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Appian Media Videos - Following the Messiah has been a long time since I have posted. I apologize for that. I will try to do better. But, for the past several months, I have been busy working on another project.

About a year ago, I was contacted by a couple of Christians in the Indianapolis area. They wanted my help in creating some Biblically-accurate videos about the life of Jesus. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. Last June, six of us traveled to Israel and recorded the video for the first five episodes of a series entitled "Following the Messiah". These episodes cover Jesus' life from His birth to the selection of his apostles.

After many months of hard work, the videos were officially released on Saturday. To celebrate the occasion, we had a public showing of two of the episodes at a wonderful theatre in Indianapolis.

I encourage you to view the videos. As I said, they were shot on location in Israel. They can be used in Bible classes, family devotionals, or any number of ways. They are all about 25 minutes in length are free to download. They can be accessed via the Appian Media website.

Please watch the videos and give us feedback! We would love to know what you think and what else you would be interested in seeing.

An Opportunity to Travel to Israel

An Opportunity to Travel to Israel


In 2010, I made my first tour to the country of Israel. As a Bible student and as one who loves geography, this tour helped me to better understand many parts of the Bible. Until this tour, I understood WHAT the writers were saying, but in many ways I didn't understand WHY they said it the way that they did. The tour caused me to go back and restudy many passages that I had taken for granted. That tour was one led by Ferrell Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins has been leading tours to Israel since 1967. (For those of you who are familiar with history, his first tour was just a couple of weeks before the Six-Days War.) Soon after this tour, I decided that I wanted to try to lead tours to Israel as well. I spoke with Ferrell many times about it. He offered me guidance and patiently answered all of my tedious questions. I returned to Israel with him in 2012 to learn more about the land as well as leading tours.

Since that time, I have successfully led two tours in June 2014 and October 2015. There is an unspoken thrill in helping people to understand the geography of the Bible and watching it all "click" in their minds.

Next year, Mr. Jenkins will be leading another tour in which he will be celebrating 50 years of leading tours. If you have ever had an interest in going, I encourage you to contact him and let him know of your interest.

Recently, he published a short article answering many questions that he (and others that lead tours over there) receive concerning the safety of travel in Israel. In that article, he references myself and my recent tour. To that end, I wanted to lend my words in confirmation of what he states in the article.

My most recent tour was last month. If you paid any attention during that time, there were items in the news concerning physical confrontations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Many of these confrontations resulted in injuries and deaths. Sadly, these reports are true. But, they were very isolated and failed to tell the complete story.

One morning that we were in Jerusalem, I was watching FOXNews and there was a headline on the bottom of the screen stating "Israel in Chaos". I immediately turned and looked out my window. I could see cars on the streets, people riding bikes to work and children (with their Superman and Barbie backpacks) walking to school. The situation on the ground was nothing like what was being portrayed on the television.

While there were problems, this was limited to an extremely small minority of the population. While we were over there, we never saw any problems. We were greeted by warm, loving people who were glad to see us and welcomed us with open arms.

Each day, my tour group rested comfortably in the hotels, ate delicious food in the restaurants and visited dozens of Biblical sites. We shopped in the Old City. We spoke with the shop owners. And we experienced the culture of the people. On nearly every day, someone from my tour group mentioned to me how safe they felt in Israel. Since we have returned, many have privately mentioned to me that "they never had a single concern as we traveled".

Our world is a world who does not look to God. For the most part, the people of this world seek their own self interests over the interest of God. When that happens, bad things occur. They always have and they always will. Occasionally, bad things happen in Israel. I will not deny that. But, you know what? Bad things happen in your hometown as well. Do you need proof? Watch your local news tonight. I don't care where you live, within the first ten minutes of the news, you will hear a story of someone being assaulted or perhaps even killed. It is sad, but it is true.

Yet, without thinking about it, you will head into your local hometown where those bad things happened. Do not let your perception of the situation in Israel keep you from enjoying the thrill of a lifetime and growing as a student of the Bible.

