Friday, October 9, 2009

Gone to Press!

This week we finished editing and completed my new devotional book, Grace Today! It's now at the printer and will be out around Thanksgiving! I'm so excited about it. Here's a look at the cover:

This book is similar to Psalms Today, but a little meatier, it's about 100 more pages of devotional meat! Here's an excerpt from the new book:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).

It’s interesting what Paul doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “And we hope that all things work together for good to those who love God.” Nor does he say, “And we know that some things or most things work together for good!”

But he says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God!”

“No verse in the Bible claims more than that, covers more territory, offers more hope and comfort. If what this verse says is so, then every cloud has its silver lining of hope, and every event in our life is capable of producing final and lasting good to our souls.”*

But look at what Paul is not saying: This promise is for everyone.

This promise has one very important qualification. Paul is not saying that all things work together for good for everyone. He is saying that all things work together for good to all those who have responded to the Gospel and put their faith in Christ!

The literal rendering of the Greek text clarifies this. It reads, “And we know to the ones loving God, all things work together for good...” For some reason the translators took the phrase, “to them that love God” and inserted it at the end of the sentence.

So a lot of times you’ll hear people just quote the first part of this verse and say, “Well, all things work together for good.” But that’s not actually true! When Paul wrote this he put in one very important qualification: “To the ones loving God all things work together for good.” If a person is not a child of God, they do not have this assurance. They are in a world where the devil, Satan, desires to work things so that they will not go to heaven!

If you do not know the Lord, chances are that things are not working together for good!

Let’s change all that right now. Pray this prayer with me and ask Jesus to come into your life: “Father in Heaven, thank You for loving me and for sending Jesus to die for all the wrong things I have done. I am sorry for what I have done. I want to turn my life over to You. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me; and that He was buried and rose from the dead. I’m asking that Jesus please come into my life and be my Savior and my Lord.”

*Clarence E. McCartney, The Great Texts of the Bible, 60.

I'm really looking forward to sharing the entire book with you next month. The Lord bless you!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preview of "Grace Today"

I wanted to share with you a portion of my upcoming devotional, "Grace Today," due out by the end of this year. I hope you enjoy it!


"When Jesus had tasted it, he said, 'It is finished!' Then he bowed his head and released his spirit" (John 19:30).

Aren't all religions essentially the same? Have you ever thought that, or had someone ask you that?

Actually after having studied comparative religions for years, I have come to the conclusion that there is only a difference of two letters between Christianity and all others religions on the earth, the letters "N" & "E" – two letters that change eternity.

The way to heaven, as taught by all other religions on earth could be summarized by the word: "DO!"

Christianity's way to heaven could also be summarized by one word: "DONE!"

We are saved by a finished work! Jesus finished the work of our salvation!

That's why on the cross He shouted, "IT IS FINISHED!" When He said that on the cross, He meant what He said! The work of salvation was finished, it was done!

The Old Testament priest's work was never done. As you look at the furnishings in the temple, there was no place for him to sit down and rest. He was not to sit down. His work was never done!

But when Jesus Christ came and offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, the Bible tells us that when He ascended into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of God!

The reason He could sit down was because He had finished the work of our salvation!

It is Jesus' good works that saves us! His doing, His dying, His rising again!

Note that we are not saved by what Christ is doing in us. We are saved only and wholly by what Christ did for us at the cross!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jesus Messiah

One of the foremost reasons I believe in Jesus Christ is because He’s fulfilled the ancient predictions of the Scriptures; prophecy that Christ is the Savior of the world and that Jesus is God, and that I should believe in Him and will have eternal life through Him.

“This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” 1 Peter 1:10-12 NLT

That’s the way I look at Old Testament prophecies. You can’t just take one prophecy by itself, but if you take all three hundred or more pieces of the puzzle and you put them all together, do you know Whose face you see? JESUS CHRIST’S! He’s the Messiah. We haven’t just had the wool pulled over our eyes! We haven’t been deceived by clever stories, but we have come to believe the truth – the truth that this Book proclaims – that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. If you’re in trouble right now and you are a Christian, you are in the best place you could possibly be because you are in the Truth – you are in Christ Jesus.

We have a privilege that is greater than any Old Testament prophet ever had, and that is to see the completed picture. We see the Risen Lord. The Lord’s return is at hand and we understand His program for the church age. We have got it made! He says that these are things that any prophet would have gladly traded places with you at the bat of an eye. These things that angels long to look into. Look how anxious the angels were to be involved in it as soon as the Lord let them. Do you remember? They announced His upcoming birth to Mary, then they announced His birth to the shepherds, the angel warns Joseph to flee to Egypt, the angel ministered to the Lord at the end of His temptation and to strengthen Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then there are angels involved in the announcement that He is risen! Whenever the angels could get involved, they were there! I don’t think heaven had to ask for volunteers.

