PROUD MOMENTS

It’s been awhile since I posted anything. I’ve been working on some other writing projects and finished up another semester of my school work. So, here are some recent thoughts.

This past Sunday we had a visitor at church. A nice young lady who has moved recently to our area after finishing school and securing a job nearby. We took her to lunch after the morning service and were pleasantly surprised at how nice she was and how easy we conversed with her. But the thing that made me most proud was how she spoke of the Christians at Woodland Hills. She said she could feel the love among the Christians there and she felt welcomed immediately. She said she would be back!

I have often said that this is the best group of Christians I’ve ever worked with. That is not to say that the other groups weren’t good but, Woodland Hills is exceptional. My family was made to feel welcome from the first time I flew out here to Tulsa to talk with the Elders and preach for them one evening. I called Dianna while I sat in the airport waiting for my flight back to Tampa and told her it almost seemed “too good to be true.”

The next week we all flew to Tulsa and spent some time looking around the area trying to find a place to live and seeing if we liked the area. We fell in love with the Tulsa area and the people at church. They truly do love each other and are a tight knit group that is trying to serve the Lord and each other.

Once we made the actual move we set about getting to know this wonderful family here at Woodland Hills. As the weeks went by we learned names and matched them with relatives. We made sure to figure out all the family relations and connections between families. As we did this we got to know more about each individual and what they were dealing with in their life. This is how the connections are made. When you get to know your brethren great things happen.

I’ve noticed though that there were some members that I had more difficulty learning their names and finding out about their lives and struggles. These are the people that rush in at the last minute and are the first out the door after the final “Amen.” They don’t arrive early and talk with others and they don’t stay afterwards to talk either. Included in this group are the ones whose attendance is spotty at best and so our time is even more limited. So with this group we have an hour a week with some and an hour a month for others. Most of this time is taken up with the worship. This is sad because they don’t know what they are missing. Now don’t get me wrong, worship is why we come together but spending time together is also good.

The people we’ve grown closest to are the ones who stand around and talk. They are the ones with whom we share meals in our homes and restaurants. They are the ones with whom we share family events. They are the ones with whom we share the happy times. But they are also the ones that we have cried with and mourned a loved one who has left this world. They are the ones with whom we pray before surgery or during a hospital stay. That has been the case everywhere I’ve preached. It is these interactions that draw us closer as we gather together to worship our God.

Perhaps we need a fresh perspective about our time spent together with other Christians. I don’t think I could make it through the week without the constant contact with my brethren. I find myself looking forward to seeing them on Sunday night and Wednesday night so that we can grow in our love for one another as we grow together in our love for God.

I am truly blessed not only to get to do what I love in preaching the Gospel but in interacting daily with the best people on earth: God’s people. After all, I want to spend eternity with them. Why wouldn’t I want to spend as much time as possible with them on this side of eternity?

Bobby

PROUD MOMENT

It’s been awhile since I posted anything. I’ve been working on some other writing projects and finished up another semester of my school work. So, here are some recent thoughts.

This past Sunday we had a visitor at church. A nice young lady who has moved recently to our area after finishing school and securing a job nearby. We took her to lunch after the morning service and were pleasantly surprised at how nice she was and how easy we conversed with her. But the thing that made me most proud was how she spoke of the Christians at Woodland Hills. She said she could feel the love among the Christians there and she felt welcomed immediately. She said she would be back!

I have often said that this is the best group of Christians I’ve ever worked with. That is not to say that the other groups weren’t good but, Woodland Hills is exceptional. My family was made to feel welcome from the first time I flew out here to Tulsa to talk with the Elders and preach for them one evening. I called Dianna while I sat in the airport waiting for my flight back to Tampa and told her it almost seemed “too good to be true.”

The next week we all flew to Tulsa and spent some time looking around the area trying to find a place to live and seeing if we liked the area. We fell in love with the Tulsa area and the people at church. They truly do love each other and are a tight knit group that is trying to serve the Lord and each other.

Once we made the actual move we set about getting to know this wonderful family here at Woodland Hills. As the weeks went by we learned names and matched them with relatives. We made sure to figure out all the family relations and connections between families. As we did this we got to know more about each individual and what they were dealing with in their life. This is how the connections are made. When you get to know your brethren great things happen.