Next spring, Ferrell Jenkins will lead a tour to Israel. If you are a student of the Bible, I encourage you to consider going and celebrate 50 years of touring with him. You will be able to watch the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee. You will see the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath. And you will be able to stand on the Mount of Olives and look over Jerusalem. It is a great opportunity. Don't miss it.

(NOTE: If you have any specific questions about security, please feel free to contact me. I'll be more than happy to answer any question that you may have.)

Up The Hula Valley

Up The Hula Valley


As I write this post, I am sitting on the balcony of my hotel with a view of the Sea of Galilee. As a Christian, it is difficult to put into words what it means to see this beautiful location. Peter, Andrew, James and John used to fish these waters. Jesus calmed a storm that raged on these waters. Jesus walked on these waters. All of those events happened within sight of where I now sit. I am truly humbled to be here and to be sharing this experience with this group of people. We started our final day in this region by visiting the ruins of Chorazim. Jesus cursed this city for their unbelief. While there, we were entertained by a number of rock badgers that cross-crossed the paths in front of us.

We followed that visit by driving north up the Hula Valley and visited Hazor. By standing on the top of this tel, it is easy to understand the strategic importance of this location. It is no wonder why Joshua conquered this city as part of his northern conquest.

We drove by the tel of Abel Beth Maacah. While going by, we read the account from 2 Samuel of the wise woman of this city who singlehandedly saved her city.

A visit to the northern part of Israel is not complete without a visit to Tel Dan. As you walk around the high place built by King Jeroboam, you are reminded how this single decision probably condemned his nation in the years to come. We also visited the Israelite Gate and the even more ancient Canaanite Gate.

Our next stop was at Banias, known in the Bible as Caesarea Philippi. By seeing he remains of the pagan temples that was the main part of this city, it is easy to understand why Peter stated that "Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God."

As we drove back to the Sea of Galilee, our path took us through the Golan Heights. We made one stop at an overlook where we could see the Syrian plain in the direction of Damascus. Saul walked near here when he saw his vision of the risen Jesus.

Tomorrow morning we will leave Galilee and go "up to Jerusalem". As we do so, I will think of my wife, who loves the sea, but graciously stayed home and watch the kids and allowed me to come here. I will also think of all of the memories that have been made in the past days and the more that will be made in the days to come.

Until then, Shabbat Shalom.

The Promised Land

The Land of the Patriarchs - Map by Bill Schlegel from Bible Satellite AtlasGod made three promises to Abraham. One of those promises was for a land in which his seed would dwell. In reality, God could have given them any land that He wanted to give them. He is God. But, for some reason, He chose to give them a small piece of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. A piece of land only about 50 miles wide. We can read in the book of Joshua of the nation of Israel coming into the land, conquering it (mostly) and dividing the land between the tribes. So, why did God choose this piece of land? Honestly, I do not know. And, I would mistaken if I thought that I have the ability to fully understand the mind of God. But, it is fun to speculate.

At the time of the conquest, most of the people who lived on the earth were somewhere in the area detailed by the map at the top of this post. There were others on the earth, but most were located here. In addition, most travel (especially for large groups of people) was conducted on foot (or by animal). With the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the huge area of desert to the east, this tiny 50-mile wide piece of land served as a "land bridge" between Egypt, Europe and Asia. If anyone traveled through this area, they would need to go through the land occupied by God's children.

What would be the advantage of that arrangement? Well, anyone passing through would be able to learn of the God of the Israelites and see the blessings that were bestowed by that God on the people. Knowledge of the God of the Israelites could be spread far and wide. While I am sure that some of this happened naturally, if the nation of Israel would have conquered all of the land like they were commanded to do, then their position in the land and the influence they could have had would have been much higher. Instead, they failed to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land and then allowed those influences to affect them in ways that eventually led to their downfall.

So, that begs the question. Where has God placed you? Are you in a situation in which you can let your light shine for God? If so, are you doing that as best as you can? Or, are you letting the evil influences around you dim your light?

The Israelites were eventually carried away into captivity largely due to their inability to get rid of the evil influences around them and to take full advantage to the location where God had placed them.

Don't let that happen to you.

NOTE: The map at the top of this post is from Bill Schlegel at Satellite Bible Atlas.