A lot of us have heard the message of the gospel week after week. We’ve heard that Jesus can save us from our sins. We’ve heard that our guilt can be taken away by our believing in Him and placing our faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve heard that He is the Messiah and seen the proof of that in the Old Testament. But, we sort of grow calloused to all this knowledge. What are you going to do? I know what the ancient prophets would have done: They would have worshipped Him and given Him their lives. But, what are you going to do with Jesus?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Persecution in America?

I recently read a teaching I did almost 12 years ago about Christian persecution; it seems almost prophetic. What do you think?

“I’m not so sure that very soon in this very country, we may end up having to face persecution towards the church. The way the government is going now, it’s possible that you, as a Christian, may have your liberties taken away. You’re not going to be able to discipline your children as the Scriptures say. You may not be able to educate them in the schools you want. You’re going to have homosexual groups begin to impose on and persecute the church. Already, they’ve actually infiltrated and disrupted services; bit and spit at people going to church. This is going to become more and more commonplace, and if you raise your voice and say, ‘Look, this is what God says about how we should believe and live,’ we’re going to be in for some persecution. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m not going to bury my head in the sand, either. Things are going to change; believe me. We need to know why we believe what we believe. Why am I not a non-believer? Why do I believe in Christ?”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I wanted to share how the Lord ministered to me on the night of my father's memorial service. It had been a difficult day, obviously, and with many mixed emotions. A lot of you know my testimony and what a turbulent relationship my father and I had throughout my life. I opened one of my favorite devotional books that evening and read the passage for that day (June 10), look how the Lord ministered to me:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

What a tremendous claim Paul makes in this verse! He does not say, “We know that in some things,” “most things,” or even “joyful things” but in “ALL things.” This promise spans from the very smallest detail of life to the most important, and from the most humbling of daily tasks to God’s greatest works of grace performed during a crisis.

Paul states this in the present tense: “God works.” He does not say, “worked” or “will work.” It is a continuing operation.

We also know from Scripture that God’s “justice (is) like the great deep” (Ps.36:6); at this very moment the angels in heaven, as they watch with folded wings the development of God’s great plan, are undoubtedly proclaiming, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made” (Ps. 145:17).

Then when God orchestrates “all things…for the good,” it is a beautiful blending. He requires many different colors, which individually may be quite drab, to weave into the harmonious pattern.

Separate tones, notes, and even discords are required to compose melodious musical anthems; a piece of machinery requires many separate wheels, parts, and connections. One part from a machine may be useless, or one note from an anthem may never be considered beautiful, but taken together, combined, and completed, they lead to a perfect balance and harmony.

We can learn a lesson of faith from this: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7) J.R. Macduff

In a thousand trials, it is not just five hundred of them that work “for the good” of the believer, but nine hundred and ninety-nine, plus one. George Mueller

God Meant It unto Good (Gen. 50:20 KJV)

“God meant it unto good” –O blest assurance,
Falling like sunshine all across life’s way,
Touching with Heaven’s gold, earth’s darkest storm clouds,
Bringing fresh peace and comfort day by day.

‘Twas not by chance the hands of faithless brothers
Sold Joseph captive to a foreign land;
Nor was it chance that, after years of suffering,
Brought him before the pharaoh’s throne to stand.

One Eye all-seeing saw the need of thousands,
And planned to meet it through that one lone soul;
And through the weary days of prison bondage
Was working toward the great and glorious goal.

As yet the end was hidden from the captive,
The iron entered even to his soul;
His eye could scan the present path of sorrow,
Not yet his gaze might rest upon the whole.

Faith failed not through those long, dark days of waiting,
His trust in God was reimbursed at last,
The moment came when God led forth his servant
To comfort many, all his sufferings past.

“It was not you but God, that led me to here,”
Witnessed triumphant faith in later days;
“God meant it unto good,” no other reason
Mingled their discord with his song of praise.

“God means it unto good” for you, beloved,
The God of Joseph is the same today;
His love permits afflictions strange and bitter,
His hand is guiding through the unknown way.

Your Lord, who sees the end from the beginning,
Has purposes for you of love untold.
Then place your hand in His and follow fearless,
Till you the riches of His grace behold.

