Thursday, July 1, 2010

Where from here?

For those who are looking for a written-fresh-daily-devotional...

I am writing one on the Gospel of Mark

Each day there is a scripture, practical thought for our day on that scripture, a prayer, and thoughts on the passage from an abridged and modern-English (my edition) from John Calvin's commentaries.

Five minutes a day. Come join us. Comments welcome.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

6/20/10- The Healing of an Evil Son Part 2 (Mark 9)

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. 22 "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." 23 " 'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for one who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 29 He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer. "

Thoughts: For this father's day we have a father who loved his sick son as an example for us all. He brought his son to Jesus. His son was not even conscious of it. His father wanted Jesus to help him but he had his doubts because he had tried many other remedies and none worked. Jesus used this occassion of a father bringing a son to say, "Anything is possible for one who believes." Those parents who have given up on hope for their children need to remember this verse. Those who have prodigal children need to hear it loudly. The father's response was "I do believe help me overcome my unbelief!" A truly honest and wise response from his heart. Each father should believe not only for his own good, but for the good of his family. God can strengthen our faith if we ask him to do so. Jesus' response was a miracle- a healing of the hopeless son. We should always have hope for our children- for anything is possible with the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, I believe, help me to overcome my unbelief. Bless fathers and children today.

John Calvin abridged: "If you believe?" The first foundation of faith is to embrace the boundless power of God; the first step of prayer is to raise it above all denial by the firm belief that our prayers are not in vain.
"I believe help my unbelief"- This may seem contradictory at first. Yet none of us has a perfect faith. But God forgives us and exercises patience towards us so that He acts on a small amount of our faith. We all should strive to throw off unbelief and to strive against the leftovers of unbelief, praying against them- and fly to God for aid in hardship.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

6/19/10- last post

My Israel trip blog is ending.

There will be a joint Sunday School class in the fellowship hall (Parents for Jesus, Quest, Romans, Bible Survey) tomorrow for those who wish to come and hear from the pilgrims and see a power point.

I continue to write a daily devotional- a brief Bible commentary.

This summer it is on the gospel of Mark.

Continue to post and edit pictures on the picasa web page:

Thanks for reading- and for all those who prayed for a great, inspiring, and safe trip!
Your prayers are random.


Friday, June 18, 2010

6/19- Fed in order to feed Jn. 21:15-19

First, let me say Praise God- for this trip. It was a growing, challenging experience for me. It was different and better because I felt surrounded by my church and family friends.

So, second- thanks to those who were brave enough and sacrificed their time, energy, and vacation to come on what I think is one of the most meaningful trips in the world.

Third, want to link you to most of my pictures:

Fourth want to think about a little devotion: I keep remembering Peter's primacy, and some of the words of Reverend Kathryn Coxe- that God calls us to do something for him.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" (John 21:15-19)

Jesus fed Peter- but then asked Peter to feed others-spiritually. It was very similar to when Jesus first called Peter with a miraculous catch- and then told them to leave their nets and become fishers of people.
We/I have learned a lot on our trip- we have been inspired- but hopefully we can now pass that light- that inspiration on to others. We are fed in order to feed. Jesus also pointed out that Peter would face a cross. We all will face crosses- but hopefully we can remember God's provision and help along the way.

This Sunday, during the Sunday School hour at Lake Murray Presbyterian, we will have a presentation of the trip. I invite all who can to join us!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6/17,18- We're Back!

"The Lord will watch over your going out and your coming in from this time and forevermore."

We're back. A wonderful, meaningful trip- made more meaningful by the wonderful people going.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

6/16/10 Remember

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!"

Today we will be celebrating the Lord's Supper in the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Jesus said "Do this in remembrance of me." We will be remembering this trip for a long time. We need to remember where God has led us and what God has done in our lives. It is good to reflect on His providence.
Leave tonight- arrive in Charlotte about 10:30 am.
Yesterday Kay and Linda got their new (temporary) passports- so they can come home with us. Kay, Linda, Mark, and I went to the Bible Lands museum and Bethany (where Jesus was annointed, where Mary and Martha lived, and where Laxarus was raised from the dead- saw his tomb).