I’ve noticed though that there were some members that I had more difficulty learning their names and finding out about their lives and struggles. These are the people that rush in at the last minute and are the first out the door after the final “Amen.” They don’t arrive early and talk with others and they don’t stay afterwards to talk either. Included in this group are the ones whose attendance is spotty at best and so our time is even more limited. So with this group we have an hour a week with some and an hour a month for others. Most of this time is taken up with the worship. This is sad because they don’t know what they are missing. Now don’t get me wrong, worship is why we come together but spending time together is also good.

The people we’ve grown closest to are the ones who stand around and talk. They are the ones with whom we share meals in our homes and restaurants. They are the ones with whom we share family events. They are the ones with whom we share the happy times. But they are also the ones that we have cried with and mourned a loved one who has left this world. They are the ones with whom we pray before surgery or during a hospital stay. That has been the case everywhere I’ve preached. It is these interactions that draw us closer as we gather together to worship our God.

Perhaps we need a fresh perspective about our time spent together with other Christians. I don’t think I could make it through the week without the constant contact with my brethren. I find myself looking forward to seeing them on Sunday night and Wednesday night so that we can grow in our love for one another as we grow together in our love for God.

I am truly blessed not only to get to do what I love in preaching the Gospel but in interacting daily with the best people on earth: God’s people. After all, I want to spend eternity with them. Why wouldn’t I want to spend as much time as possible with them on this side of eternity?

Bobby

Heading home

Just woke up to the 12:15 AM wake up call so that we can board the bus shortly for Tel Aviv and head home. Our journey has come to an end but we take the memories home with us that will last a lifetime. 

Thanks to Ferrell and to each member of the group who made this trip special.

Shalom

  

Day Nine In Israel

 

Walking through the water tunnel
 Wednesday has come to an end for us. We started with a visit to the Israel museum. This museum contains some of the Dead Sea scrolls. They have a fabulous facsimile of the Isaiah scroll in the center of the Shrine of the book. There are also some very important archaeological discoveries on display. Ferrell took us through and showed us the most important ones. 

This afternoon we visited the City of David. We began with looking at the recent excavations at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. We entered through the Dung gate. A Roman road runs along the west side of the Temple Mount on which huge stones from the temple are piled. This is from the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. This brings to mind that Jesus said not one stone would be left upon another. We continued to the south side and saw the steps leading to the tunnel entry ways that led up to the Temple Mount. The arches from some of the passageways are visible. 

We then descended to the City of David. It is amazing how far down we went to reach this original portion of the city. There we were able to see the sone step structure which probably supported a platform for David’s palace. There are also later finds along through this section. 

The last thing for the day was to descend yet further into Gihon spring and the tunnels. Most of us walked through the Canaanite tunnel which is dry. We could see Hezekiahs tunnel as we turned left. After exiting this tunnel we faced a climb up a very steep hill that seemed to go on forever. Finally, we reached the bus and were never so glad to see our driver Fowzi. 

We went back to the hotel for rest and a good meal together. Hot showers help relieve the aching muscles that we all have. A good night of rest and we’ll be ready for our final day. Today’s activities might not sound like much but it was a full day.

One more day!

 

Southwest corner of the Temple Mount
  
Steps leading to the southern portion of the Temple Mount
 

Day Eight In Israel

  Today the group started the day early so that we could get on the Temple Mount before the crowds. We had to pass through a security checkpoint and have our bags checked. It wasn’t so bad since the machine was not working. Once on top of the platform we discussed the structure as it would have been during Jesus’ day. We climbed to the top level and viewed the Golden Dome also known as the Dome of the Rock. This is very likely the place where the Temple stood. You can also see Al Aqsa mosque and the lesser Dome of the chain. 

We then entered the old city. We walked along what is known as the Via de la Rosa or the stations of the cross. Many interestingness sights can be seen along this route. Many faiths walk this path and sing and consider it to be something special to make this trek. One group had a man carrying a cross and were singing “Jesus remember me when you come in your kingdom.” Other groups prayed at certain places or knelt and made the sign of the cross. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchur and while it is ornate and very interesting,  I was in awe of how people acted in this place. Some view it as a shrine. Others make a big production out of touching the rock under an altar. It was quite educational.

Next it was on to some excavations that are in the basements of buildings. They were in what was thought to be the priestly quarters from the temple period and contained some interesting artifacts.

