Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pater Noster with Lani

Lani and I spent a delightful Friday afternoon at the Pater Noster church. A cave (still present today) was one the places that Helena (the mother of Constantine) identified as a sacred spot and was the location of one of the three basilicas she had built (along with the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher).

We spent some time in the cave, reading scriptures and singing hymns about prayer. While we were there, a group of pilgrims from Guatemala came and recited the Lord’s Prayer together with intense reverence. It was really touching.

As I pondered the phrase, “Lord teach me to pray” I felt that I could learn more about how to pray while at Pater Noster. I’m sure that we can learn how to pray any time we ask for guidance, but one thing that really struck me at that site was the importance of the first part of the Lord’s prayer: The first thing Christ does is reverence His Father, and focus on “thy will be done.” I should better emulate this.




The Lord's prayer is posted here in many languages, including braille in multiple languages.

City of David Field Trip

The City of David Field Trip was awesome! We began on a lookout where we could see how David’s Jerusalem would have looked, as well as later expansions in the times of Solomon and Hezekiah.

Jerusalem expands dramatically during time period of Hezekiah. From this lookout at the City of David we can see the area where these refugees settled. Lehi’s ancestors probably settled here.

“Asa...gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.”

“[During the time of Hezekiah]: “Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.”


After the 3D movie, we went down to the wall that supports what was likely King David’s house.


Several clay seals have been found in and around this area, which, by the time of Jeremiah was an administrative area (later kings likely lived in and around Solomon’s palace). Normally these seals wouldn’t have been so interesting to me; however, having just read Jeremiah it was cool to see the connection between these seals and the names of people who were involved with Jeremiah.


Note that two of the people mentioned above were instrumental in putting Jeremiah in prison:

1 Then...Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah...said unto the king, “We beseech thee, let this man [Jeremiah] be put to death” (Jeremiah 1:1,4).


We spent a few minutes reflecting on several scripture stories that would have happened in and around this area, such as 2 Samuel 11-12, 2 Kings 23-25, Jeremiah 36-39, and Nehemiah…Speaking of Nehemiah, that’s one of Lani’s favorite books, so we definitely needed a picture in front of what scholars have identified as a wall built by Nehemiah!


Lani and I standing next to Hezekiah's wall!



This scripture connection is a bit tenuous in my view (because the name is not even an approximate match) but was a fun connection to make with a lesser known story. The picture above talks about a grave found nearby of a man who was buried with his maidservant. Whether or not the grave was of Shebna, it was fun to explore this lesser-known story from Isaiah 22:

15 Thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,
16 What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?
17 Behold, the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.
18 He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.
19 And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.
20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

Dr. Grey pointed out some interesting connections between Eliakim being given keys, become a “viceroy” so to speak, and Christ giving keys to Peter in Matthew 16.


On to Hezekiah’s tunnel!ImageDesc

“And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kings 20:20)

Our last stop of the day was at the Pool of Siloam. Students here are setting on the steps leading down to the pool where the blind man was healed in John 9. Incredible to be at the actual site!


“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam...He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”


Mural depicting what the pool of Siloam might have looked like in the time of Christ.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Nice Afternoon on the Mount of Olives

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

Here I am, sitting on the Mount of Olives, across from the temple, just like Christ and his disciples were 2,000 years ago.

Note that the teachings of both Matthew 24 and Matthew 25 both likely took place here, or somewhere very close to here.

37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

From Jerome Murphy O’Conner:

“Jesus’ familiarity with the Mount of Olives stemmed from the factthat, when in the Jerusalem area, he stayed with his friends at Bethany (Luke 10: 38; Mark 11: 11). At pilgrimage time the population of Jerusalem tripled. The cost of lodging within the city became exorbitant and the poor had to make arrangements in the surrounding villages.Thus each day he walked over the hill to the city and returned at nightfall(Luke 21: 37). The lie of the land permits only one route if the traveller wants to avoid climbing in and out of wadis: from Gethsemane straight up the hill to et-Tur and along the ridge to Bethphage (roughly the modern road), then along another ridge to Bethany. One evening,seated on the slope opposite the Temple, Jesus spoke to his disciples of the future of the city (Mark 13: 3) whose lack of faith had driven him to tears (Luke 19: 37, 41–4). At the bottom of the slope is the garden of Gethsemane where he was arrested a few days later (Mark 14: 26–52). Luke locates the Ascension on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:6–12).”

A beautiful picture inside the church:


37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Shephelah Field Trip

**Note -- this post is a bit more scripture heavy than usual, pointing out the scripture stories that happened on this field trip.**

1 And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.
3 And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.
4 Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
5 Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.
6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?
7 Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them:
8 And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.
9 And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.
10 And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:
11 And they laid the ark of the Lord upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.
12 And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh.
13 And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.


Reading 1 Samuel 4-6 in the site of Beth-Shemesh.