Israel Sandstorm

israel_sandstorm For the past couple of days, parts of the Middle East have been suffering from a sandstorm. Winds started earlier this week by blowing large amounts of sand and dust across the Mediterranean Sea toward Turkey. Since then, the winds have a more west to east component and the dust has been blown toward Egypt, Israel, West Bank and Jordan. (The picture above was taken this morning.)

In Deuteronomy, the people of that time are warned that by not obeying God, things like this would happen.

But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. The Lord will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish. And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed. - Deuteronomy 28:15-24

Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images.

Tips For Traveling to Israel

Steps leading to the High Place at Dan.  Jeroboam built this platform for worship to a golden calf during the period of the Divided Kingdom.Taking a trip to Israel is a life-changing experience. For those of us who have continually read the stories in the Bible since childhood, the opportunity to see the actual places where these stories took place is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, you need to make the most of it. Recently, Wayne Stiles has written two excellent articles on how to get the most out of your trip. I highly recommend reading them. His first article, entitled "How to Prepare for a Holy Land Tour" discusses a number of items that you need to do before you go. Of the things he mentioned, I'd like to highlight two of them.

First, become familiar with the geography. You have probably seen a map of Israel a million times. There is probably one posted in your Bible classroom at church. But, have you really studied it? You need to. You are about to be there. Understand the terrain. Have a general understanding of where places are and how they are affected by other locations.

Second, get in shape. You are going to visiting places that were originally constructed thousands of years go. Therefore, there are no elevators, escalators or moving sidewalks. There are uneven sidewalks, ancient stone steps and rocky slopes. You need to be able to get on and off a bus with ease, walk moderate distances on uneven terrain and do so in the heat of the outdoors. You don't have to be in perfect shape to go, but you need to be prepared for what is ahead of you. Trust me, it will be worth it.

His second article, entitled "8 Tips to Maximize your Holy Land Tour" discusses things you should do while you are over there. Again, I'll highlight a couple of suggestions.

First, stay hydrated. As I have already mentioned, you'll be doing a lot of outside walking. Depending on when you go, the air could be pretty dry. Normally, I do not get out of the bus without three items: my hat, my camera and a bottle of water. Drink water continuously while you are over there. I know what it is like to be over there and not drink enough water. Trust me, you will be glad that you did.

Second, look for opportunities to see things that are not on your itinerary. Every tour spends a night or two in Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. One morning you are there, get up a little early, walk down to the shore and watch the sun rise over the Golan Heights. It is not on your itinerary, but it will be one of the highlights of your trip.

I know of some friends that are going over there in April. Be sure to read what Wayne has written. His words will help you get the most out of your trip.

Satellite Bible Atlas

The Satellite Bible Atlas by Bill Schlegel and Todd BolenI admit it...I'm a map geek. I love good maps. I also despise bad maps. When Google came out with their mapping program(s), the skies in my world became a deeper shade of blue. If I could somehow count the number of hours that I have spent looking at Google Maps and bouncing back and forth between Traditional View, Satellite View and Terrain View, I would probably be embarrassed. As a Bible student, I really love good, high resolution maps of Biblical places. And, for some reason, finding good Bible maps is much harder than you would think. As I flip through Bible workbooks, I have seen Jericho in about a dozen different places. It is usually generally in the right area, but it should be in the right place. What good is a map if the cities on it are not in the right locations? Well, it ceases to be a map. It's really just a work of art that vaguely resembles a map. (By the way, if you want to know where Old Testament Jericho is located, it is at 31.870037,35.443788.)

About a week ago, Todd Bolen blogged about a new resource that was being released called the Satellite Bible Atlas. After reading through the description and looking at the sample pages, I couldn't hit the "Purchase" button fast enough. The last six days have been an exercise in patience waiting for it to arrive. Over the weekend, my wife and I travelled to Tampa, Florida where we were able to visit with Ferrell Jenkins. He had been given an advanced copy and showed it to me. Ten minutes later he was having to pry it out of my fingers for fears that he may never see it again.

