Monthly Archives: August 2008

August 29-30

“…for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience….”–1 Timothy 1:16

“It is God’s kindness to put someone in your life who understands you” –Anne Frank (paraphrase)

This has been a long week while I have waited for word from the resumes I’ve sent all over the planet. I don’t particularly like waiting and would rather be working. But, I’ve also had time to relax and pray.

One of the Lone Soldiers was having his Tekas yesterday not far from Caesarea (which is near the coast). Scott and Theresa were going to support the soldier and they asked me to come along. A Tekas is a once a year graduation ceremony for new soldiers who have gone through basic training and have earned their green berets. The day before the ceremony they hike 50 kilometers to the base where the ceremony is to take place. On the day of the ceremony, we all gathered on the hillside to watch. It was very similar to watching a high school graduation. In this picture, they have gotten their green berets.

For you, Seth, the soldier in this picture is Danny and Judy’s son, Yossi Kransdorf.

There was a really nice sunrise this morning as I walked to Abraham’s Overlook. The days are hot and humid (hot and humid here means 95 degrees and 50% humidity); but, this morning, as I looked over the hazy valley to the Temple Mount, it was breezy and almost cold. At the top of this post is a picture of my constant morning companion. I can’t tell if he’s guarding me or just wondering what I’m doing.

It is Friday afternoon right now and we are getting ready to help clean the house for guests before the Shabbat meal, so I will finish this tomorrow. There are some developments happening that I can report to you…

Here’s what happened yesterday:

1. I was asked if I wanted to interview for a position at an international tutoring company with offices here in Israel. This would have been a nice opportunity since I could pretty much choose my hours. However, I decided to be open and let them know I wasn’t Jewish. I received an immediate reply that the interview was off! Having grown up in the deep South during the Civil Rights Movement and experiencing the depths of discrimination in people’s hearts, I would never have guessed an entire country would discriminate against me due to my “religious beliefs”. I’m not surprised, really. Discrimination is basically the outward expression of a spirit of fear and that’s what is going on here, too.

2. I received an email telling me that there were some job openings in Amman, Jordan. There are almost never openings in Jordan and so I sent a resume.

3. I received an email from the placement agency in China that has been looking to place me in that country. I have already received 3 contracts from schools in China and have turned them all down. Most teachers looking for work in China are what the professionals call “backpackers”. These are young people who want the expreience of living in China for a short period and are willing to take any pay or are willing to be treated with no respect in exchange for the Chinese experience. Most English language schools in China are not really schools at all as much as they are businesses and their contracts reflect their lack of respect for young people who want to visit China and work there. I finally told the placement agency that I don’t want any more unprofessional contracts from non-professional “schools”. Any more contracts schools in China send me need to be HONORABLE. I didn’t expect to hear from them again. However, within an hour I received another email saying, in effect, “Oh, I understand what you want. I think I can put you with a school that will send you a contract that is honorable.” Duh.

4. I may have already said that I had an email last week from the principal of a school in Turkey apologizing for taking so long to get back to me. She said that she would like to begin the hiring process if I was still interested. The first step was for me to send her an essay on why I wanted to teach English. So, I sent the essay and she emailed me yesterday saying, “I really liked your essay. When are you available for an interview?” I told her “Sunday or Monday since I begin my 3-week tour here in Israel on Tuesday.”

What do I think of all this?

1st: I am pretty much of the opinion that I don’t want to live in Israel. Or, at least in a big city like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Unless something comes “out of the blue”, I can’t even see myself staying in Israel. My visa expiration date is Oct 8th (which is also the date of my return ticket to the States). I could extend this termination date, but something would have to come up that I’m not expecting at this time (like the Hebrew University here in Jerusalem offering me a position, which I’m not expecting to happen).

2nd, I can’t see myself in China. I don’t like what I’ve seen about how Chinese treat people. The Communist mindset looks at everything and everybody as a commodity to be used to someone else’s benefit.

3rd, I have done all I know to do here. If nothing transpires by October 8th, I may return to Tennessee on my return flight.

4th, I’m kind of surprised that I’m not even a little anxious about the future. I want only one thing from the Lord: Let me in on what You’re doing in my generation and give me the opportunity to join in with whatever gifts You’ve given me to help out.