There, when you stand firm in the Home of Glory,
And all life’s path lies open to your gaze,
Your eyes will SEE the hand that you’re now trusting,
And magnify His love through endless days.
Freda Hanbury Allen

Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, June 10

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Americans are Pro-Life, Report Says

Some more positive news was recently reported, our friends at Focus on the Family provide this story:

Americans are more pro-life than pro-abortion, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll reveals that 51 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life while 42 percent are pro-abortion. Seven percent of respondents had no opinion on the topic.

This is the first time the pendulum has swung to the pro-life side since Gallup began conducting the poll in 1995. Last year, 50 percent considered themselves pro-abortion and 44 percent pro-life.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Only 22 percent said it should be legal at all times.

Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel with Americans United for Life, said pro-lifers should use this data to benefit the cause.

"The bottom line is we should be encouraged to persevere," he said. "It's important to be educating. It's important to be involved in politics. It's important to be involved in public policy."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

At One High School, a Test of Tolerance

Here's an interesting follow-up to my last blog post, some good news from our friends at the Family Research Council:

At Mission Viejo High School in California, the biggest bully in class was the one leading it. James Corbett, a teacher with over 20 years experience in Capistrano, refused to keep his hostility toward religion a secret. As other students would attest, it was not at all uncommon for him to lash out at students who supported creationism, calling it "religious superstitious nonsense."

By 2007, sophomore Chad Farnan, a student in Corbett's Advanced Placement European history class, decided he'd had enough. After gathering enough tape-recorded evidence, Farnan filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, determined to force his teacher's bigotry out of the classroom. During the suit, he cited over 20 examples of Corbett's rants, which ranged from equating God to "a spaghetti monster" to declaring that religion was "invented when the first con man met the first fool."

In an overwhelming vindication of students' rights, Judge James Selna declared that every child deserved an education "free of a government that directly expresses disapproval of religion." For too long, objectivity and the free exchange of ideas have given way to an American classroom that is nothing more than a platform for the liberal social agenda. When Corbett expressed his personal religious opinions, he was crossing a legal line that few students realize exists. As Judge Selna ruled, every teacher has a constitutional duty to foster free and open debate even if they personally don't agree. Because of Chad's courage, kids across the country have an opportunity to learn a meaningful lesson that right does still prevail.

Although he won the suit, Chad hasn't asked for a single cent. His biggest reward will be paving the way for kids like him to protest the intimidation tactics of liberal teachers. His was a teacher who once said, "When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth." But as even the court confirmed, Corbett is the one who was short-sighted.

If your child has been the target of religious discrimination at school, we can help. Call us at 1-800-225-4008 and we'll put you in touch with attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund who can explain your constitutional rights.

Additional Resources
Watch Chad talk about his experience on Fox News

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Religious Discrimination

My friends at the Center for Arizona Policy have informed me of a growing number of incidents of religious discrimination in schools all over Arizona. This is part of a growing trend to undermine Christian culture, views and practice in the mainstream, secular culture.

The church in America seems to have adopted the standard of success that the world uses; how well we are received by the world and culture around us. It seems that over time we have shifted our focus to the question “do they like us?” instead of “are we living like Christ?”

We have to decide whether we’re going to measure God’s church by the world’s standards or step outside of the box and live out our faith boldly as Jesus did.

Change has come to America and we have to decide where we stand. If we are going to take a committed stand for moral absolutes and the truth that Jesus is the only Savior of the world, we are going to be liked less and less by our culture. Our identity must not be found in the world’s approval. Hebrews 11 tells us that real faith-walkers don’t expect or rely on the world’s endorsement. We need to be the men and women who boldly live their faith.

I'm proud of Christian students who are taking a stand for their faith in the public educational systems. There isn't anything much more intimidating than knowing that your academic success is in the hands of a science professor or English teacher who has moved well beyond their role as an "educator" and moved on to take the role of an "indoctrinator" of secular humanism.

Some of our university students have had to pay their universities to sit through courses referred to as "Women's Studies" or “Diversity Training” that do nothing more than expose them to perversion and embarrassment. One student told me of how her professor and classmates took delight in her red-faced embarrassment as they talked about perverted lifestyles with the casual attitude that you would have if you were ordering a pizza. Yet, she stood firm, and is a true hero of the faith by Heaven’s standard!

I'm proud of our students who have had the courage to write term papers on topics that are not politically correct to mention, even when they face the inescapable prejudice of their teachers and professors. I'm so proud of them. They are modern Daniel’s and Esther’s and deserve our respect and support.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Challenge of Change

Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California is holding a conference all day tomorrow called "The Challenge of Change" that will address the current issues facing Christians in America.

They plan to webcast the conference through their website from 8:30AM-4:30PM.

Dr. James Dobson has recorded a brief video for the conference which you can view here.

For more info and details, view a PDF of here on Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa's website.