I'm happy to say that my copy arrived in the mail yesterday. And, it is everything that I knew it would be. Featuring over 75 full-page, high resolution maps, it does a fantastic job of pointing out many of the locations that we read about in the Bible. Some maps even feature colorization of the valleys to show you why those locations are so strategically important. If you are interested in Biblical geography at all, this is something that you need to add to your library. I noticed this morning that Luke Chandler's copy arrived in the mail yesterday as well.

Well done, Todd Bolen and Bill Schlegel. Very well done.

Paul in the Praetorium

Traveling to the Bible Lands helps you to appreciate the stories so much more. Shortly after my first trip to Israel, I was given the privilege of teaching a class on the Book of Acts. With my newly found interest in the geography of the book, I approached the study very differently. As we were studying the later chapters of Acts, I mentioned that the Apostle Paul spent two years in the praetorium in Herod's palace in Caesarea Maritima. I also mentioned that he probably sat there and could hear the people of the city outside attending public events and having a fun time. How do I know this? Well, that is where a little knowledge about the city can aid you in having a deeper understanding of the scriptures.

This morning, Ferrell Jenkins continued his series of posts on locations in the Book of Acts. He provides two fantastic aerial pictures of the remains of the palace at Caesarea Maritima. The assumption is that the praetorium where Paul would have stayed would have been located at the far end of the palace (away from the coastline). You will also notice from the picture that the southern end of the hippodrome is very close to that same location.

Now, imagine that those stands are completely filled with citizens of the city enjoying chariot races or other forms of entertainment. No doubt, Paul would have been sitting in his room and could hear those cheers. All the while, he knows he can't go out and enjoy it.

The Bible never mentions this, and admittedly, this is mostly assumption on my part. However, isn't it interesting to consider things like that? I think that we often soften the suffering that Paul goes through in Caesarea because he wasn't in a "real prison". But I'm sure it was lonely. And, my guess is that it was very frustrating to him. He knew that within a few feet of his location, there were thousands of people that needed to hear the message that he carried with him. But, he was locked in a room.

So close...yet, so far away.

Upcoming Bible Land Travel Opportunities

Upcoming Bible Land Travel Opportunities


Are you interested in taking a guided tour of the Bible Lands? I can offer two suggestions. April 15-26, 2013 - Israel - Led by Ferrell Jenkins Traveling to Israel is often "the trip of a lifetime" for Bible students. I have been lucky enough to take this tour twice (the first in the Spring of 2010 and the second in the Fall of 2012). Mr. Jenkins has lead over 35 tours of Israel and has spent a lifetime studying the land. You'll visit the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, the Jezreel Valley, the Wilderness of Judea, the Shephelah as well as many other sites. A trip to Israel is one that you will never forget. You can see Mr. Jenkins' website for more details.

May 13-24, 2013 - Turkey - Led by Leon Mauldin I have to admit, I have never taken this tour, but I know many people that have been to Turkey and I know many people that have been on Mr. Mauldin's tours. In both cases, they speak very highly of the Turkey and tours led by Mr. Mauldin. Obviously, a trip to Turkey is on my Bucket List. On this tour, you'll visit Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Izmir, Pergamum and many other places. You can contact Leon Mauldin for more details.

Is it possible to understand the Bible without traveling to the Bible lands? Yes, definitely. But traveling to the Bible lands helps you understand the Bible stories even better.

2012 Israel Trip - Day Eight

2012 Israel Trip - Day Eight


Today was spent in an around the Dead Sea in the Wilderness of Judea.  We had a surprise visit this morning at Qasr al-Yahud, which is near the traditional location of the baptism of Jesus.  In the Gospels, we read that John was baptizing at "Bethany beyond the Jordan".  So, John was actually baptizing at a location on the other side of the Jordan River.  However, this is as close as we can get without going into the country of Jordan.  Due to irrigation and water control, the river at this point is very narrow compared to what it was in Biblical times. We then traveled down to the vacation home of Herod the Great, Masada.  The history of Masada is something that every person should study.  Consequently, I won't go into that now and leave that to your personal study.  Masada is never mentioned by name in the Bible, however it might have been referenced.  The word "masada" means fortress.  While in the area, the scriptures mention that David visited a fortress on three different occasions.  In addition, David mentions a fortress in four of his psalms.  So, it is highly possible that David visited here.  I had one other interesting experience at Masada, which I'll discuss later.