1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.
18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

Students act out Samson’s wife trying to learn the secret of the riddle. Sorek Valley in the background, Timnath further to the west.

Timnath is in this direction.

4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

15 And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
19 And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.

Sorek Valley


2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.

19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
20 And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.
21 For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.
22 And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
23 And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.
26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.
48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

Overlooking the Valley of Elah

We overlooked the Valley from Azekah a fortified city in the Shephelah.

7 When the king of Babylon’s army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah.

Maria and students in Azekah just before it started pouring rain on us.


9 And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.
10 Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.
11 And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.
12 So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.
13 And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the Lord, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil.

We visited some tombs and an extensive cave system in Mareshah. Another highlight there was the olive press.




13 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house.
16 At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
17 And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rab-shakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem.

We are standing in front of the siege ramp the Assyrians built when they attacked Lachish.

Micah prophesied against the city:

13 O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.

In an earlier generation, Joshua and his army defeated the people at Lachish.

In a later generation Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Lachish again

7 When the king of Babylon’s army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah.


We slung stones in the valley of Elah. I reread first Samuel 17 and was especially impressed with this phrase: “the Lord saveth not with sword and spear.” We can trust in God. He likes to have the odds not in his favor. But with his help, we will win!

Students line up to take aim at Goliath.

Joseph and Katrina have their slings.


A panorama of the valley.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Jericho Field Trip

The first stop on our Jericho field trip was the Wadi Qelt. From this point, one can see both Jerusalem, and Jericho, as well as some trails that lead between the two cities. The perfect setting to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan.


We were also in the wilderness area near where Christ was baptized, probably a possible setting for the temptations of Jesus. We spent a few minutes reading Matthew and Luke four, pondering these temptations.

Our next stop was Jericho. We stopped in front of a beautiful fountain, and read the account in Second Kings 2 of Eisha healing the waters of Jericho.


Dr. Grey gave an engaging overview of the archeological history of the site. Later in the day, when he talked about the walls around Jericho and some conflicts between archaeological findings in the Biblical account, he shared a great testimony about the importance of grappling with difficult issues in the household of faith.


John and Lani get a quick picture together by an ancient tower. Looking at some trees in the distance, we also pondered Luke 19, and Zaccheus climbing a tree to see Jesus.


We reviewed several scriptural events that happened at or near Jericho. Two events that took place here, that you might not be aware took place here, were Elisha going with Elijah, when Elijah was taken up to heaven, and the death of Zedekiah.


Our final stop on this half-day field trip, was Herod’s Winter Palace. We reviewed some of Herod’s accomplishments, and also some of his maniacal tendencies. He died on this spot, and we read some gruesome details about his death .


Seeing these Herod’s ruins, and comparing them with the great legacy of Jesus teaches important lessons about the kind of people we ought to be.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Highlights from Jordan

It would take several blog posts to detail everything about the Jordan field trip. It was incredible! Because I’ll be going back two more times I’ll focus on some aspects (like Petra) in later posts. But for now, here are two Petra teasers:

It would take several blog posts to detail everything about the Jordan field trip. It was incredible! Because I’ll be going back two more times I’ll focus on some aspects (like Petra) in later posts. But for now, here are two Petra teasers:

Loved the long camel ride I was able to take from the restaurant to the Treasury!

Asmah was a great saleslady. I loved chatting with her and learning more about her life.

While Petra was clearly a highlight of Jordan, I loved the scripture connections we made throughout the trip.
Brother Huff teaches on Mount Nebo, talking about Moses overlooking the promised land. I felt a special spirit here.

Maccherus was a favorite site. Josephus tells us this is where John the Baptist was put in prison. We went into details about how King Aretas IV reacted when Herod Antipas tried to divorce his daughter and stood on or near where Herod would have had his birthday party.

A fun part of the trip was visiting the LDS branch in Jordan and hearing from the first woman to serve as a sister missionary from Jordan.
I loved visiting the Ammon Citadel. The people of Ammon or the Ammonites are mentioned ~150 times in the Old Testament and it was good to learn more about them. We were on the site where Uriah was killed as a result of David’s perfidy and reflected on the difference in integrity between David and Uriah.
I loved the Jabbok River where Jacob wrestled with an angel. We also talked about how “Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:7) about his encounter with Esau -- but he didn’t need to be. Everything turned out okay. How often are we “greatly afraid and distressed” about things that won’t really happen? We can worry less and hope in Christ more.
Loved the hot bread fresh out this man’s oven!
We had a great experience at the King Abdullah Mosque. It was extremely informative and I felt a great spirit being there.

Our final stop on the trip was the traditional site where Christ was baptized. We sang together and read verses about Christ’s baptism.
Some students dipped a toe in the water.
Others got a bit wetter.

This was probably the best field trip of my life. Loved every minute of it - especially the personal connections with the students! Can't wait to be there with Lani and our older children.