a prophet, but that He’s the Word of God. If He is the Word of God, then they need to see what He teaches and how it’s opposite of what they’re taught.

We have to remember that Jesus didn’t just die for the Jews and the Americans, He did for everyone. John 3:16 says that whosoever “believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” We can’t be picky with whom we share the Good News with. God’s desire is that none would perish. It’s up to us to reach who we can, how we can. As the verse above said, the Good News was for the Jew first and also the Gentile. We can’t be afraid or ashamed of this Good News.

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The Stone Carpenter


One of the things I learned in Nazareth, was that a carpenter in Jesus day meant more than someone who worked with wood. It was a person who worked with stone also. There wasn’t a different word for the two. It’s interesting to me because it changes how I think about Jesus versus how I thought of Him as just a woodworker. Knowing that Jesus could have been a stone worker as well, brings other verses to life that didn’t quite make as much sense before.

One of the first scriptures I thought of when I heard that was I Peter 2:5. It says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (NLT). You and I are living stones that Jesus, the stone carpenter, shapes, molds, and builds with. No matter how hard our hearts might be, He can use His divine chisel to form us into who He needs us to be.

Another one I thought of was Matthew 16:18 that says, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” I’ve always thought of this verse as just Peter being the Rock, but when we think of what Peter said above, each one of us are the Rock with which Jesus builds His church. We are the ones also who the powers of hell will not conquer. We are stronger than we think and we have the power of God in us causing us to be able to withstand anything the enemy brings.

Go one more step with me. Mark 15:46 says, “Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.” I don’t think it was coincidental that Jesus was buried in a rock. When we become Christians, we accept Jesus into our hearts. He fills the void inside of us just like He did that tomb.

The list could go on and on throughout the Bible. These are just a few examples I’ve thought of while sitting in Nazareth. Jesus was more than a wood carpenter, He was a stone carpenter. He’s a builder who uses what is available. No matter how little or much we think we have to offer, He can use it to build His Church because we carry His spirit inside of us. We are living stones because the One who lives forever, lives in us. We are His workmanship created to do good works, as Paul put it in Ephesians 2:10.

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The Bread Of Life


One of the sites we visited around the Sea of Galilee was the church at Tabgha. It’s there to remind us of Jesus feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fish. The church is situated right on the Sea of Galilee near the Mount of Beatitudes. Inside the church is a rock where some believe Jesus broke the bread and the fish. But just below the rock, there is a beautiful mosaic of a basket with four pieces of bread and two fish beside it. This is what was interesting to me.

Our guide told us that the artist put four loaves instead of five because Jesus Himself was the Bread of Life. He would have been the fifth loaf. It’s very interesting to think about. In Mark 6, it’s the disciples who noticed the people were hungry and asked Jesus to send the people away to find something to eat. They didn’t think of Him as bread for the people yet. The people were indeed hungry, but they were hungry for something that satisfies longer than a few hours.

Jesus then did something interesting. He had the disciples seat the people, Then, in Mark 6:41, it says, “Then Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all” (GNT). If you read closely, He gave the bread to His disciples to distribute. To this day, we as His disciples, are asked to take His broken body (the broken bread) and distribute it to the masses.

Another beautiful part of the story is in Verses 42-43. It says, “Everyone ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up twelve baskets full of what was left of the bread and the fish.” This reminds me that Jesus is more than enough. No matter how many times we tell His story, it is just as powerful and fulfilling as the first. Not only is He the Bread of Life, but this bread does not run out no matter how many times, in how many lands, in how many languages it’s distributed. Go into all the world, and preach this good news.

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The Olive Press


Nazareth Village is in the town of Nazareth and recreates what life was like for Jesus here He grew up. We watched them make yarn from the sheep they were raising and learned how they would color it. We watched a man crush wheat on a threshing floor and saw the tools used to separate the wheat from the chaff. We also saw an olive oil press that was very similar to what would have been used in that time.

The guide showed us how they would put the olives in the press, roll the millstone to crush them, take baskets woven from wool to scoop up the olives, set them on top of each other, and let the oil drain. He said this was the purest oil and would have been offered to God. The color was the clearest and would have tasted the best. We would refer to this as virgin olive oil in our world. It’s what comes naturally from crushing the olives.

Next, he showed how they would use a leaver to lift heavy stones and a pole to crush the olives more. This heavy stone pressed the olives harder than the millstone and squeezed out oil. This oil was what was sold and used in every day cooking or for perfume. After that, they would move the baskets a little further in the press where they could exert even greater pressure. The oil that came from this pressing was typically dirty and what was used to put in oil lamps to light houses.

After he showed us this, he reminded us that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane (translated the olive press) to pray the night He would be handed over to the authorities. In Luke 26:38 Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me” (GNT). He was like an olive being crushed in that place. The pressure became so great that by the third time (the hardest press) He went to pray, Luke 22:44 says, “In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Isaiah 53:5 described what was going on in the Garden of the Olive Press. It says, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (NLT). Jesus withstood excruciating pain for our sins. The oil (blood) that came out was holy and offered to God for our sins. It was pure and very costly. A price and suffering He willingly endured in order to pay for our sins. A sacrifice so great demands our heart, our soul, and our life.

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The Via Dolorosa


As we walked down the Via Dolorosa, we visited many of the stations of the cross which are adhered to by Catholics. If you’re unfamiliar with this road or “stations of the cross”, it’s the route that Jesus was led down from Pilate’s court to Golgotha. As we walked this path, I kept thinking how hard it was for someone who wasn’t injured, much less a man who had been beaten within an inch of His life and awake all night.

As we got to station five, our guide, told us how archeological evidence shows that Jesus didn’t carry the cross over one shoulder like we’ve always imagined. The cross beam was tied to their hands with their arms outstretched. She said that in every case of remains that have been found of those crucified, their nose was broken as well as other facial bones. Because their hands were tied, they couldn’t protect their face from the fall. When she said that, my wife immediately reminded me that Scriptures say, not a single bone in His body would be broken.

At Station Five, we remember Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus. I’ve always been shown that Jesus fell and Simon was told to carry it for Him. As I read through every Gospel account of the crucifixion, no where is it mentioned that He fell. They all say what Luke 23:26 says, “The soldiers led Jesus away, and as they were going, they met a man from Cyrene named Simon who was coming into the city from the country. They seized him, put the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus” (GNT). 

If Jesus had fallen, a bone would be broken. To fulfill Psalm 34:20, Simon was seized to carry the cross. As I thought about that, I thought of Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23. “And he said to them all, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me.” If you and I are going to carry the cross of Christ, it’s not going to be an easy path. We may even fall and be broken. The true way of following Jesus is down the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. It long, difficult, and heavy at times, but we have the promise that His grace will be sufficient in those times. 

 

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