I’m sure there’s more exciting things to come from the Throne of Grace!

Possibilities

“…live the rest of your life in the flesh…for the will of God.”–1 Peter 4:2

Left the apartment early this morning to walk up the hill to pray. The sun was just coming up at around 6:15.

Some people were just getting into their cars to go to work. Some were walking their dogs. What is so strange to me about Israel is that no one ever says, “Hello” or “Good morning”; not even a “boker tov”. They all walk past one another, looking down, and not acknowledging anyone else. Must be similar to New York because that’s not what I’m used to in Tennessee.

Yesterday I was emailed another contract from a school in China. This time I returned the email with line-by-line comments about the contract: how it was unnecessarily vague, etc. I finally said that I was looking forward to receiving a contract from a school that was both specific and honorable, something I’d not yet received. When I sent that email, I assumed I would not hear from China again. They are very much into graciousness and don’t like directness.

Then, this morning I received an email from a different school asking if I was truly interested in teaching in China. The lady said she had been sent my information from the person who had sent the previous contract. I wrote back restating that I was only interested in looking over a contract that was both explicit and honorable. Then, just a few minutes ago, this lady called me on the phone from China and asked again, “Would I be willing to receive a contract?” I told her I would and she said I would receive it tomorrow. Hmmm.

Then, about an hour ago, I had an email from the Director of two schools in Turkey. The schools are called UKLA Academy. The Director apologized for being so long responding to my resume and he asked if I would be interested in a position with his school. I emailed back saying I would be interested. His response was that we needed to begin the hiring process, which included my sending him an essay on why I wanted to teach English to foreign students. I can’t help feeling that China is not really where I’m supposed to be, but I don’t want to close any doors just now. I do feel that I will have some sense of where I’m going by the end of the month.

It’s now Thursday evening. This morning I sent my essay to the school in Turkey. I also received an email from the school in China stating that I should receive their contract by tomorrow. However, tonight Danny and Judy are picking me up in Jerusalem and I will spend Friday through Sunday in Ma’ale Levona with them, so I may not know any news until I return to J.

I don’t mind working at all. I do need money to live. I just don’t want anything I do to distract from “living the rest of my life in the flesh…for the will of God.”

A little update

“…to those who reside as aliens.” 1 Peter 1:1

Well, it’s Saturday, which means everyone is taking advantage of the fact that it’s Sabbath and they are all laying around or reading the newspaper or on the internet or watching TV. So, for those of you who simply can’t stand not knowing what’s going on with me, I thought I’d find something to say.

For starters I took a couple of pictures: this one is the wall where I go to pray most mornings at what I call “Abraham’s Overlook” (not the real name, but it is descriptive enough). Notice the olive trees in the background. It looks out over the Temple Mount in the distance. I go there around 7AM when the sun is warm and the breeze coming up from the valley is nice and cool. Here is the little “mall” where I shop for groceries just down from where I pray. It has a couple of barber shops and a post office along with the small market where I get cereal and hummus.

So, what have I been doing this past week?

Mainly I’ve been sending out resumes and answering emails. I sent resumes to the American International School in Cairo and the American International School in Cyprus. Just trying to stay close around Israel so I can be involved in tours scheduled for next year.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I will hand carry my resume to the Hebrew University which is here in Jerusalem on Mt. Scopus. Monday or Tuesday I’m supposed to have an interview with the local director of an organization called Wall Street Institute which is kind of like an English language tutoring service.

Then, of course, I always have laundry to do.

Thursday I decided to take a walk to a part of the Old City’s wall which I’d not been to in a couple of years. I took the bus downtown and walked to the Old City and walked along its northern wall and spent some time in one of the museums. I walked past the Damascus Gate and took this picture. The gate in the upper section is the current ground level while the lower gate to the left was street level in Jesus’ time. It was probably this lower gate through which Jesus was made to carry the cross. I then turned around, facing the opposite direction, and took this picture of what some think was the “place of the skull”. Many consider this the most logical place of Jesus’ crucifixion. You have to look hard to see the cliff under the cemetery. It’s weird to see this place behind a present-day bus station. Just to the left of this hill (can’t see it behind the buildings) is the Garden Tomb.