From there, we traveled north for a brief stop at En Gedi (where David hid while he was being pursued by Saul), Qumran (the location of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Jericho.  I've been to Jericho twice and it is one of the highlights of my trip.  The tel that we visit is from Old Testament Jericho (New Testament Jericho was in a slightly different location).  From that tel, you can see the size of the city, so you know exactly how far the Israelites marched as they circled the city for seven days.  You can also envision Rahab, who built her house on the wall of the city.  She could look out her window and see the Israelites as the encamped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan River.  It is a fascinating place.

Tomorrow is an early day.  We have to leave the hotel at 7:00am in order to be in the Old City in time to enter the Temple Mount by 7:30.  So, I'll need to get to bed soon.

However, back to Masada.  I'm an amateur hiker.  I really enjoy hiking in the Smokies and have hiked many miles there.  At Masada, you have two choices to get to the top.  The first choice is a tram lift that will take you to the top in about 3 minutes.  The second is the traditional route (the same route that the people of the time would have used) via the "Snake Path".  The trail is only 2 kilometers long, but it climbs over 350 meters in that distance.  (I'll leave it as a math exercise for you to figure out how steep that is.)  There were about 10 others in the group that wanted to hike the Snake Path, so I thought that I would give it a shot.  Well, I made it.  However, it wasn't a complete success.  When we left, the temperature was about 30 degrees Celcius (another math exercise for you) with no clouds (rain rarely falls here) and very little wind (we are at the lowest place on earth).  I made the trip up okay, but soon after arriving at the top, I started to get tingling feelings in my fingers.  Since that is one of the first signs of heat exhaustion, I knew that I needed to take care of myself quickly.  I took the first tram back to the visitor's center and immediately bought a coke.  I sat down in the cool air and began to recover.  Our outstanding tour guide, Elie, and could see that I was doing better, but thought that I needed something else.  He disappeared and came back with a Gatorade.  I drank it and immediately started feeling better.  So, here is what I learned from today:  if you decide to hike the Snake Trail, you'll need at least two bottles of water, not just one.  (And, let's keep this between us.  There is no need to let Tabatha it.)

Until tomorrow….

2012 Israel Trip - Day Four

2012 Israel Trip - Day Four


Well, today got off to a strange start…but, as always, everything works out in the end. We were originally scheduled to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. However, there was no boat at the dock at 8:30. So, our tour guide called the rental company and there was a miscommunication on the date. They had us scheduled for tomorrow morning. No matter. With only about a million things to see and do in Israel, we just shuffled our schedule a bit, loaded the bus and headed out. We spent the entire day north of the Galilee region. Our first start was at the city of Hazor (it is pronounced "hot-sore"). Hazor is only mentioned a few times in the Bible, but it was a very important city. When the Israelites came into the land, Joshua conquered the city as it was one of the most important cities at that time. Later, Solomon built huge walls at Hazor to protect it. Many of these walls (including parts of the gate) are visible today. By standing on the tel, you can easily see the geographical importance of the city.

From Hazor, we made a brief stop at Abel Beth-Maacah. If you consider yourself a Bible student and don't recognize the name, don't feel bad. It's only mentioned a couple of times, most notably in 2 Samuel 20. Go back and read the story again. (Warning: The story doesn't end well for Sheba.) The location of this city has been known for years, but they have just started initial excavations of the tel this year. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post.

Our next stop was an unexpected bonus. In the First Century BC, Herod the Great erected three temples to Augustus. The first one was at Caesarea Maritima. The second was at Samaria. The third was near Paneion. For years, it was thought that this temple was located at the traditional location of Caesarea Philippi. However, recent excavations at Omrit has cast doubt on that. At Omrit (which is located about three miles from Caeserea Philippi), they have found the ruins of a Roman temple that is similar to the ruins at Caesarea Maritima and Samaria. The site is located along a VERY SKINNY single lane road that a regular car could barely navigate. However, our expert bus driver, Fawzi, was determined. After a few minutes and several near misses of trees, etc, the site was within view. It was fantastic to see it and help us to better understand the time of the first century.

