Friday, November 28, 2014

Still Going in the Holy Land

Well, my plans for regular blogging have been hampered by time, as well as spotty and slow internet. While I've been able to post pictures to Facebook occasionally, I haven't been able to get my camera's photos to transfer easily to my various internet storage places. Yes, I still use an actual camera, not a phone accessory.

So, instead of all sorts of clever and informative posts here, there have been a few FB picture dumps. That's not what I wanted to do, but I don't feel TOO bad. After all, it's been another amazing trip to Israel for our group. Ten times is not too many times to come, especially when you have the privilege of introducing people to their Bible in a brand new way.

I'm very thankful once again to introduce old and young alike to the wonders of the biblical record as it is reflected in archeology and history, and to remind us all that while the Bible's witness to its own authority is enough, the corroboration of history is a faith enriching experience.

I'm thankful for the demonstrable accuracy of what the Bible says about even "minor" details. As we travel around Israel and read Scriptures and reflect on the incidental details, we discover how precise the scriptural record is, from distances to practices to events. Don't let anyone tell you that the Bible isn't good history. Archaeologists who disagree always wind up altering their conclusions--I'm not an archeologist, but I am old enough to watch people either recant their assertions that the Bible is wrong, or else discover that the Bible's details are even more accurate than what we knew.

I'm thankful for a God who has not only preserved his Word, but allowed people to make amazing discoveries and finds that affirm what he his infallible record of events. It certainly should be an encouragement to all to believe the things less visible, wouldn't you think?

I am sobered by the number of people who can know truth but not be changed by it. How can someone quote scriptures, visit the places where Bible events took place and can be attested to, and still not believe. Sadly, it is the case.

But I am also reminded of the power of the Word by two different testimonies I have heard here in Israel of people who continually heard the Gospel story as tour leaders were telling it to their groups and wound up believing it for themselves.

At Caesarea

Morning on the Sea of Galilee

On the steps of the Temple
So, my FB friends can see more pictures, and I'll return to more normal blogging when I return to the States!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Traveling Down Bible Paths

I am at the airport with 16 of my 18 group members about to begin my 10th trip to Israel. One of my greatest joys is to introduce people to the land of the Bible. In the process it is as if I am reintroducing them to the Bible, or at least the vivid reality of what the text holds. 

There has never been a time that I have taken people to Israel when I don't find that they come back changed. So do I. 

I'll post from time to time to met you all know what's going on, and try to get some pictures up as well. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Day After the Vote

OK, I'm a political junkie. I enjoy the political arena, even though I would never run for office (you are all safe). I have strong political opinions that I try (usually unsuccessfully) to mute. As one who believes the Bible gives guidance to all people as to how we may flourish, I think biblical principles can and should influence political thinking.

For those who are (like me) identified as "conservatives" today (and who may well have been what were called "liberals" in the 19th century, but that's a topic for another time), last night's U.S. midterms had lots of encouraging results. "Our" side now controls the U.S. Congress and the governorships of over 30 states. Down ticket races in many places (including Ohio) were also very favorable, and I'm personally pleased that some people I know as having great integrity and good thinking were elected or reelected to various positions.

However, I would like to offer a word of caution to those celebrating: the political "right" may have won this election, but that is not the same as "right" vs. wrong. This is not the dawn of the Millennium. Nothing about this election means that America has been "saved" in any way, shape or form. As a friend wrote, "The 'G' in GOP does not stand for God."

The results may mean a slowing of a descent, but even that is uncertain, since so many of the issues that relate to biblical morality have, in my view, been lost. Same sex marriage is legal and court-protected in most states. We may move to guard our borders better, but no one seems excited to figure out how to deal with those millions here without legal status. Even last night's winners have no consensus on how to respond to international crises and catastrophes, and they don't hold the presidency where so many of those decisions must be made. Out of control deficits and permanent national debt is a cancer and, in my view, a societal evil that hurts future generations. But reining in taxes and spending has not been accomplished systematically since Calvin Coolidge's day. It was the hero of conservatives, Ronald Reagan, who reversed the slow, steady decline of national debt when he achieved tax cuts but not corresponding spending cuts.

"Our" side has as many wrong ideas as the "other" side, as many self-serving politicians, and maybe as many scandals in waiting. Because it is politics, it is about compromise, and that usually leaves everyone dissatisfied. And because it is about power, the players in the game face incredible temptation to sacrifice principle to hold onto it. Massive government action from one side can have just as many unintended consequences as from the the other side.

So, am I saying that politics and results of elections don't matter? No, absolutely not. I have all sorts of thoughts as to how the new balance of power might be used well in Washington, D.C., and I hope to see things happen. But it is very easy to become "triumphalistic" and overly optimistic about what will come.

I recommend that Christians pray for all of our governmental leaders--that's a safe recommendation since it comes from the Bible. I encourage us to become as aware of political issues as we can, recognizing that we must listen to various sources so as not to gain only the bias of one reporter, paper, or program. We should seek to think about how Scripture might guide good thinking about some of these matters. And I certainly hope we will speak out, communicate with our officials, and encourage good actions.

Let me offer one more sobering thought while I'm throwing cold water on celebrations. With its rapid moves toward stigmatizing and punishing traditional views on life in the womb, sexuality, gender identity, and marriage, our culture has moved away from its roots in Christian moral tradition. I'm somewhat skeptical that the new Republican Congress will be nearly as concerned about these matters as repealing "Obamacare."  But while one may be financially costly and unwieldy, the other can contribute to the damnation of a soul. Let's be sure that we care more about eternal outcomes than temporal, political ones.