Then we made our way through the shops in the old city. We stopped for lunch and the everyone had some time to shop. Most of the shopkeepers greet you and try to persuade you to buy from them. It seems that they all have the same things. But in this section is the “cardo” where the shops were in ancient times.

In the afternoon we went to the Wailing wall. It is quite the experience to go up to the wall and watch them pray. They are constantly in motion as they pray. Prayers are written down and stuffed into the cracks. Under an arch on the men’s side you can get to Wilson’s arch. Named for the man who discovered it, it affords a view of an arch that led to the Tyropean valley for entering and exiting the temple.

Back at the hotel we had some free time and some walked to Damascus gate for more shopping. Paul and I took a taxi down to Ben Yehuda street and experienced some of the shops and local people.

Tomorrow is a day for some museums with great archaeological discoveries on display. It will be a much easier day since we all have walked a great deal.

Until then,

Shalom.

Day Seven In Israel

  As things wind down for today here in Jerusalem I will just share a few highlights of today. We started early to beat the heat around the Dead Sea. We drove down to Masada and rode the cable car to the top of this fortress built by Herod the Great. Masada is an imposing rock structure situated toward the southern end of the Dead Sea. Once on top you can see the amazing feats of engineering and construction. 

The most impressive is the three level palace on the northern face of the mountain. This was for Herod’s personal use. There is also another palace for visiting dignitaries. In addition there are massive grain storage rooms and cisterns that would hold great quantities of water. The residents could live for a year on these supplies. There is a synagogue for worship, a steam room, and all the comforts of home. The Romans built a siege ramp to eventually break into the fortress and put down the rebellion. This is truly an amazing place.

Next we travelled to En Gedi (Spring of the goat). This is where David fled and Saul chased him. But David did not take the opportunity to kill Saul because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.

Next was Qumran. This community copied Biblical texts as well as Essene documents. The group of Jews here chose death rather than enslavement when the Romans came. From the top you can see cave four where the most documents were found of the Qumran literature. 

Then it was a short drive to the place close to where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea. A baptismal sight is here and it may have been in this area where Jesus came to John to be baptized. 

We then set off to Jericho where we viewed ruins of that city that dated back to before the time of Abraham as well as pre-Israelite walls. Jericho is an oasis because of the abundant water in this area. It is a stark contrast to the wilderness surrounding it. 

A short drive along the road that goes from Jericho to Jerusalem finished off the day. We stopped to look down into the valley at a monastery that is built on the side of the cliff. We had to fend off Bedouins who were trying to sell us scarves and necklaces. 

Now it is almost time for bed. Tomorrow is another early day to get to the Temple Mount before the crowds. Security is high and we must pass through metal detectors before gaining access to the top. Then we tour the Old City. Can’t wait. 

Erev Tov (good evening)

Bobby

Looking down on one of the lower levels of Herod’s palace at Qumran.

The Lord’s Day In Jerusalem

  Since today was the first day of the week, the disciples here in Jerusalem gathered to break bread in memory of our Savior. I had the privilege of speaking for a few minutes about “Faith” and how it related to what we are seeing. This was such a special thing to preach in the city where the Gospel was first preached so long ago. And, it is my birthday! I don’t think I’ll ever top this one. 

After worship we left the hotel and headed toward the amount of Olives. We took the obligatory group photo and learned all about the view we had of the temple complex, the Kidron valley, David’s city, etc. After visiting the Church of all Nations located on the Mount of Olives we headed out to Bethlehem. The little town of Bethlehem is not so little nor would it have been in Jesus’ day. We stopped at a fabulous shop in Bethlehem which had one of the original jars from Qumran which contained the Temple Scroll and Isaiah. 

We also went to the church of the nativity. Although we can’t know for sure if this was the place of the birth of Jesus, the historical evidence seems to point to it as being genuine (more on this later). 

A very unexpected, but pleasant surprise was a visit to the Herodian. This was one of the many fortresses that Herod built for escape if something went wrong. A long climb to the top is rewarded with great views and an amazing complex up on top. There is also the place of Herod’s burial to be seen here. 

Now, we are back in our rooms for the evening. A full day concluded with a good meal with friends that are sharing this great experience together. Bests of all is that we share a common faith. 

Tomorrow holds more adventure and learning. We head to the Dead Sea! 

From Jerusalem,

Bobby