From Omrit, we went to Dan. The city of Dan was originally called Laish until the Danites conquered the city after the conquest. The Danites were originally given land along the Mediterranean coast, but due to their neighbors (Philistines), they decided to relocate to Laish, which they renamed Dan. Dan became a very powerful city in Solomon's time. By the time of the Divided Kingdom, Jeroboam constructed a "high place" so that the nation of Israel could come here to worship the false god Baal. Archaeologists have found the "high place" and I have included a picture of the steps leading up to it.

Our next stop was at Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asked his disciples "…but who do you say that I am?" Peter famously answered, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Ferrell Jenkins spoke to us about the importance of Jesus asking his disciples this question at this location. Seeing the area helps you to understand the true meaning of the conversation.

On our way back to the Galilee area, we drove back through the Golan Heights which is now under Israeli control since the Six-Day War in 1967. For much of the ride, you were right on the border of Syria. How close were we? Well, check out the picture. At one of our stops, I was able to take a picture of a Syrian flag flying in one of their cities.

Finally, we made a brief stop by the Jordan River just north of where it flows into the Sea of Galilee.

Overall, it was a great day. Our boat ride has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning, so we'll try to enjoy that tomorrow. Until then…Shalom.

BONUS: As I understand it, the Third Grade at Athens Bible School is following my blog and mentioning the places I mention in their Bible Class. I thought that I would throw in a bonus picture for all of them. Being in another country is really interesting. You have to deal with different languages, different customs and a different way of life. However, occasionally, you come across something that reminds you at home. That happened at lunch today. We stopped by a familiar restaurant. From the picture, can you guess where we stopped?

2012 Israel Trip - Day Three

2012 Israel Trip - Day Three


Well, our first full day in Israel was a complete success. We left Netanya at 8:00AM and drove north toward Caesarea Maritima. Caesarea was a very large and important city in the first century. Among other things, it is the home of Cornelius. Cornelius was a just man and after seeing a vision, asked his men to go to Joppa and look for Peter. Having landed yesterday in Tel Aviv (which is adjacent to Joppa), we have traveled the same route that those men took so long ago. The ruins at Caesarea Maritima are impressive. You can see the theater, the location of Herod's palace, the hippodrome as well as many other sites. It enables you to get a great perspective of this city and makes you appreciate the Scriptures even more. As you know, Paul was imprisoned in Herod's palace for a period of two years awaiting trial. From the excavations, we know that the palace was immediately adjacent to the hippodrome. So, imagine Paul sitting in his room listening to the cheers of thousands of people as they enjoyed the activities in the hippodrome, knowing that he could not go out and watch. That is something that isn't mentioned in scripture, but becomes evident when you see the city for yourself. From Caesarea Maritima, we went up into the Carmel Mountain Range and visited the traditional site of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Again, the geographical references mentioned in Scripture come to light when you visit the site. From the top, you can see the area where all of the Israelite people would have watched. You can see the Kishon Brook in the valley below where the prophets were killed. And, you can see the Mediterranean Sea where the young man with Elijah reported seeing the small cloud which eventually developed into a large rainstorm.

We continued on to Megiddo, which has ruins dating back several thousand years. We walked through the gate which was constructed during the reign of Solomon. And, we walked down the deep tunnel that was constructed by King Ahab to securely get water into the city. From the tel of Megiddo, you have an unforgettable view of the Jezreel Valley, where many famous battles have been fought over the millennia. You can clearly see why the city of Megiddo was so important during ancient times.

We ended our day by driving through Nazareth (where Jesus grew up), Cana (where Jesus performed his first miracle) and saw the tel of Gath-hepher (the birthplace of Jonah). We finally arrived in the city of Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Tomorrow starts off with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The same sea where Peter, Andrew, James and John used to fish. And the same sea that Jesus calmed during a terrible storm. What a great way to start the day.