Prayer: Lord, today help me to remember you.

Monday, June 14, 2010


More picts are up on picasa:

Yesterday the group went to Jerusalem- Walked on the Via de larosa and went to the Church of the HOly Sepulchre. That is the church that most (90%) believe is the real tomb (empty) of Jesus that was built right below the golgotha hill where he was crucified.

Kay and I went to the US Consulate in east Jerusalemt to try to get her passport- hers was stolen from the safe in our hotel room in Tiberias- along with my credit cards, and two of our wallets and about $240 in cash.
The people at the consulate were just wonderful- proud-once again to be an American.

We were going to meet the bus and go to Jericho and Qumran. When the bus came, Mark and Linda got off- and said her purse was missing. Either she left it or someone stole it- with $300 and her passport and credit cards! I could not believe it. Wanted to stay and help them- but my big brother (whom I still obviously listen to) wouldn't let me. They did well.

Tomorrow most of the group will go to Massada and float in the Dead Sea. I think Kay and I, Mark and Linda will go to the consulate. If I can persuade them, and the consulate says it is safe- we will go to Bethany and visit Lazarus (empty) tomb. Big groups can't go there- because of narrow streets.

So here's some verses to think about today:
Shortest verse in the Bible: Jesus wept. (Jn. 11:35).
"When Jesus saw her (Mary sister of Lazarus) weeping he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" He said. "Come and see, Lord: They replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" (Jn. 11:33-37.
Thoughts: Death is our last enemy. It is hard- even for our Lord to face the death of those he loves-- even though he is fully aware of the resurrection. He weeps today for those who die and follow Him. The good news is- death does not have the last word.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

6/14/10 pictures and temple

I have posted about 44 pictures on my picasa web site (see link below).

"The Lord will watch over your going out and your coming in from this time and forevermore." (Psalm 121)

41 "As for the foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel but have come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigners ask of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
1 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, 2 the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The LORD said to him:
"I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (1 Kings 8:41-43; 9:1-3)

Yesterday we went to the western (wailing) wall of the temple- the holiest site of the Jews. It was very moving. Also went to the Mount of Olives- great view over Jerusalem. Walked down traditional site Jesus walked on Palm Sunday. Stopped at the place- last view of Jerusalem as a whole- where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Went on to the Garden of Gethsemane- very moving. I kept saying, "Lord, not my will but thine be done."

Please pray for us as today we need to work on Kay's getting her passport. Would love for this to come quickly so we can go to Jericho and Qumran this afternoon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

6/13 Sunday

Yesterday saw Christ as the Son of David- visited Mt. Zion- David's tomb, upper room, Caiaphas's house, and Bethlehem.

Today we go to the western wall and temple mount.

Friday, June 11, 2010

6/12/10 David's sites Micah 5:2

But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old. from ancient times.
(Micah 5:2)

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (Luke 2:4)

Yesterday (Friday), we began our day by going to Cana in Galil7ee- the site of the first recorded miracle in John 2- where Jesus turned the water into wine. Then went to Nazareth- to the Church of the Annunciatio n(Greek Orthodox)- and saw the lone spring in the town- which is the ancient traditional place where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce Jesus' birth. We walked a half mile up and down hill to the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Anunciation- which is built over the old small village of Nazareth- and supposedly the grotto where Mary lived. Then we went to the Old Testament site of Meggido- near Mt. Carmel and the Mt. of Transfiguratio n(Mt. Tabor). Megiddo looks out over the Jezreel valley- site of many huge battles in history- and according to Rev. 16:16- the final battle of good vs evil at Armageddon (Har Megiddo).

