Previous month:
March 2010
Next month:
May 2010

Posts from April 2010

Walking the Cardo in Jerusalem and Ending at the Garden Tomb

Another day in Jerusalem was memorable.  We began the day heading toward the Zion Gate.  This gate is where paratroopers dropped in during the Israeli War of Independence and there are bullet holes all over the walls.  It's amazing.  While we were standing in front of it a number of cars drove through.  This blew me away.  The gate is about as wide as a minivan and the turn is about 180 degrees once a car comes through.  I couldn't believe it.  Most cars had dents and scratches on the sides.  That's par for the course regarding cars around the city.


Yoni, our guide, calls this "bogus Zion gate" because it is not near the historical Mt. Zion.  It's a location picked by Crusaders and the history of the real Zion doesn't support it.  We discover pretty quickly that there are two of everything in Jerusalem - two Mt. Zions, two burial sites, two Calvaries, two everything.  It's based on who owns the site, who thought they discovered a site and politics.  Sometimes it's just based on honest mistakes.

We went to the Cardo and then to a site believed to be the High Priest's home during the first century.  This site was uncovered in the 1980s when contractors were beginning to build Jewish homes and businesses in newly Jewish owned areas of the Old City.  This site is incredible.  It is here that Caiaphas lived during Jesus day and here that Peter stood in the courtyard of the high priest and denied Christ three times.  We stood in this courtyard.  Sobering.  Guess what?  When we left the site and moved over to Silwan (the City of David) we heard a rooster crow.  Hmmm.

We looked over the City of David and watched a film covering the time of David and the Old Testament kings up to the present.  It was even in 3D.  Nice film.  Helped to show the ancient sites in comparison to the new sites.


From here we divided into three groups.  There are two tunnels that have been uncovered.  These tunnels in the rock were tight and not for folks with claustrophobia.  One tunnel comes from Canaanite times and is a dry tunnel.  It's about 200 yards long.  The other tunnel is filled with about a foot of water and is about 600 yards long.  The wet tunnel is called Hezekiah's Tunnel.  It brought water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam.  Our three teams were the dry tunnel team, the wet tunnel team and the coffee shop team (these folks didn't want to brave the tunnel.)


The last stop big stop of the day was at the Garden Tomb.  This wonderful site is maintained by a group from the U.K.  It was discovered years ago by General Gordan from Britain and is a site outside the city at the time of Christ and is near a mountain that looks like a skull.  Could be Golgotha.  There is even an empty tomb that was discovered.  Is this the site?  Well, most archeologists and historians say no, but it is the best site for personal reflection and to think of the Resurrection.  As our guide (a former pastor from a Baptist church in Tampa) said "We're here to look at nothing.  This is because the tomb is empty and Christ is alive."  There were many people here today.  We even saw former NFL commentator Pat Summerall.  We left him alone, but it was pretty cool to see him.  We ended our time here taking Communion or the Lord's Supper.



A Day at Masada, En Gedi and Qumran

Yesterday we awoke at our hotel on the Dead Sea and began the trek to three sites on the western side of the Dead Sea (yes, the West Bank.)  We first stopped at Masada.  This desert fortress built by Herod the Great still stands as a marvel of engineering.  To build a palace fortress in this location is almost too incredible to believe, but it was done.  Herod died before ever getting to stay at his palace and once he died the Romans took ownership.  Masada is now known as the site where a group of Jewish zealots had their last stand against the Roman army following the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  There has been a movie made about this and the story is incredible.  Just like "Remember the Alamo" became a rallying cry for Americans a little over a century ago, "Remember Masada" has become a message for the Jews.

From there we traveled to En Gedi.  Read about this location in 1 Samuel 23.  It is the location where David took refuge from Saul.  In fact, it's the area where David was hiding in a cave as Saul went in to relieve himself (which, according to biblical Hebrew probably means to get a leg massage and take a nap after the long hike and ride from Jerusalem, rather than "go to restroom" as many commentaries state) and where David cut off the corner and tassle from Saul's robe.

Then, we traveled north to Qumran, site of the Essene sect and where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  After viewing the film and learning about this sect of Judaism that was known for it's strange practices, bent toward strong predestination teaching of God, and desire to disconnect from society (more being learned and discovered by the Essenes all the time) some of our group decided to hike up the mountains a little and three of our guys climbed the mountain to go into Cave 6 where some scrolls were discovered.

Our day ended with a stop over at a wadi and a view of the canyon (known as the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" in ancient times - which gives some insight into David's 23rd Psalm) we read some Scripture and bartered with bedoin children selling "camel bone" necklaces and a couple of our folks rode a camel (only $5).  

Our day ended with our drive into Jersulem.  We stopped at Mt. Scopus for a photo opp and then moved on to the hotel.  Great day.  Tomorrow we tour the Old City, beginning with the Temple Mount, some holy sites (which means sites owned by the Catholic Church) and into Hezekiah's Tunnel.