On my walk around the city wall I lost the cell phone Danny loaned me, so I tried to retrace my steps, but never found it. When I got home I called the cell phone’s number but it was busy (someone was using it). After that, no one answered the phone. Oh, well.

Is that enough news? Stay tuned…

One final thing: Late this afternoon I stood on our patio/balcony and looked to the east across to the Jordan Valley. On very rare days or evenings you can see the Mountains of Moab on the other side of the Jordan River in the country of Jordan. This afternoon you could barely see these mountains. Normally, the dust from the lowest place on the planet obscures these lofty mountains at the base of which Joshua entered the area and set up his camp that covered an area 7 miles wide by 12 miles long. Here is the picture. You may have to squint to see the mountains as the camera didn’t do a very good job.

Waiting

If you want to begin a journey that moves you further and further from God’s best for you, then let greed or fear determine the important decisions in your life.

“…whoever wishes to be a friend with the world, makes himself an enemy of God.”–James 4:4

Last night the next door neighbor brought over a bunch of grapes that grow on the deck of his apartment. I’ve never seen such big grapes or such juicy ones, either.

I am waiting. I like to be occupied, so waiting isn’t as easy for me as working. Don’t get me wrong, I am in a good place and am excited about the future. I am just waiting to hear from some of the places I’ve sent my resume or spoken to the places in person.

I would like to lead the tour that is set for the first 3 weeks of September. However, if I’m asked to work at a school, I probably will need to begin teaching around the first of September when most schools begin.

If nothing comes of anything I’ve sent out, then I’m left with two options as far as I can tell: First, to return to Tennessee and find work there; or, second, to stay in Israel and simply see what happens.

For some reason, I don’t feel that I am supposed to stay in Israel beyond the end of September. So, I am waiting to see what else the Lord may have in mind.

It is now Tuesday morning and, on my walk I took this picture of a new apartment building about a mile from where I live. Notice the color of the stone that faces the building. In Jerusalem it is against the law to build a structure that is not faced with that cream-colored/pinkish stone called Jerusalem Stone. This is a problem for me because the architecture of all the buildings here is very similar–and with everything being the same color–every neighborhood looks the same to me. It’s hard for me to recognize differences in the various areas of the city as I try to figure out where I am or where I’m going.

About one hundred yards down the street from the new apartment is this view. Wherever there are not buildings going up (and there are buildings going up everywhere), there is desert. I walked just a few yards further along and saw this Arab boy shepherding a bunch of goats through the briers. Before the time of the deportation of the Jews from this land, goats were not allowed in Israel because they destroyed everything in site and, basically, deforested the country.

Across the valley from where the goats were being shepherded is a common site in Israel: a series of burial caves from a long time ago (they are in the center of the picture). These caves dot the countryside and are now used by shepherds to take a nap during the heat of the day. Here is one Bible-era burial cave that our group came across a couple of weeks ago. The round stone has been fastened to the ground so someone won’t take away to use it for some other purpose.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God for he who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.“–Hebrews 11:6

08-08-08

“…having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”–Hebrews 11:13

It is Friday and I took a morning walk before everyone else got up. It was a wonderful, crisp, windy morning and a perfect time to walk to Abraham’s Overlook to pray.

Today, Scott & Theresa decided to attend a memorial service for a soldier who had died in the war with Lebanon two years ago this week. The soldier was a young sergeant and had two very young children when he died. His platoon had been on night patrol across the Lebanese border when they ran across another group of Israeli soldiers on patrol. As the two groups were standing in a circle talking, a Lebanese soldier who had been hiding behind a bush, pulled the pin on his grenade and tossed it into the circle of Israelis. Without a moment’s hesitation, the sergeant threw himself on the grenade and was blown to pieces, saving the lives of the rest of the men.

Whenever a soldier dies in Israel, fellow soldiers and ordinary citizens hold a commemoration service on the year’s anniversary of the death. This soldier’s death was so unusual, his comrades and about 150 others held a commemoration today on the second anniversary.

