Thursday, July 26, 2007

Did They Really Say That? # 3

“If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then…what is the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought…I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime.”

- Jeffery Dahmer, a convicted serial killer responsible for the murders of 17 young men and boys, many of which involved necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism. (Quoted from an interview with Stone Phillips - Dateline NBC, 11/29/1994)

The consequences of our worldviews are very real.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Small Change to the Site

I just made a small change to the site. For some time now I've noticed that with all the pictures and videos that I post, it was taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R to load the entire page. Well I've finally done something about that. I chopped the site down into 25-post increments. That means that only the last 25 posts will show up on the main page every time you visit the site. To see the previous posts you'll need to either:

1. Click on "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page to see the next 25 posts


2. Use the Table of Contents on the middle of the right side of the page


3. Use the search bar at the top right side of the page

This should make the load times much, much quicker.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beqaa Valley and the Cedars of Lebanon

We traveled from Beirut to a location in the Beqaa Valley. The Beqaa Valley is the most agriculturally fertile region in Beirut. It was also home to many cities mentioned in the Old Testament such as Baal-gad and Mount Hermon.

Now these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated beyond the Jordan toward the west, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon even as far as Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir; and Joshua gave it to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their divisions, - Joshua 12:7

The Beqaa Valley. The right side of the picture continues on to Israel while the left side enters into Syria.

During our travel into the Beqaa Valley we went up into the mountains and saw the cedars of Lebanon. These trees are phenomenally beautiful and smell fantastic (see Hosea 14:6). I think each of us were a little bit surprised at how majestic these trees are. Truly fitting to be used to craft the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 5:5-6). I was shocked to learn that they grow at the rate of only 1 centimeter per year. Many of the trees we saw were no less than 3000 years old. Amazing.

In a forest of beautifully smelling, Cedars of Lebanon

Through your servants you have reproached the Lord, And you have said, 'With my many chariots I came up to the heights of the mountains, To the remotest parts of Lebanon; And I cut down its tall cedars and its choice cypresses. And I will go to its highest peak, its thickest forest. - Isaiah 47:24

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. - Psalm 92:12

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. - Psalm 29:5

Beirut, Lebanon

After a few days in Cairo I headed over to Beirut. As I mentioned in my Cairo post, due to the sensitive nature of the work going on, I cannot post any pictures or write about any of the work being done over there.

Lebanon is a wonderful country. I wasn’t quite sure to expect when I stepped off of the airplane but it didn’t take long for me to begin to appreciate it. A beautiful city located on the coast, Lebanon is a stark contrast to Egypt. Despite its violent nature the city is beautiful. The people there are very warm and friendly and the word hospitality takes on a whole new meaning. Arabic is the most predominate language but many also speak French and English.

Beirut is a tough place to live and even tougher to minister in. Day in and day out I met with those who live and work here, hearing about some of the amazing things God is doing, and helping them to strategize new ways to reach even more people

Beirut is a beautiful city located on a peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean. The northern half of the city (right side of the photo) is predominately Christian while the southern half (left side of the photo) is exclusively Muslim. Beautiful mountains surround the city on the east side and in the distance you can see the Mediterranean Sea.

Lebanon is a country with an extensive history of violence. On Valentine's Day of 2005, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed when a car packed with over 1 ton of explosives detonated beside him. This is the location of his assassination. The fresh asphalt on the road is where the 30 foot crater left by the explosion was repaired.

The explosion was so powerful it completely destroyed this nearby building.

The final resting place of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

This statue was located in the center of town during the years of the Lebanese Civil War. Looking closely you can see that it is completely covered with bullet holes from the war.

A close up of the statue.

After the civil war the government spent 31 billion dollars to rebuild downtown Beirut. However, fear of car bombs grips the hearts of many in Beirut and the downtown area, including the Parliament building (shown above) remains a ghost town except for the soldiers who are stationed every hundred yards [soldiers not photographed].

Rebuilding of a bridge after it was destroyed by Israeli troops during the war in July 2006.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Moses, Baby Jesus and the Pyramids

Myself and another member of my team got up early one morning before our day really began to try to beat the heat and the crowds and see some of historic Egypt. While obviously sightseeing is NEVER one of our objectives when we travel for ministry, every once in a while we find a few hours in the schedule that are available and we try to squeeze something in. I was very fortunate on this trip.

Beating the heat turned out to be harder than I anticipated. Even early in the morning it is already roasting. In the past I had often wondered "What are the Israelites problem? God rescued them from Egypt and all they do is complain and turn to idols. What is the deal?

After having now been to Egypt I have a whole new understanding for what the Israelites endured during their time of slavery and the subsequent exodus. The country is so hot and so sandy, I cannot fathom how they survived wondering for 40 years in the desert. Add to that a strict diet of manna and I can now begin to understand why they always seemed so grumpy and constantly made poor decisions (although it certainly doesn't justify or excuse their behavior).

We first went to the alleged location that baby Moses was found hiding amongst the reeds of the Nile:

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" "Yes, go," she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."
- Exodus 2:1-10

The round well is the location that Moses was allegedly found. The Nile has changed course over thousands of years but looking down the round well there is still water today. The wall is supposedly the wall to Pharaoh's palace. I am a bit skeptical as to the authenticity of this historic site but the Egyptian Antiquities Department believes it is legitimate.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." - Matthew 2:13-15

The exact location where Jesus and his family hid. There is now a church over the location so the marble floors were added after Jesus was gone. I am also skeptical about this site but the Egyptian Antiquities Department has certified it as legitimate.

One of the 7 wonders of the world

Camels are not nearly as docile as horses.

Fun Fact of the Day: The odd colored stones at the top of the pyramid are not the original stones. The original stones were removed in the 18th century to build a mosque for the ruler of Egypt.

Garbage City and the Cave Church

They are called the untouchables. There are almost 50,000 of them, they are almost entirely Christian, and they literally live in the dumps.

In Cairo, for one reason or another, the Muslims will not work as trash collectors. Perhaps it has to do with their religious beliefs or maybe because as the majority population, they just refuse to do such a disgusting job. Whatever the reason, the job falls to the Christians.

Driving through the dump I discovered that this wasn't just a place to work, it was where they lived. You can imagine the incredible stench produced when garbage from a city of 16 million is piled together and bakes in the sun in temperatures above 115 degrees. Yet the Christians complete their work, many with smiles on their face.

I ponder the reason for these smiles. Surely it isn't that they enjoy their circumstances. Perhaps it is because they have discovered the difference between happiness (which is a temporary emotion) and joy (which is the assurance of their salvation and anticipation of being with Jesus).

Daily deliveries to Garbage City

A Child at Play in Garbage City

But, as he always is, God is at work. One must drive through Garbage City to come to the cave church. A massive church cut deep into a rock of sheer limestone. You can tell from the photos how big the place is. What you can't see is that the church conducts services every day of the week, filled to capacity.

Cave Church Panoramic

Cave Church from halfway up

Cairo, Egypt

I realize that it has been quite a while since I last posted. I even heard some teasing this weekend about "I don't know how many times I can watch this video." There have been quite a few things happening that have kept me away from my computer. Quite a few graduations, weddings and even a quick vacation.

I just returned from a trip to the Middle East that was absolutely incredible. Most of the Christians I worked with, are very active in the underground church all over the Middle East so as I hope you understand, for their safety, I cannot show any pictures of them, their ministry, or anything that could potentially put them at risk.

Cairo and the Nile River

Downtown Cairo

Daily Life in Egypt