Today we will go to Bethlehem- and to the sites around Mt. Zion both Davidic sites. David's home town was Bethlehem- about 30 minutes drive from Jerusalem. He was a shepherd whose line gave birth to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. David was admittedly a sinner, but he was noted for repenting for his sins. Without him the ancient kingdom of Israel- and probably the current country- would not exist. God used him very powerfully- and he kept turning back to God when he strayed away. So we should keep turning back to God, and never give up on Him.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

6/11/10- 2nd day in Galilee

Mark 1:36- Very Early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus went to a solitary place where he prayed.
O Lord in the morning will I direct my prayer unto you and I will look up. Psalm 5:3

Saw a beautiful sunrise on Galilee- see my facebook (John Benson Sloan).

Yesterday we saw a lot of great sites- historical- but very moving, very spiritual. I liked them for different reasons. For example- in Capernaum you can see that Peter's mother-in-law's house mentioned in Luke 4 (preserved by early graffiti and church structure) is only a block from the synagogue. So when Luke 4:38 says that Jesus left the synagogue and went to Peter's house- now you see it was a short walk.
Loved "Peter's Primacy"- a misnomer- it should be called "Where Peter was restored". Jn. 21. It is a rustic place. And here it is important to remember that we love the Lord, and ministers are called to "feed" his sheep.
Yesterday, about 80% of our group went into the Jordan to remember our baptism. One guy came up to me (from another group) and asked to be baptized for the first time!

Looking forward to a great day today.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

6/9/10 we arrived

Today, we will see a lot of sites around the sea of Galilee- Capernaum, get on a boat in the Sea, the mountof Beatitudes (where the sermon on the mount took place), AND REMEMBER OUR BAPTISM at the Jordan River.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

6/8/10- Psalm 139:1-12 Wings of the morning Travelling Day

Day 1- (6/8) Traveling (Psalm 139:1-12)
1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

(Wings of the morning statue- Brookgreen Gardens, SC by Marshall Fredericks);

This Psalm is one of my favorite Psalms to travel by and especially to fly by. God knows us wherever we are and whatever we do. He sees when we sit down and get up, he understands when we go outside and when we sleep or rest. There is nowhere we can go that will be away from His knowledge- and nowhere we can go that will be away from His Spirit. That includes Israel. It includes the skies. If I go up the heavens you are there (vs. 8). God sees through darkness. Perhaps you thought as a child that such knowledge is impossible. Now we see into the womb through ultrasound. We see millions of stars we couldn’t see with the naked eye. We can see someone across the world on satellite TV or by skype on our computer. We can track planes through radar all over the globe. If we can do it so rustically, cannot the Maker of all things do it purely? He understands your thoughts and your anxieties. But we can rest assured we are in His hands.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord that you know what we are doing, you are in fact, here with us in the airports and on the plane. But more than that, we can trust in you because you care about us. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to see another part of the world you see every day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

6/7/10 Psalm 84 The Pilgrim's Song- Day before leaving

PREPARATION DAY- -1 (6/7) Psalm 84 (Leave tomorrow)

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young— a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God |
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12 LORD Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you.

(Cliff Swallows under ledge)

This is the Psalm of a pilgrim traveling to Jerusalem, thus it suits our trip perfectly. We should catch a bit of his yearning, longing enthusiasm to be in God’s temple in Jerusalem (vs. 2). This pilgrim would love to be a sparrow (vs. 3) or a lowly doorkeeper (vs. 10) in the temple just to be near the temple mount and the presence of the Almighty. Just a single day in the presence of God in Jerusalem is better than a thousand elsewhere. Psalm 124 (6/3) talks about a bird escaping the snare. Now the bird has escaped and found a home. This is how it feels to be in Jerusalem.
This Psalm has a promised blessing for the pilgrim to the holy land and the temple. It is a promise of God’s provision as they travel (springs in the desert). It is a promise of good rest stops along the way, and enough energy to make it. The Psalmist clearly wants those who are traveling to seek God’s favor to not be afraid. He says this plainly with a promise in verse 11- that God is a sun- to warm the cold and show the way; and a shield to protect from enemies and heat.
Instead of being afraid of the journey’s surprises and problems, we are called to be blessed by trusting in God.