Climbing at Qumran

Daniel in Cave 6


Working Around the Galilee

For the fourth time in my life, I have journeyed from Caesarea and around the Galilee region with Yoni Gerrish.  Once again, I am amazed at the teaching.  I have heard Yoni share about Jesus and His Jewish heritage before.  I love hearing how Jesus' Torah training and the understanding of first century Judaism make the Bible come to life (and in some cases make much more sense.) 

I see the lights going off in some of our team members and they hear familiar Bible stories in a way and in a place that make them seem brand new again.  The freshness of the teaching is wonderful.

I'll write more once I get back, especially since I have limited internet and still need to go through my notes some more.

In the meantime, here are some pics of our journey from Caesarea to Tsippori to Dan to the Galilee.

The group taking a break at the theater in Caesarea.

Statue of Elijah at Mt. Carmel.

The Three Tarks (we're the same height here)


3 AM in an Israeli Hotel

We arrived in Tel Aviv last night (which was yesterday around noon in Orange Park).  Our flight was delayed for two hours in Atlanta while the maintenance crew figured out how to open a jammed interior door to the crew quarters.  

Once we arrived, we collected our baggage and met Yoni Gerrish, our guide.  He has his nine year old son Evan with him for a few days on this tour.  I met Evan in 2007.  It's amazing how much a kid can grow in just a few years.

We drove about 45 minutes north of Tel Aviv to our hotel on the Mediterranean.  Nice view (well, I know it will be a nice view in the morning.)  Well, it's 3AM.  I have slept pretty well, but due to the time change, I am now awake. 

This is a pretty nice hotel.  It has wi-fi, obviously and as I flip channels, here's what's on TV at 3AM in Israel:

  • VH1 showing Lady Gaga videos.  Wow, that is one strange person.
  • A German show that looks like something on TLC about families learning to live together.
  • A play, obviously a comedy, though I don't get the jokes because I can't understand the language.  The star looks like a cross between Redd Foxx and Mel Brooks.  He's wearing a yellow sports coat and huge glasses with a chain, like a monacle's, hanging from the left lens.
  • A guy in a suit sitting in front of book cases with what looks like thousands of old books talking.  It's boring in Hebrew.  I think it would be boring in English as well.
  • Another music channel.  This one is showing a concert from the 1970s or 1980s with what would be described as "funky" R & B music.  Sounds good, but I don't know the song - and it's in English.
  • A drama about a news channel with a remix of "I Got You Babe" playing in the background. They changed scenes.  Looks like a soap opera.
  • A high school kid in a cafeteria.  Some kind of drama.  I think this one's from America.
  • A soccer match.
  • A kids' channel.  Looks like a Hebrew Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network.
  • MTV - another American export.  More videos.  The one is Mclean.  I never heard of him.  Sounds like a diet hamburger from McDonald's.  Now it's a Justin Bieber video.  Changing channels quickly.
  • Documentary on the British group Oasis.
  • FoxNews.  Running promos about Greta and her story on Florida and healthcare.
  • The SkyNews channel.  All English.  Story about cruise ships.
  • The "Here's Lucy" show.  This is on METV.  This channel shows a variety of American shows.  Last time I was here, they showed NFL games live.  They also show Contemporary Christian music videos, concerts, American Christian pastors, the Lone Ranger and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's a combination of a bunch of American shows and sports.  It's a Christian channel and pretty safe shows.
  • Some type of movie channel.  The movie "The Astronaut Farmer" just finished.  Great movie with Billy Bob Thornton.
  • A Hebrew news channel.  Wait, that's not Hebrew.  It's Russian. It's a Russian news channel. Modeled after CNN.
  • BBC
  • The National Geographic Channel is on.  I think this is "The Dog Whisperer." Weird show.
  • A Hebrew shop at home channel.  Call now while this dining set is on sale.  
  • Another music video channel.  This one is in Hebrew.  
  • The Ted Danson show "Becker."

So, late night TV in Israel isn't much different than American TV.  All these channels and nothing on.

Well, unless I can get some sleep now, tomorrow is going to be all messed up. We hit the road at 9am to Caesarea (which around here is pronounced CEE-ZER-EA, not Seh-sa-rea).  There are two Caesareas.  This is NOT Caesarea Philipi.  This is Caesarea Maritima.  This is where Paul was taken once arrested.

This Wikipedia link is pretty complete. 

In Jax Airport. . .Waiting

Today is Thursday, April 22 and I am waiting at the Jacksonville International Airport waiting for the rest of our team from the church to arrive.  I am leading a group of 22 people on a tour of Israel for the next week and a half.  This is my fourth time going and it's always a great trip.

The thing about airports is that I have way too much time to sit and think and people watch.  It's about 4pm now and the rest of the team will be arriving around 5pm.  In the meantime. . .

