Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Series - Israel

While this blog is primarily about biblical topics and issues, I’m going to start this blog off with a series on the land of Israel.  My wife and I were blessed with participating in a trip to Israel this past February.  The experience was so incredible that I must write about it.  We are going to visit the places where the kings and prophets of Israel walked, where Jesus changed the world, and where the disciples proclaimed the gospel.  Some of the places we’ll visit are: the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Migdol (Magdala), Beit Sh’ean, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, En Gedi, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and more.  I am extremely excited to share this experience with you.

A quick note about the pictures on the posts. All of these were taken by my wife and myself. At one point early in the trip, she decided that I lagged behind too often getting pictures. Therefore, she took over the camera so that I could observe as much as I could. She is so good to me! (I still took some with my phone because I could not help myself.)


A note about the touring company with whom we journeyed.  They were fantastic!  The company is EDI (Experience Destination Israel) Travel, founded by tour guide Boaz Shalgi, a seventh generation Israeli.  His knowledge of the history and geography of Israel (modern and biblical) is phenomenal.  EDI took care of the details of our travel, wonderful accommodations, and entry fees.  We just showed up and drank in all of the wonder of being in the Holy Land!


The Sea of Galilee



We arrived early in the morning at the west side of the Sea of Galilee. After a short sleep, we woke up to a sunny yet hazy morning. After a filling breakfast, we piled into the tour bus and headed for our first "tour" of the trip - a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We boarded a modern vessel with a ancient flare to its design. Out on the lake, we listened to worship music while we took in the sights from the sea. We could see the cities of Tiberias and Migdol on the east shore of the sea. To the north, barely visible through the haze, was Mount Hermon.  


Early in boat ride, I just stood there drinking in all of the sights, impressed with the thought that we were on the sea where the disciples fished, where Jesus slept in the boat when the storm came upon the disciples, and where Jesus walked on the water. It was just so much to take in!

The Sea of Tiberias, an alias for the Sea of Galilee, is approximately 12km (7.5 miles) wide and 20km (12.4 miles) long. It is the only natural fresh water lake in the nation of Israel. The Dead Sea is larger, however it is not fresh water. According to the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Sea of Galilee provides more than 25% of the fresh water to the nation of Israel.1



During another point in the trip across the lake, the owners of the boat demonstrated the process of fishing with a net on the Sea of Galilee.  He gave it a shot, but no fish.  Being with a group of pastors, they shouted "throw on the right side of the boat" as the resurrected Jesus said to the disciples when they were fishing without catching any fish (John 21).  When the disciples cast on the right side of the boat, the nets were straining at the number of fish caught.


Following a couple of other stops around the sea, we stopped to a restaurant where one of the menu items was the "Saint Peter's Fish." The fish is served with head and tail on. The fish is a species of tilapia, is very mild, and tastes quite good. I do not know if the fish we ate was actually taken from the Sea of Galilee (I am told that the species is the same), but the experience and food were great nonetheless.

After crossing the lake from east to west, we disembarked at Tiberias. As we walked off the dock, we immediately experienced the Jesus Boat Museum. The Jesus Boat (aka The Galilee Boat) was discovered in 1986 by two fisherman near Capernaum.2 The boat was raised from the sediment and was restored over a period of years. It now rests in the Yigal Allon Center. No one knows who rode in the boat, but it is known to be from the time of Jesus and represents the boat design from that period. What a sight to see a boat from the 1st century and have a glimpse at the type of vessel Jesus may have ridden.

Here are some of the passages that recount the time that Jesus and the disciples spent around or on this lake:


  • Matt. 4:18-22 - Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John
  • Matt. 8:23-27 - Jesus calms the storm while on the lake
  • Mark 6:45-52 - Jesus walks on the water
  • John 21 - Jesus' post-resurrection appearance on the shore of the lake






1 "Sea of Galilee (Kinneret)", Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, last updated on November 4, 2013, accessed August 23, 2015, http://www.sviva.gov.il/English/env_topics/MajorBodiesOfWater/Pages/SeaOfGalilee.aspx?WebId=Sea_of_Galilee
2 Eric H. Kline, Biblical Archaeology : A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 106.