The ceremony was very moving. Lots of soldiers in their various uniforms (and guns) attended and spoke of their friend. Several had been in the circle, so their lives had been spared by this man’s action. We walked around the cemetery, with all it’s beautiful landscaping, and looked at several of the graves. Everyone in Israel is buried above ground. I don’t know the reason.

As you probably know, Jerusalem is surrounded by hills. One of these hills has been named Mount Herzl, after the founder of modern Zionism. Mt. Herzl is made up of three ridges, each one higher than the next. On the lowest ridge is the Holocaust Memorial. On the next ridge is the cemetery for those who died in the War of Independence in 1948. On the highest ridge is the Israeli National Cemetery for soldiers who have died in battle since the War of Independence. This cemetery is huge and is where the soldier is buried whose ceremony we attended.

Then we drove to the local store to buy some food for the Sabbath meal. I thought you’d like this road sign.

Now, it’s getting on toward evening and Theresa and a friend are downstairs preparing the Shabbat meal. It smells yum…

One of the Lone Soldiers from Russia eats Sabbath dinner here often. His mother is visiting him from Moscow and she speaks only Russian. When it came time to light the Sabbath candles before supper, the mother was asked if she would like to do the honors. She was led through the ritual by another young Lone Soldier, an Israeli girl named Natalie, and it really touched the mother to do this. Having been raised in Communist USSR, she had never lit Sabbath candles before in her life.

Tomorrow is Saturday when we do little but read, sit, talk and nap. I wish everyone here played games. That would be fun. Tomorrow night until Sunday night is “Tish B’Av” (9th day of the month of Av) in which observant Jews all over the world fast and mourn for 25 hours. It marks the day when both the first and second Temples were destroyed 656 years apart but on exactly the same day. Either that is an amazing coincidence, or God was really making a point!

Just checked my email and received this quick note from Blake. I don’t think he’ll mind me sharing it. Here is what he said just after he arrived in Nashville to his new job as Producer’s Assistant for a film being made there: I have to rush, I have hardly any time, but I wanted to let you know I’m here and this is EXACTLY where I”m suppose to be. I don’t think I’ll be leaving for a long time. This place is AMAZING.

Jewish attitudes toward Christians & Christianity

Do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.–Romans 11:18

In recent years, God has been turning the hearts of Christians toward the Jewish people and toward the nation of Israel. This phenomenon can be seen among Christians of every race and nation. As Christians begin offering their prayers, their love and their friendship, they must not be naïve as to the difficulty Jews and Israelis have in accepting what is being offered. To understand the reason for this Jewish reticence, we must look at how the Jew perceives Christians’ beliefs as well as the Christian Church. Let’s try to see us from a Jewish point of view.

First, let’s look at some major differences between Christian and Jewish beliefs (and why the Jew doesn’t believe in Jesus).

Original sin and fallenness:

In the mind of most Christians, Jesus is first, and foremost, our Redeemer. Jesus came to earth to redeem mankind from a state of fallenness (brought about by Adam and Eve in the Garden). Fallenness is that evil, depraved state into which all mankind is born and which energizes all mankind to sin and be unable to please God in his natural (unredeemed) state.

In Jewish theology there was no original sin. It follows, then, that if there was no original sin, humans are not born into a state of fallenness. If humans are not in a state of fallenness, they can have no evil (depraved) nature that causes them to sin. Conclusion: Without a depraved nature caused by fallenness, there is no need for a Redeemer. Jews don’t believe that man is depraved or that he is unable to please God. They believe that the natural state of man is good, not evil.

The Law:

Jews believe that God would never require man to obey something he was incapable of obeying. Therefore, since man can obey God’s Law, man must obey God’s Law. All of it!

Christians hold that mankind will always attempt to reach God through his own efforts (whether by building a tower to heaven or seeking to obey a set of religious laws). The Law was given precisely because God knew man would not be able to obey it (due to man’s depraved nature). By giving a set of laws which man could not obey, man would eventually have to face the fact that the problem is within himself (his own fallenness) and seek God’s “cure” which is a new nature that comes through man’s identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6-8 and all of Galatians, especially Gal 3:24). Man’s desire to obey God’s law, coupled with man’s inability to do so, would eventually lead man to Christ who satisfied the requirements of God’s Law for all humankind.