For those of you who are interested in following other blogs from people on this same trip, here are the links to their blogs:

Good News About Water

Good News About Water


Throughout history, civilizations have lived and died by their proximity to water. The Mediterranean Sea. The Nile River. The Red Sea. The Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River. The Dead Sea. This is just a small list of the bodies of water that is mentioned in the Bible. When I traveled to Israel and Jordan in 2010, I was very interested in seeing many of these bodies of water. However, I was not altogether thrilled with what I saw. The water flowing through the Banias River in Caesarea Philippi was beautiful. Having recently tumbled down from the heights of Mount Hermon, it was crystal clear and sounded refreshing as it jumped and skipped over rocks and small waterfalls. The Banias is one of several streams that feed into the Jordan River north of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is a wonderful lake that is surrounded by hills on all sides. However, its surface elevation is very erratic and fluctuates up and down based on the amount of rain the area receives. At 211 meters below sea level, the Jordan River leaves the Sea of Galilee and meanders down to 423 meters below sea level at the Dead Sea. Along the way, the Jordan River transforms from a flowing river about 15 meters wide to a 2 meter wide sludge that creeps along by the time it gets to Qasr el-Yahud (picture at right), the traditional site of Jesus' baptism. Consequently, very little water is getting to the Dead Sea and is currently evaporating at a rate of one meter per year.

What's happening? Well, much of the water is being redirected from streams and tributaries leading to the Jordan River. It is being redirected mostly for domestic purposes (drinking water, crop irrigation, etc). While the reasons are legitimate, the shortage of water is having a profound impact to the area.

Luckily, people over there recognize the problem and are making changes to help. Through water recycling and conservation, Israel is preparing to add more water to the ecosystem. If they can continue this, and if the countries of Jordan and Syria can also get involved, this will help the situation tremendously.

If you are interested in keeping up daily with the water level on the Sea of Galilee, you might want to follow the Kinbot Twitter account.

HT: Ferrell Jenkins, Todd Bolen

Gihon Spring and En Rogel

Gihon Spring and En Rogel


Knowing the geography of some of the Biblical locations allows you to understand and enjoy the stories even more. Such is the case with the locations of the Gihon Spring and En Rogel. Both of these locations were involved in David's appointment of Solomon as the next king of Israel. This story can be read in 1 Kings 1. As David was getting old, one of his sons, Adonijah took it upon himself to appoint himself as the successor to David. Adonijah rounded up a number of officials and threw a feast at En Rogel. When Nathan the prophet heard about it, he and Bathsheba approached David and told him what was happening. David immediately arranged for Solomon to be appointed king in a ceremony at the Gihon Spring.

By reading the Biblical account, it is not immediately obvious how close these two locations are. Depending on exactly where Adonijah was, they were probably around a half a mile apart. Clearly, they were close enough so that you could hear the loud noises from either location.

(NOTE: The picture above is a picture that I took in 2010 of the approximate location of En Rogel near the intersections of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys. The picture was taken from upon the southern end of the City of David.)

Currently, Luke Chandler is in Israel participating in an excavation of Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Valley of Elah. On a day off, he traveled to Jerusalem and posted a video showing these two locations and their relationship to this story in greater detail.


Excavations at Abel Beth Maachah

Excavations at Abel Beth Maachah


The city of Abel Beth Maachah is not one of the more readily identifiable locations in Israel, but it was a city of strategic importance during Old Testament times. When the Israelites invaded Canaan the land around Abel Beth Maachah was given to the tribe of Naphtali. Until this year, the tel had never been excavated. Even with the renewed interest in archaeology in Israel, this tel was over looked due to lack of interest or funding. In addition, its proximity to the Lebanese border has provided hesitancy with some. However, for a few weeks this summer, work started on the excavation and it has already produced some interesting results.

In the first information that I have read about it, Professor Robert Mullins from Azusa Pacific University discusses the findings from the initial dig.

As the digs continue, I am sure that more information will be found to help us understand the Biblical times.

(NOTE: The picture is of Abel Beth Maachah that I took in 2010. It is a view from the northwest.)

Picture of Professor Mullins courtesy of