Monday, August 10, 2015

The Inauguration

So, what is this blog about?  Why does it exist?  What is the author's intent?

When a reader views a blog for the first time these are the questions that run through his/her mind.  This launching post intends to address these queries and a little more.

What is the impetus behind the blog?

First, one may ask "why another blog?".  There are many blogs authored and posted on the internet.  Do we really need another?  There are many godly men and women that use the internet medium to communicate the Truth.  Why should David maintain one as well?   The more I ruminated on the idea the more I realized that another voice proclaiming the truth in the clamor of error is needed.  Another voice announcing the Gospel is important in this world where sin is celebrated so loudly.  Therefore, I purpose to proclaim the truth of the Scriptures to the best of my ability in this blog.

In addition to being another voice for the truth, this blog is a forum for discussion on theological topics.  People around the world that can examine biblical truth together in the comments section of this blog.  I look forward to discussions with other theologians on the planet.

I look to this venue to refine my communication of and understanding of the Scriptures.  Publicly displaying my understanding of the truth of God's Word forces me to think through biblical topics and the best way to communicate that truth.  I pledge to be prepared on the topics on which I write.  I also plan to receive constructive criticism from others on my thoughts and understanding of the Word.  I welcome feedback that corrects my thinking, if that criticism is founded in a sound understanding and argument from the Scriptures.

What topics are addressed in this blog?

Much of what I covered to answer the question "why another blog?" answer this question, but I'll reiterate.  The primary issues we'll be tackling are related to the Bible, theology, and living the Christian life.  We will primarily focus on biblical theology.  Against popular (and even Christian) opinion, theology is *not* primarily an academic pursuit.  It is a very practical endeavor.  Theology gets a bad rap as an impractical exercise with no connection to devotion and the real Christian life.  I believe that to be erroneous and dangerous thinking.  Therefore, I look forward to discussing theology and its practical implications and application together.

On occasion, I'll also present a book review.  The books will be biblical or theologically focused.  I love to read and discuss good books.  I have a habit of purchasing books that look like a good read.  I have a Kindle application full of books that I have not read yet and a book case in the same situation.  My wife tells me that I do not need to purchase any more books since I have "plenty of reading material" currently. :-)

Lastly, I'll also present some topics related to biblical archaeology at times.  It's an interest and passion of mine as well.  In fact, the first series of posts will be related to my recent trip to Israel.  The trip was so fascinating and such a life changing experience that I cannot help but share the experience.

Why the name "Grafted into the Vine"?

I have been impressed with the thought that Paul calls out in Romans 11:17-36.  Paul uses the metaphor of a cultivated vine and a wild vine to illustrate a spiritual truth.  Israel is God's chosen people.  The Jews received the promises and the covenants with direct communication from Yahweh. However, the Jews who have rejected the Messiah are spiritually cut off from Him, the vine, as long as they remain outside of Christ.

In contrast, I, a Gentile, have been grafted into the vine through faith in Christ.  Paul likens the non-Jewish believer as a wild branch that is grafted into the cultivated vine.  Believing Gentiles are now recipients of God's saving grace through His Son and are objects of his love and mercy.  I am in awe of God's grace and mercy bestowed upon me.  I was reminded of this truth upon return of a recent trip to Israel.

A song that Maranatha Music! produced back in the 1980's puts a fine point on my thoughts:

Baruch Hashem Adonai

Who am I to be part of Your People
The ones that are called by Your Name
Could I be chosen as one of Your own
Could it be that our blood is the same
How can a stranger, a remnant of nations
Belong to the Royal Line
You showed your grace when the branches were broken
And I grafted into the Vine

Chorus:
Baruch Hashem Adonai
Baruch Hashem Adonai
Blessed be the Name of the Lord
Baruch Hashem Adonai


The name "Grafted Into the Vine" bears the name of this truth.  The importance of this fact in my life is why I gave this name to the blog.

I look forward to this adventure -- communicating the truth of God's Word and contemplating it together along with the application of it to our lives.

David