Christians believe that man’s (depraved) nature cannot change (man cannot repent of his behavior) until he accepts Christ’s death on the cross for him, personally. This is because his natural tendency is toward evil, and his first act of repentance must be to accept what Christ has done for him: that is, change his relationship to God through the individual’s identification with Christ. Then, and only then, does he please God because God sees him “in Christ” (he is no longer the depraved individual he was born to be). Further, since his very nature is changed through this “identification”, he can go on to please God by his life (Romans 6 & 8).

To the Jew, if man’s natural state is good, it follows that any act of evil, or of disobedience to God’s law, is unnatural. Therefore, repentance is a simple act of asking forgiveness and agreeing to do the right thing at the next opportunity, thereby immediately returning the individual to God’s favor. Also, whatever sins a Jew has committed unintentionally throughout the year, these sins are forgiven in the annual “day of forgiveness” known as the Day of Atonement.

The Messiah and Monotheism:

To the Jew, the Messiah has always been a political/spiritual leader. The concept of God sacrificing His son is beyond comprehension to Jews.

The Jew considers himself to be the guardian of monotheism: the belief that there is only one God. The idea of believing in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit means, in the mind of the Jew, that Christians are polytheists—believers in more than one god. So, to the Jew, Christianity is similar to the beliefs of the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus, and any other group which does not believe in one God only.

Evangelism:

Christianity has one similarity to Islam: it is an evangelistic religion. However, whereas Islam has mainly evangelized through fear and the threat of death, Christianity at least began by evangelizing by the word, by love and by supernatural power. Unfortunately, throughout its history, the Church has done much of its evangelism the same way the Muslims have: by killing or impoverishing those who refused to accept Jesus.

Judaism is not a missionary religion. Jews believe that Judaism is for Jews only. God never intended any other peoples to follow Judaism or obey the Law.

If Judaism is only for Jews and only Jews need to obey the Law, how then does the rest of mankind follow God and please Him?

Whereas Christians would say that one must become a believer in Christ and Muslims would say one must become a follower of Mohammed and the religion of Islam, the Jew would say that one should not become a Jew unless he simply can’t help himself. Even then, it will be made very difficult for him.

The Jewish answer to pleasing God is to say that God actually made two separate covenants of Law for two separate groups of people. One covenant of laws for the Jew and another covenant of laws for everybody else.

The second Covenant of Law God gave to the sons of Abraham through Moses. This is the path all Jews are to follow, forever. [A discussion of The Law appears in a different Note].

The first Covenant of Law God gave to everyone else—all the Nations—and that Covenant was given to all non-Jews through Noah. This is called the Noahide Covenant, or the Seven Laws of Noah. Many of these seven laws are similar to the 10 Laws of Moses. You may read about this Covenant by googling Noahide Covenant. (Noahide is becoming an official religion in many countries as it already is in the U.S.) Some believe the Noahide Covenant is what is referred to in Acts 15:19-21. Noahide is not Christianity.

From a Jewish perspective, there is only one reason a Christian would want to have a relationship with a Jew: the Jew’s conversion to Christianity. A Jew would tell you (tongue in cheek, but quite seriously) that “to convert or burn in hell” strikes him as somewhat of a lose-lose proposition. One can imagine why Jews are hyper-sensitive to any question or remark that appears as an attempt to draw them into a discussion concerning their salvation.

Jewish attitudes toward the Church:

The idea that the Christian Church has turned its attention and its heart toward the Jewish people and toward Israel is difficult for many Jews to accept at face value. One woman recently told me, “Look, it’s taken us 2,000 years just to get to the place of being cynical! We’d love to believe in your intentions, but look at your history: all you’ve ever done is hurt us!”

This sentiment is, of course, not totally accurate. Few Israelis are aware of the part many Christians played during the 19th and 20th centuries to help turn world opinion in favor of the acceptance of Palestine as the Jewish national homeland, or of those who helped Jews during the war years. However, a Christian with even a superficial knowledge of history must admit that the institutional Church has done vast evil to the Jewish people in the name of Christ during most of its existence.

