Saturday, December 2, 2017

Great times in Galilee

We just got back from an 11 day, 10 night trip to Galilee. It was incredible! My favorite part was quiet time to ponder at Capernaum, Magdala, and on the Sea of Galilee. Although I've been to Galilee a few times, I had had more pondering time by the 2nd day of this trip than all of the others combined. And that's good for me because I love pondering!

Time is insufficient to give a blow-by-blow of each site, so here are some highlights:

Loved Galilee campfires with my sweetheart!

Lani taught with power at Magdala!

Maria and I took this picture together at St. Peter's Primacy as we talked about John 21.

My favorite place in Galilee. So many incredible things happened here, and I always feel an amazing spirit out by the lake.

My favorite picture from our trip. Happy together on the Sea of Galilee.

We played a real turkey bowl on Thanksgiving. Great plays were made by all.

Took the four girls to a chocolate factory. It was incredible!

Loved Nazareth Village.

Especially the food!

Beautiful artwork was plentiful.

Yardenit is a beautiful place. 

Can't beat the Sea of Galilee.

Loved providing counsel from the so-called "Moses seat."

Mt. Carmel -- great location, great scriptures, great students.

Jewish Quarter Field Trip

This field trip isn’t flashy like going to Petra or Greece, or even like the ever-fun “Hezekiah’s 
Tunnel.” But I’ve got to say it’s one of my favorites.

Our first stop was the Wohl Musuem, also known as the Herodian Quarter. This site really helps us see the conflict between “the chief priests” and Christ. The people who oppose Christ in Jerusalem are an elite, wealthy group. These ruins show us how much the wealthy had and how much they had to lose if they were to lose their standing (see John 11:48). They are also dramatically different from ruins in villages like Capernaum, showing incredible disparity in living styles.

The elite who lived here had many luxuries -- mosaic tile floors (with no animal shapes), baths (for both ritual purity and luxury bathing.  (like the type of bath we have today). Stone bowls, cups, platters, beautiful dishes. Wall plaster in one home has an engraving of a Menorah, along with perhaps a table of shewbread. These are temple symbols, perhaps reflecting the experiences of the family who lived here. Amphoras show that the families here are importing Roman wine, fish sauce, other luxuries. This shows some really fine dining!

Where do priestly families get such wealth? Tithing, temple taxes, temple economy, — things that Christ may see as a burden on the poor that is enriching elite. This probably is a source of tension.

My favorite part of the museum was the palatial mansion, which is 600 square meters. There is a large open rectangular room. Stucco on the wall is made to look like Herodian blocks — like the temple. The roof (here a reconstruction) shows beautiful stucco designs. People in this home appear to have personal tableware, in contrast to poor people who were sitting around cooking pots dipping in bread.

You can see that there were beautiful frescoes — some that are charred, indicating the Roman destruction in 70 AD.

 The layout of this home is similar to what the gospel writers seem to have in mind as they describe Christ’s trial before Caiaphas. As large reception area, and adjacent to it is an open air courtyard. Nobody is arguing that this was the place of Christ’s trial, but it was certainly a place like it, and a place not very far away from that location.

“And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire….And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hand.”

At the very moment they are mocking Jesus for not being able to prophesy who hit him, his prophesy about Peter is about to come true:

“But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.”

Dr. Grey gave a powerful devotional contrasting Peter’s 3 denials with his 3 affirmations in John 21. We will all fall short, but we can all change and grow.


Our second stop was the Hurva Synagogue (see link for details). It was a beautiful building and fun to walk in this historical space. Lani and I got a picture together with Kayla from the top.


My favorite part of this field trip, and one of my top ten favorite places in Jerusalem, was the
Davidson Archeological Park.

We spent time at Robinson’s arch and saw stones from temple thrown from the Mount, down to the street. This reminded us of the Savior’s statement, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).

Dr. Grey pointed out the trumpeting inscription and cited Josephus as stating that the “Pinnacle” of the temple would likely have been in this area (the southwest corner of the temple). We looked at stores where things were sold  and discussed the temple economy. This type of economic activity is also happening in the royal stoa area, where Christ would have cleansed the temple.

Finally we went to the southern steps that led up to the temple in the time of Christ.  These stairs are Herodian, some of the originals are still there. We read John 8:56 – John 9:7 and discussed how Christ may have passed the blind man while heading down these steps.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon was a devout Christian. He visited Israel in 1988 and asked his guide to take him to a place where it was certain Jesus had walked. The guide took Armstrong to these stairs (including the worn stone at base of Double Gates) and said Jesus was an observant Jew and this is where Jews entered/exited the temple. He concluded: “Jesus stood on these steps, of that we are certain.” Armstrong prayed silently and then said: “It means more to me to stand here than to stand on the moon.”


Corinth was probably my favorite site of the trip. Two places that stood out were the Bema and the temple of Apollo.

The Bema (“judgment seat,” Acts 18:12) is where Paul was brought to trial in Corinth. Gallio, the proconsul, refused to take sides in the matter, judging it to be a religious issue that didn’t concern him. (Side note: we got to see the Gallio Inscription in Delphi; it is cool because it gives us a fixed time period for Paul’s ministry in Corinth).

We talked about some insights from the Acts account: Acts 18:4-6 “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”

*Notice that Paul preached to both Jews and Greeks (converts) in the synagogue. He was upset with their rejection and declares that from now on he will go to the Gentiles. It’s also interesting though that he had previously declared that he would go to Gentiles (Acts 13:46). It made me think of Paul getting frustrated and saying, “I quit!” But he didn’t really quit.

“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:  For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).

This touched me to think of Paul being afraid, hesitant perhaps in the face of rejection he has received. But receiving encouragement from the Lord, he pressed forward.