Prayer: Lord, may my trip be a pilgrimage. May I grow in trust in you and peace. May this trip be a help to my faith, and a joy in my heart. May you use it in me, Lord, that I might make the world a better, more trusting, peaceful place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

6/6/1- Psalm 127 Where without God? 2 days to go!

Preparation Day -2- (6/6) Psalm 127

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

(Crusader Watchtower Caesarea)

Thoughts: The question occurs to the pilgrim- “Where would we be without the Lord?” God should be in all that we do- the building of our houses, the guarding of our homes, the obtaining of our food, even our sleep. As pilgrims we are called to place the Lord foremost in our journey. This also is a prayer for the entrusting of our homes that we are leaving on our pilgrimage to God’s care. God guards our homes and our children when we are gone. As we go on our way, we should pray for our children if we have them. If we go to the prayer wall in Jerusalem, we may consider who we will place in the wall- perhaps our children’s names should be there.

Prayer: God go with us in our journey and in our leaving.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

6/5/10 Psalm 126- God builds us up 3 days to arrival

Preparation Day -3 (6/5) Psalm 126

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Thoughts: Jerusalem had been burned. Its temple had been destroyed. The young men, old people, children, even the dogs had been killed. The walls had been torn down and all but the poorest were taken into exile in another land when the Babylonians invaded in 586 B.C. Seventy years later the exiles were back. They had first rebuilt the temple (though smaller), and then rebuilt the wall under Nehemiah. No one would have guessed it would happen- except the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah said it would. Clearly it was the Lord who helped them. So now the pilgrim is asking God to help them on their journey. It is a psalm anticipating that there will be misfortune and problems on the journey. But it is a prayer that God, who could rebuild the devastated Jerusalem would rebuild them. God can make water come from a rock in the desert of Negev. So God can restore us and help us.

Prayer: Lord, help us to climb on the bumps before us. Give us grace to believe in your restorative power.

Personal: Today, my daughter Rebekah is getting married to Jay Gilliam. They are both going to Israel with us on their honeymoon. They are really brave to go with their parents, church members and a bus load of people on their honeymoon- but they love the Lord and want to explore the holy sites.

Other thought: One of the reasons Israel is so protective of their country is that they have been in four+ wars since 1948. They remember the times their country was destroyed by Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians-- they remember Massada. When they have had their fortunes restored (as in this Psalm), they want to be good stewards of this blessing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

6/4- Trust like Mount Zion

Preparation Day -4 (6/4) Psalm 125 (A Psalm of ascents or pilgrimage- 4 days before we leave)

1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.
3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.
4 LORD, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.
5 But those who turn to crooked ways the LORD will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be on Israel.

(Mount Zion aerial view)

Mount Zion has been there from generation to generation. It is not destroyed but is a foundation for Jerusalem. Those who trust in God will not be shaken by the ups and downs up circumstances. Mount Zion and Mount Moriah (the temple mount) are the foundations of Jerusalem, and add to the natural defenses of the city. The mountains thus protect the people of Jerusalem, and God made the strongest and mightiest mountains. In the end, it is not the wicked who will win the land or rule- but the Lord. The Psalmist is asking for God to break into his world of pilgrimage and reward the good and punish the wicked so that the pilgrim will be blessed on their way.
He ends again with the prayer for peace to be on Israel. Not a bad prayer today. Even today, when there is a sneeze in Israel the world says, "Bless you."