“Christian”, or believer in Christ:

One thing Jewish people have a hard time comprehending is that there can be a difference between one who belongs to the institution called “The Church” and one who believes in Jesus. They have not always been the same and are not necessarily the same today. Whereas many people who belong to institutional churches have a heart for Israel and the Jewish people, quite often, those who have a heart for the Jewish people and for Israel don’t want to be identified with the historic institution, the Church, because of what the church has done historically to the Jewish people.

Every person has the choice either to live under religious laws or under grace. Law is available in every religious system, including the religious system called Christianity. Christianity is rightly called one of the “great religions of the world” because it is, in reality, a religion. Grace is not available in religion because grace requires a relationship with a Person and not with a system. Just as every person has the choice to live either under law or under grace, every person also has the choice to live either by the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or the fruit of the Tree of Life. The fruit of the first is law (which produces fear, shame and death) while the fruit of the second is a relationship (which produces freedom, peace and rest). Living by laws is much easier because it allows one to know, at any given moment, where one stands in relationship to a set of objective requirements. Grace is more difficult because it requires one to trust that, at any given moment, he is accepted and loved no matter how he seems to be “doing”.

Warning to Believers:

In the Christian Bible (Romans 11) there is a warning which few Christians have heeded throughout history. The warning states that any Christian who takes an arrogant attitude toward the Jewish people is in trouble with God. The true followers of Christ have never been arrogant toward the Jews; however, many who would call themselves Christians, have.

Messianic Christians:

A further issue in the land of Israel is the growing Messianic Movement. A number of Jews have come to believe that Jesus is their Messiah (it is estimated that there are approximately 20,000 of these believers in Israel today and the number continues to grow). Since Jesus was an Israeli and a Jew, these Messianics consider him “one of us”. Many do not call themselves Christians just as the earliest believers in Jesus didn’t call themselves Christians (Christian was a label given to Jesus’ followers later—see Acts 11:26). Many in this Messianic Movement act much like the very earliest believers before the influence of the writings of Paul and the influx of the gentiles changed the Church’s composition and altered its initial Jewish theology.

The growing Messianic Movement has had the overall affect of turning religions Jews, the Israeli government and Israeli citizens against Christians and their organizations within Israel. These organizations are increasingly perceived as having the not-so-hidden agenda of evangelizing Jews inside their own land. The assumption is that any Christian is a potential evangelist. After all, it is the nature of their religion to make converts. This is not something Jews feel they can allow and so even the most well-meaning non-evangelistic Christian is not allowed to move to, nor find work in, Israel except under unusual circumstances.

From the above discussion, several things should be clear about Jewish attitudes toward the following:

1. The phrase Messianic Jew is an oxymoron if the term is being used to refer to Jewish Christians. Jews believe that the two religions are not similar and cannot be spoken of as being complimentary or one being a fulfillment of the other.
2. Attempting to understand Judaism in order to better understand Christianity is absurd to the Jew.
3. The growing practice among Christians to celebrate Shabbat meals; to celebrate the Jewish feasts, the holy days, the holidays, and other Jewish activities, is probably due to Christians having become bored with their own religion and having found Judaism more interesting and fun.
4. Any organization made up of Christians that exists to benefit the Jewish people (or the nation of Israel) is immediately suspect as it is probably only a front to evangelize the Jews.

Are Jewish attitudes changing:

In spite of the general suspicion and skepticism towards Christians that pervades Israeli society, Israelis are pragmatic people. They appreciate tourism. They appreciate bold people (ie. anyone who is willing to visit Israel when the media portrays their country as somewhat dangerous). They appreciate American investment dollars. They understand that when someone has few friends in the world, Christian friends may not be so bad after all (as long as Jews remain cynical to the Christians’ underlying purpose of evangelizing them).

Why Christians are favoring the Jewish people:

It is certainly true that there is a sweeping change in Christians’ attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people. What has caused this dramatic focus and what is its purpose?

First, and foremost, it is God who has done it. Second, it has taken Christians a long time to discover that their Christianity makes far more sense when one understands its roots. Third, Christians are realizing that love is what we are really supposed to be all about. Finally, Christians who understand that only God can bring a person to Christ, are turning to prayer rather than evangelism.