Connected with Corinth is of course the epistles 1 and 2 Corinthians. We discussed the context of 1 Corinthians, noting several passages that illustrate the divisions that were amongst the people. One of the solutions to this division is charity – I loved reading 1 Corinthians 13 in Corinth.

One of my favorite scripture accounts has been that of eating meat offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8). To me one the take home messages is to not focus on “It’s my right to do such and such,” but to rather ask myself, “How will doing such and such affect other people? We discussed this story in view of the temple of Apollos and had a great experience. 



While in Athens, sitting on Mars Hill, we read the account of Paul’s ministry in Athens. It was 
especially interesting to see how close Mars Hill is to the Acropolis and to consider that as the 
backdrop for Paul’s word (quoted in full below). We discussed Paul’s ability to connect with 
different people and build relationships based on his knowledge of their culture and background. \
After a downpour, there was a break in the rain and several students shared their testimonies. As that 
concluded, we took a quick class picture and then it started to pour rain again. Not the most ideal 
weather, but a lasting memory!

Here's Paul’s story from Athens:

Paul was troubled “when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:16–34).

After Mars Hill we went to the Acropolis with the rain still coming down. Note the plastic wrapping around my boot! I was grateful to Sister Huff for the suggestion - I would have been miserable otherwise!

A lot more could be said about Athens, which was our final stop on the Greece trip (I'm posting in order of Paul's journey, not our own). One theme that stood out to me throughout the trip was the powerful influence of women in the early Christian church. The first person Paul baptized in Greece was Lydia, a woman who had an important influence on the growth of the church. In Thessalonica there were “chief women not a few” who believed (Acts 17:4). In Berea not a few “honourable women which were Greeks” also joined with Paul (Acts 17:12). In Athens Damaris believed, Priscilla and Chloe appear to be important figures for the church in Corinth. Throughout Paul’s missions, women played vital roles in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthening the church, just as they do today. 

Thessalonica and Berea

Loved being in Thessaloniki! For some students the highlight was the pirate boat, for some, the amazing food. Glad I got to eat lunch with my cousin Hannah and other wonderful students. We shared embarrassing moments and crush stories at this lunch - definitely a good time.

I think the highlights were the scriptural connections. From Philippi, Paul traveled next to Thessalonica. He had some good success there, but eventually some envious Jews (see Acts 17:5) assaulted those who were following Paul’s teachings. They said to the rulers of the city that these men “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). We talked about how each of us can turn the world upside down in powerful ways.

Side note: One of the highlights for me of being in Thessalonica was going to the service at a Greek Orthodox church. It was a very touching experience. I didn't take pictures as I didn't want to disrupt the service, but it was beautiful.

Paul left Thessalonica and traveled to Berea. These people “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Unfortunately, the rabble-rousers from Thessalonica soon came to Berea and Paul was forced to head to Athens. 



Philippi, was the first place in Greece where we have recorded of Paul teaching. The first person being recorded as baptized in Philippi is Lydia: “On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us” (Acts 16:13-15). The above picture is Dr. Huff teaching down by the river where this event took place.

It's poignant to see the powerful influence that Lydia and others like her will have on the church (see Acts 17:4, 12). One way that the wealthy make a difference is by supporting Paul in his missionary journeys. Lydia hosted Paul at her home. In a letter to the Philippians, Paul refers to the help he had received from the Philippians, writing, “You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica [Acts 17:1-9], you sent me help for my needs more than once” (Philippians 4:15-16). Similarly, wealth saints today have financed the growth of the church in other nations.  

While still in Philippi, Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl and was then prosecuted by her owners because they lost revenue now that she wasn’t able to tell fortunes. Paul was severely flogged and cast in to prison. That night there was an earthquake; Paul and his companion Silas were free. However, they did not escape; rather, they stayed, converted the jailer and his family and rejoiced with them. The next morning, “The magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, “The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul replied, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters[g] there, they departed” (Acts 16:35-40).


In this we see again Lydia’s support, but also an interesting detail about Paul. He could have used his “Roman card” before getting beat, but by being beat unjustly, he was able to use this as leverage, possibly to protect the Philippian saints from further troubles from magistrates.

Approximately 10 years later, Paul was again in prison (perhaps in Ephesus or Rome) and wrote to the Philippians. We see some connections between his epistle to the Philippians and his experience in Philippi.

Trials help further the work.

Paul writes, “I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me [his current imprisonment] has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul is definitely looking on the bright side. Similarly, good things had come from his sacrifice in Philippi.

Paul also states, “[God]…has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:27-30). Paul points out that the Philippians are having the same struggle that they saw he had – referring to the persecutions and imprisonment that he had received. Paul is writing them to encourage them to stay strong even in the midst of these trials. In fact, it’s important to note that he refers to suffering for Christ as a privilege.

Paul believes in the power of love and sacrifice. He tells the Philippians, “Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:2-4).

Although trials will come, no loss is greater than the gain of Christ. Paul says, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)

Paul concludes with some very powerful advice:
  • ·       “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). We don’t need to look back on regrets or poor decisions that we have made, but rather move forward with faith into the future.
  • ·       “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11). A key to a happy life!
  • ·       “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). What is the secret to happiness even in “any and all circumstances”? The fact that we can do all things through the strengthening power of Jesus Christ. 

Temple Mount with Lani

Had a great morning on Temple Mount with Lani. We went through the New Testament and were surprised at the sheer volume of Christ’s teachings that took place at the temple. For example, Matthew 21:23 – 24:1 all take place in the temple. John 7:14-53, 8:2-59 are other examples among many. It was a real treat to read these words of the Savior near the place where he uttered them.