Nancy and I had the privilege recently to tour Israel with Pastor Mark Francisco and the Fifth Gospel Encounter. It was an amazing two weeks of wandering in the desert, visiting places where Jesus would have walked, lived, and taught and, of course, visiting Jerusalem.
During these two weeks we were stretched both spiritually and physically. Not only was my worldview challenged, but some of my fears as well, especially when climbing the high places.
The lessons learned are too numerous to list, but I can say that at the end of the journey I did learn we cannot rely on our worldview and culture to give us an accurate picture of God. I learned we must work hard to understand the worldview and culture of the times in which the bible was written. When we do this it becomes far more richer and relevant.
There were many highlights of our journey – too numerous to list them all – but here are the ones that stand out the most:
- Our time in the desert was special, though taxing on the body. To understand the geographical setting in which much of the Old Testament was written made many of the metaphors used through out the New Testament relevant.
- The boat trip on the Sea of Galilee was more than refreshing; it provided a visual of the life of Jesus and His disciples.
- Seeing the Valley of Elah where David and Goliath had their stand off will have a life long-impact. To see the place where a young shepherd boy stood up to the one who mocked his God and taunted his people reminded me of how much the church needs such brave young people today to stand up to the giants of our day.
- Seeing the Bedouin shepherds walk and care for their sheep and goats gave me a wonderful visual of true leadership.
- Standing under the waterfall after a long and hot hike in the desert helped me understand “living water” like never before.
- When Pastor Mark covered us one by one with his prayer shawl while Cam Huth read, the picture of God covering us as a mother hen covers and protects her chicks became significant to me as a leader of a ministry that cares for vulnerable children. I can also lead with boldness knowing that God’s covering is upon me.
As I said, there were many lessons learned; however, there is one overall lesson I learned from my time in Israel, it is that God’s goals for our lives and His provisions do not always align with ours.
God longs for his people to trust him. In the desert we came upon a small green plant standing alone, and we were told this is the green pasture referred to in psalm 23. You see, we have distorted God’s word, we have made it suit our view of life and what we think we should expect from God.
We are a culture that has become accustomed to excesses and security. We desire and accumulate more than we need, we expect more than enough for today so that we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. Yet God is a daily God; He provides for our daily bread, He knows what we need on a daily bases, He is not oblivious to it.
However, when it may seem He is not coming through we get discouraged and doubt. What God is really saying to us in times like these is, “trust me.”
This applies to our spiritual lives as well as our physical needs. Hope comes to us as daily bread does. Hope needs to grow in us, both for this life and the one to come. If we ask and trust, God will give us hope on a daily bases as we need it.
Brennan Manning uses the equation: “Faith + Hope = Trust.”
Faith comes from personal experience, it is relational. Hope comes from the reliance on the promises of God and the expectations of their fulfillment. The result is a trust, a ruthless trust. Unfortunately when we misunderstand the promises God makes and make them fit our worldview and expectations it all breaks down.
There are many lies out there today that teach about financial and material expectations that are not biblical. We must guard against such teachings. We must not get caught in the trap that interprets the bible from our western capitalistic worldview. We need to understand it from the perspective of those who learned to live trusting God for food and water on a daily bases.
How do we teach this to our children? How do we prepare them to fight the giants that will come and mock their God? Children will mimic us, they watch more than they listen. Therefore, from an early age they need to see us model what we teach. Reading children biblical stories is not enough. They need to see those stories lived out by those who are going before them.
I understood this when I saw a Rabbi at one of the sites we were visiting walking with his young students who followed behind him. He taught as he walked. I am sure they saw in him the stories he was telling lived out. How important it is for us to teach our children as we walk the journey of life. Telling them is not enough – we must also show them.
I want to thank Pastor Mark Francisco and Cam Huth of Fifth Gospel Encounters along with Coquitlam Alliance Church for making this experience possible for us. I pray that the lessons learned will not be forgotten and I commit myself to striving to be a better shepherd among the sheep God has given me to lead.
Until next time,
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