An Israeli once asked me quite emphatically, “Why have you come to my country?” This was stated more as a demand than a question. I didn’t have an answer that I knew would satisfy either my inquisitor or myself. I just wanted to be in the Land and I felt an unexplainable love for the Land and the people. Why? I don’t know. I am still trying to figure it out.

Israelis would like to believe that attitudes can change, even among those who have historically been the means of much of their suffering.

It is not for us to be offended by a Jew’s hesitation to trust our show of interest in them, their culture and their country.

Theresa’s birthday and looking for work

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law”–Romans 13:8

[By the way, the picture at the top of this post is the coastline of Israel taken from the north-easternmost corner of Israel with my back to the border of Lebanon.]

Some of you have asked me to include pictures of common, everyday things here in Jerusalem. So, I’m going to oblige while telling you what’s happened the past couple of days. I’ll do more of this in the days to come.

I began the day with a great talk with Seth in California. It was late at night for him and mid morning for me. We talked on Skype using our mini-cameras. Seth is doing very well and prospering. While I’m crowing about the boys, James has been asked to have a private audition for Universal Studios for a possible job in Japan and Blake is moving to Nashville tomorrow to begin his work as a Producer’s Assistant on a new movie there.

Ahem. Now back to Me: One of the Lone Soldiers who lives in the Johnson’s apartment works as a security guard at a new office building about a 20 minute bus ride from our apartment. Daniel said he had become friends with a man who works in the office building with a company teaching English to foreigners. The name of the business is Wall Street Institute. This company has centers in lots of countries and has several here in Israel.

So, Monday, Scott took Daniel and me and dropped us off at the office building where Daniel introduced me to his friend. I gave the man copies of my resume and other papers. He said they definitely need teachers and will be contacting me shortly.

Then I walked from the office building to another part of town where I was looking for a hardware store I had seen there two years ago. Actually, I was looking for a specific present for Danny’s wife, Judy. When I finally found the store I was really proud of myself because it had been two years since I’d been to that store and I had walked several miles to get to it without making a wrong turn. How smart is me! I found the present and even found a bus stop that was the right number bus to take me back to the apartment. By now I was exhausted because of the heat and so I settled into the seat looking forward to getting home in time to talk with the Perrys on Skype. However, pretty soon I noticed that the bus was taking me in the wrong direction. Or, to be more honest, I had gotten the bus on the wrong side of the street. It took me almost 2 hours to get back home. How smart is me?

Yesterday (Tuesday) was Theresa’s birthday. I left the apartment after hanging out my laundry to dry on the patio (should have taken a picture of this). Here’s a pic of looking down the street toward the bus stop. My bus stop in front of a newly build synagogue.

I was headed downtown to get Theresa a birthday card and then on to the Shuk (Jerusalem’s central market) because she said she wanted some fresh peaches. I can’t express how amazing this place is with all the smells of fresh-baked breads, as well as everything else that is delicious. Everyone is yelling and in a hurry. Some soldiers were walking through the Skuk and singing and chanting for some reason I didn’t know. People stopped and began to clap to the rhythm of the soldier’s chanting.

Last night Scott and Theresa prepared a great meal for Theresa’s birthday and several friends showed up for the party. Here is a picture of eating out on the patio (notice the nargela–the water pipe, which is a favorite pastime among the Lone Soldiers).

It is customary in Israel to put the birthday person in a chair and raise them off the ground as many times as they are old. We give spankings for a person’s age; Israelis raise the person in a chair. (?)

More about jobs: I have been in contact with an agency wanting to put me into a school in China. they are going to set up an interview with the school in the next few days. Right now, I don’t know anything about the school and have asked him for the school’s website and the contact information for a couple of current or former teachers so I can get their input. Also, I am still in contact with my friends in Turkey who seem to really want me to move there. And…I have sent a couple of resumes to Kuwait and Cairo. I’m having fun with all this and am looking forward to whatever comes out of it all.

Thanks, Mike, for saying “hi”. Comments let me know someone is reading this thing.

Today I am going to answer emails and finish a couple of chapters of my book to send to the publisher in California. Will share more later.

Phil & Deb. I still want to talk to you on Skype.