  • I ate at Nathan's Hot Dogs.  Pretty good, but halfway through this grilled hot dog covered in melted cheese and spicy mustard I started thinking "This probably wasn't the best thing to eat before getting locked inside a plane."  At least we're flying to Atlanta first.
  • That brings up another question.  Our airport in Jacksonville is Jacksonville International Airport, but over the years ever international trip I have taken that originated here resulted in a connecting flight somewhere else in the States.  Wouldn't that make it Jacksonville National Airport?
  • When we arrived there wasn't much of a line at the security check-in.  Now, it's full and backing up.  I see hundreds of people who are going to be taking off there shoes any minute now.  Thanks to the shoe bomber we have to see everyone's feet or smell them in the security lines at airports now.
  • This trip is going to be excellent.  Not only is my dad going, but my son as well.  This is one of those "chance of a lifetime" events.  I feel for our group - three Tarkington guys is a little much.
  • It's pretty easy to determine who the business travelers are versus the guys like me.  I'm feeling better about being able to travel wearing shorts and a T-shirt instead of a sports coat and dress pants.
  • People keep asking me who is preaching Sunday.  You all should know by now that I never answer that question.  I mean, what does it matter?  Go to church.  You're not going for the show anyway.
  • There's some really relaxing smooth jazz playing over the speakers here.  If I were to sit here long, I'd be asleep and miss my flight. 
  • According to the online flight check-in site, my seat is in the middle of a group of three.  I'm praying I can change this.  My 6'7" frame doesn't do too well in those seats, especially when the person in front puts their seat back.  OUCH!
  • I led a conference Tuesday on being the missional church with other pastors from the Southeast.  Makes me more committed than ever to continue leading our church to this strategy of being.  The externally focused church (that is first Upwardly focused on Christ) makes the greatest impact and fulfills the Great Commission the best.
  • We have teams going to Israel, China, Honduras, Costa Rica, Kenya and other nations in the future.  Our strategy must be to fulfill the Acts 1:8 mandate by being the church here and abroad all at the same time.  
  • The only thing that will keep us from fulfilling God's calling is ourselves.
  • Thought of the day from my son "When nothing goes right, go left."
  • The bookstore in the airport is gone and it's now a massage place.  I'd rather read.
  • The TSA folks have the coolest colored blue shirts.
  • Just realized the smooth jazz is live.  Pretty cool.  Now that I know it's live, it sounds better.
  • My son just asked "Are you just looking around to see what to write about next?"  Answer - Yes.
  • Here's a guy in the airport that is dressed like he just finished mowing the lawn.  Cute.
  • Is there ever a wrong time to eat a Cinnabon?  I don't think so.
  • Old guy wearing a gold chain walking around.  He's coming my way.  Does he know what I'm writing.  Whew!  He just walked by.  Nice gold chain Mr. T.
  • I think I'm going to go back near the ticket check in counter.  Maybe someone from our team is here by now.
  • Man, I wish I didn't eat that hot dog.

Bean & Bailey Comedy Concert on May 2

Plan to be here for this hilarious event on Sunday, May 2 at 6pm.  This is our annual "Laugh All Night Comedy Concert."  We will be collecting an offering for the work of New Missions in Haiti this evening.  This year, more than ever, the work of rebuilding is needed.

The concert is free, but come prepared to give. . . 

Bean & Bailey - "The King Meets the King"

Bean & Bailey - "Pants on the Ground"

Bean & Bailey Comedy Concert on May 2

Plan to be here for this hilarious event on Sunday, May 2 at 6pm.  This is our annual "Laugh All Night Comedy Concert."  We will be collecting an offering for the work of New Missions in Haiti this evening.  This year, more than ever, the work of rebuilding is needed.

The concert is free, but come prepared to give. . . 

Bean & Bailey - "The King Meets the King"

Tax Documents - What to Keep & What to Trash

Laura Cohn, Associate Editor of Financially Fit - a Yahoo website, has written a good, informative article regarding which old tax receipts and forms can be trashed and which need to be saved forever.

Here are some forms that need to be kept:

The most important documents to hang on to are your annual tax returns. You should keep the actual returns forever, but you can get rid of the supporting documents after three years. That's how long the IRS has to initiate an audit. Once the time elapses, toss the records -- and shred any that reveal your Social Security number or other personal information.

Other papers to save for at least three years include thank-you letters from charities and year-end investment statements. You don't need to save your monthly mutual fund reports forever. But before you toss them, wait for the year-end statements and make sure they match up. Also be sure to keep records that show the initial purchase price for stocks and mutual funds so you can calculate your basis when you sell them. After that, you can shred the documents once the three- or six-year IRS window draws to a close.

You also need to save records pertaining to your house as long as you live in it. Records showing your purchase price, and what you spent on improvements, may come in handy when you're trying to prove the value of your home to potential buyers. Another reason to keep these papers: If you sell your house at a hefty profit (more than $500,000 for couples filing a joint return or $250,000 for single filers), certain expenses can be used to lower your tax bill. After you sell the house, keep the documents for three years.

Finally, hold on to records showing how much money went into and came out of IRAs and 401(k)s -- especially if you've made any nondeductible contributions -- so you don't overpay taxes when you withdraw the money. Keep any 8606 forms on which you reported nondeductible contributions to traditional IRAs.

Click here for her full article.