Prayer: May my trust be as steady and sure as your holy mountain, O Lord. May I trust in your might and goodness on this trip.
Note: Sunday, June 13, we will see Mount Zion with our own eyes. We will explore the house of Caiaphas the high priest when Jesus was arrested and who is mentioned several times in the New Testament. There is a holding cell in the house- where Jesus probably was held. We will also explore the traditional site of David's tomb, and the traditional site of the upper room.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

6/3/10- Security in Israel- Escaping the Snare

Preparation Day -5 (6/3) Psalm 124

1 If the LORD had not been on our side— let Israel say—
2 if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare;
the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

(Bird snare- Nambia)

This Psalm is for those who are afraid of danger on their journey to the Holy Land. It is a reminder that when we are going to give homage to God, He is on our side. When God is on our side, we can escape danger even though it may come upon us. The analogy given is a bird escaping a net. These pilgrims escaped people who would hurt them (attacked them), and the way of the journey itself (a flood). The mantra for the pilgrim is found in verse 8- “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made the heaven and the earth.”

Prayer: Lord, I give my fears and my journey to you. Be my help, my guide, my strength.

Speaking of security: Here is a message from Educational Opportunities with a link:
Update on the Gaza Situation from EO's President-James E. Ridgway, Jr
We have received a few calls and emails regarding the recent floatilla in Gaza. We will continue to monitor the situation. At this time, "all is calm and tourism is at record levels. Groups are proceeding normally."
To learn more read Travel Weekly Reporter in Bethlehem

Below is a link to traveler's comments two weeks ago.

US Department of State Travel Warnings (none about Israel to date):

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

6/2/10 Preparation Day (6 to go); Psalm 123

Preparation Day -6 (6/2) Psalm 123

1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.
3 Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. 4 We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.

The pilgrim is ever conscious that God is watching us. God is on His throne in heaven, though our way down here is rough and bumpy. The pilgrim here is asking the sovereign God for mercy. The pilgrim is claiming to be as helpless and dependent as a slave. They have endured contempt by some just for going. Maybe some have even asked you, “Why are you going to Israel of all places?” The ancient pilgrims had no gps, no maps, no jets, no buses. It was mostly a walk or a horse ride, or a ship’s ride on a rough sea (think Paul’s shipwreck on the Mediterranean or the movie, “The Kingdom of God”). The classic Christian work, “Pilgrim’s Progress” is a reminder that we will face many difficulties along our journey toward the heavenly Jerusalem. The pilgrim without God’s help is truly cut off from their greatest resource. To be a true pilgrim of God, we need God’s presence and help along our way.

Prayer: We cannot see the future, Lord, but you do. We cannot see the future or what lies along our path- but you do, O Lord. Be merciful to us, for apart from you we can do nothing.

Monday, May 31, 2010

6/1/10- Preparation day 7 (to go)- Psalm 122

Preparation Day -7 (6/1) Psalm 122

1 I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."
2 Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels."
8 For the sake of my friends and of all the people, I will say, "Peace be within you."
9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.

(Damascus Gate- and Beautiful/Golden Gate- now plugged. Jesus used the Beautiful Gate often).

This is a Psalm of rejoicing for the pilgrims who finally arrive in Jerusalem. They are marveling about Jerusalem- the way the houses are close together, and the wonder of finally being in the gates of the Holy City. The gates were the place for the judgment thrones. For those of us not there yet, standing in the gates of Jerusalem is something to look forward to. A second theme is here- it is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Jerusalem (literally the city of peace) has often been a city in conflict. Caleb conquered it in about 1300 B.C. David Conquered it about 1050 B.C. The Egyptians, Syrians, Greeks sacked it. It has been destroyed twice: by the Babylonians in 561 B.C. and the Romans in 70 A.D. Overall, Jerusalem has been besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638. Crusaders in 1099. The Muslims under Saladdin re-conquered it in 1167. In 1917 Ottomon rule of Jerusalem ended and British rule began. In 1948 the State of Israel began. In 1967 during the six-day war, the Jews gained control of all of Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been involved in many wars by some of the world’s greatest powers. Jesus talked about its being at the center of the last great war (Armageddon) at the end of history. This week there is tension over Gaza- it is a good time to pray. So, we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for Jerusalem’s peace often means the peace of the world.

Prayer: Lord, we look forward to standing in the gates of Jerusalem. We pray for a peaceful trip, and for the peace of Jerusalem.