Saturday

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”–Rom 8:35

One of the nice things about living here is that on Saturdays there isn’t much to do. You have spent most of Friday cleaning up and cooking and on Saturday you have all this great food left over and you sit around and read or talk. No lawns to mow…

This morning I got up early and took a walk to Abraham’s Overlook. In this normally hectic city, there was almost no sound. Only a couple of Arab cars passed me and none of the normal sound of buses roaring up and down the road in front of the apartment. On my walk I encountered one jogger and two men walking to the local synagogue. It was a crisp, still morning.

After I came back to the apartment, Scott and Theresa and I talked about Judaism and what it is like to live under the law. Before anyone can come to Christ several things have to happen to him or her:

First, he has to begin to care that his life is or isn’t pleasing God.
Second, he has to realize that he isn’t going to please Him no matter how much he tries.
Third, he has to realize that wanting to please Him is not the same as actually pleasing Him and that the problem is with him, alone.
Fourth, he comes to realize that God has fixed the problem all by Himself.

Another of the neat things about living here is reading in the newspaper that archaeologists have discovered something else while digging in the dirt. A couple of years ago the Pool of Siloam was discovered after 2,000 years of liberal theologians saying that the lack of this Pool (that held 10,000 people) was another proof that the Bible was a bunch of fables. Well, the Pool has been discovered and you can visit it any time you want.

A few months ago, Zerubbabel’s daughter’s necklace with her name carved into the pendant was discovered near the Temple Mount. Archaeologists are now pretty sure they have discovered King David’s palace which, until now, has been more food for liberal theologians.

In this morning’s newspaper is the discovery of a seal belonging to Gedaliah, one of King Zedekiah’s ministers. This guy is listed in Jeremiah 38:1-5 as one of the men Jeremiah ticked off and who went to the king demanding Jeremiah’s death.

Fun stuff!

The couple I’m staying with (Scott & Theresa) have really grasped what it says in Romans 12 & Hebrews 13 about hospitality. They, and the Perrys (back in Crossville), are some of the most hospitable people I know. It’s what I always wanted my own family to be like. Something very spiritual happens when a family opens their home to others.

It’s night now and the end of Sabbath. Time for bed.

My hosts

This morning I got up, made some coffee and ate some toast with Raspberry-Pomegranate jelly. Life is sweet!

Then I walked the 7-8 minutes up the street to the top of the hill. The hill is where Abraham first saw Mt. Moriah across the valley (where the golden dome now stands) when he came here to sacrifice Isaac. It is where I come to pray for the family and whatever any of you have asked me to pray for. Weather is really nice and there is usually a breeze blowing from the area of the Temple Mount across the valley while I’m praying.

This is such a land of contrasts where the Orthodox can’t shave their sideburns, but they can smoke as many cigarettes as they want to and where girls enter the army at age 18 for two years and the army provides them with two free abortions during their time of service.

I am staying with Scott and Theresa Johnson from Sevierville, Tennessee.

Scott and Theresa have a large apartment (view from the street) (the balcony with the flags is their front door). Their ministry is to take in Lone Soldiers. Lone Soldiers are young men and women who have grown up Jewish in various parts of the world. Often, after a Bar Mitzvah (boys) or Bat Mitzvah (girls), the person begins questioning his or her Jewishness. In Judaism, questioning is not allowed. Some are put out of their families, others turn to drugs and alcohol and still others are just harassed for being Jewish.

What they all have in common is that they find themselves coming to Israel to join the army. This is the one place they just might feel at “home”. But, of course, they bring their problems with them to one of the craziest places on the planet.

Scott and Theresa have a testimony of having been delivered by God from drugs and alcohol and these young people can relate. The Johnsons open their home for a day, week or months since the Lone Soldiers come here with little experience of love, no place to live and usually penniless.

So, today the three of us spent most of the day cleaning the apartment and Theresa is preparing for tonight’s Sabbath meal. She is a great cook and usually makes enough food to last the rest of the week. I don’t know if any Lone Soldiers are coming for supper. There are usually plenty of them. The soldier who currently lives with the Johnson will be working tonight.

Have a great weekend everyone and let me hear from you. Hey, to the CCP Box Office crew! What’s up with you?