5/31- Lift Up My Eyes to the Mountains Psalm 121

Preparation Day -8 (5/31) Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

(Jerusalem from the mount of Olives)

Which mountains is the Psalmist talking about- "I lift up my eyes to the mountains"? Jerusalem is formed on two mountains- Mt. Zion and Mt. Moriah. Traditionally, God’s help comes down from his presence at the temple. Again, this is a pilgrim’s psalm (Psalm of ascent). It promises that God will help us, not let our foot slip as we travel (give us travelling mercies/safety), watch over us to comfort us as we travel (shade by day, and guard us at night). He will watch over our coming to Jerusalem and going back home- and the promise was not just for thousands of years ago, but for our time as well. This is one of my favorite Psalms.

Prayer: Thank you, God that you watch over us, and give us help.

5/30/10- Psalm 120

WHY A DAILY DEVOTIONAL? Pilgrimage is an ancient practice. God even commanded that his people (if they could) go to Jerusalem each year for the Passover and Feast of Booths. A strong tradition grew up, and Psalms were written for these pilgrimages. Psalm 84 is an example, but Psalms 120-127 are called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were read (probably sung and memorized) as people ascended (climbed) the temple mount- Mt. Moriah. They also were read as people traveled many hundreds or thousands of miles to come to Jerusalem. If even scripture sees the need for devotionals as people come, then it makes sense that we do too- for our particular trip. It is a blessing that we have computers and can tailor make our trip and out devotionals to suit. I hope this devotional will help you get more out of each day of our trip and you will be drawn closer to God, seeing the invisible underneath the visible.

Preparation Day -9 Psalm 120 (5/30)
Preparation Day -8 Psalm 121 (5/31)
Preparation Day -7 Psalm 122 (6/1)
Preparation Day -6 Psalm 123 (6/2)
Preparation Day -5 Psalm 124 (6/3)
Preparation Day -4 Psalm 125 (6/4)
Preparation Day -3 Psalm 126 (6/5)
Preparation Day -2- Psalm 127 (6/6)
Preparation Day- -1 Psalm 84 (6/7)
DAY 1- (6/8) Traveling Psalm 139
Day 2- (6/9) Isaiah 9:1-3;
Day 3- (6/10) Matthew 5; Matthew 11:20-24
Day 4- (6/11) John 4; Lk. 4:24-30
Day 5- (6/12) Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-15
Day 6- (6/13) Matthew 23:37-39
Day 7- (6/14) Luke 21:5,6; John 5:1-8
Day 8- (6/15) 1 Samuel 23;9; Ezek. 47:8,9
Day 9- (6/16) Isaiah 56:5 (Yad Vashem)
Day 10- (6/17) Arrival Back- Psalm 137:5,6; Matthew 28:18-20
Preparation Day -9 (5/30) Psalm 120

1 I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.
2 Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.
3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?
4 He will punish you with a warrior's sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush. 5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!
6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

(Tents of Kedar- Kurdish tents)

How is this a Psalm of going to Jerusalem? It expresses two deep felt ideas: 1) That we need to be saved or escape from those who speak evil of us; and 2) That those who are for peace should seek Him.
It expresses the desire/need to get away from those who do evil and speak evil of us when we do good. Kedar was the second son of Ishmael. The Meshek were descendants of the sixth son of Japheth (Gen. 10:2)- who many say become the Moscovites in Russia. In other words, his pilgrimage was from very far away (thousands of miles). – But also he was saying too long has he lived among his tents. His real home (not a tent) was with the people of God. He meant he had lived among those who didn’t believe in his God, and spoke of him in derogatory and even persecuting ways.
He also says he seeks peace. The word “Jerusalem” literally means “foundation of peace.” To go to Jerusalem means to seek peace with God- away from those who are for destruction and sin.

Prayer: Lord, be my refuge, my shelter, my rock, my still waters, green pastures, quiet peace. As I prepare to travel to the land you chose long ago for your people, grant me your peace and strength.