The live webcast can be found here under the Live Broadcast section.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Children's Safe House in Tiberias, Israel

When we were in Israel a few weeks ago, we shared about a Children's Safe House in Tiberias that Tisha Michelle helps with much needed support. Since I shared about these children, people at Calvary have donated $8,000 to this work!

I'm re-posting our visit to the Children's Center below along with the address to make a donation if you are led. You can also make your donation through Calvary and just earmark your check with "Tiberias Children's Safe House" and we will make sure it gets to them.

From March 18, 2009 visit:
At the end of the day Tisha took us to a Children's Center that her charity supports in Tiberias for underprivileged children. This place broke our hearts. They take in the 15 worst cases of children that social services approves for the program. These kids come from terrible homes, mostly with one parent, and they often don't get fed or get proper sleep at home, among other deplorable conditions. After school they come to the center for several hours, are fed 2 hot meals, shower, clean-up and have fun playing with the other children doing various activities. Their ministry supports 6 of these centers at this time.

Leslie and I with 2 of the ladies who run the center.

Not all of the children are picked up at the end of the day. These 2 had to walk home on the dark streets of Tiberias all by themselves. We followed them for a little while.

Tisha, her sister, and her mother run a ministry called Exodus Limited. Her mother lives in the U.S. and helps coordinate things in the states. I truly support this ministry and encourage you to check it out online and support it if you are led. The website is: and their mailing address is: Exodus, Ltd., PO Box 1387, Redondo Beach, CA 90278. 100% of donations received go directly to cause you specify, and they are involved in many, see the website.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oppose Hate Crimes Legislation

Here we go again, it seems like this issue will not go away. Special interest groups just won't give up on trying to pass a law to create a special class of victims under the guise of a "hate crime." When you think of it, aren't most crimes motivated by hate? What people must understand is that ALL victims of crime are already protected under existing laws.

The real intention of hate crimes legislation is to silence those who oppose the practice of homosexuality. Now, before you call me a "homophobe," let me assure you that I have the utmost compassion and concern for anyone who's dealing with this complex and difficult issue. I have taught my church to extend the love of Jesus to those who are struggling in this area. We believe that Jesus died for every one of us and that we are all sinners who must turn from our sins, whatever they are, and place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17, Romans 1:16-17, 1Timothy 2:1-6).

However, the Bible very clearly teaches that practicing homosexuality is sin. Hate crimes legislation will be used to muzzle our voice concerning this issue. A similar law has already been passed in Canada with a devastating effect on churches. Pastors have been prosecuted because they have compassionately taught on this issue. If someone listens to a message that offends them, it can be reported as a "hate crime." I personally know of one ministry that was forced by the Canadian government to cease its ministry to cults and as a result had to move their offices to the United States. One pastor was sentenced to jail time in Sweden (a country that has been known as extremely "open minded") because he preached a sermon on what the Bible says about homosexuality (see CBN story).

It seems that many Americans are forgetting that our country was founded upon the right of freedom of speech. This liberty is subtly being eroded and it appears that if we do not act now we will find ourselves in a politically correct dictatorship which does not allow us to speak freely and practice our religion without restriction.

There is no doubt that hate crimes legislation will threaten churches and pastors who want to "...correctly explain the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

This will not only effect your church and your pastor, it will directly effect you because you will not be able to talk freely about these issues at work or school without the threat of being accused of hate speech and being fined or incarcerated.

Ultimately, the Gospel itself could be considered offensive "hate speech" because it proclaims that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and that other religions do not lead to God. What next, will we not be able to teach what the Bible says about stealing, adultery, or murder?

Is this where we're headed in America? I surely hope not. It has been said that "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing." We don't want to see this country, that God has blessed for over 200 years, change like this. Yes, it seems that America has for the most part turned its back on God, but we need to stand in the gap and intercede for our nation. We need to pray for America, we need to reach more people for Christ than ever before, and we need to speak out and work against laws like this that will take away our most basic freedoms that allow us to fulfill the "Great Commission" to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel."

As of Thursday, the current legislation in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1913, has just passed through committee and will be going to the full House for a vote, possibly as early as Wednesday, April 29. I have already contacted my Representative in Congress, you need to do the same. In Arizona, those of you who live in the Northwest Valley are represented by Congressman Trent Franks, who already opposes this legislation. I cannot stress enough the great need to contact other Representatives as well and voice (or email) our opposition to this law.

Support or opposition seems to be going down party lines, with a majority of Democrats supporting it and mostly Republicans opposing it. This means we should try and communicate with as many Democrats as possible, and they are in the leadership positions. It's okay to tell them you oppose this even if they're outside your district.

Any member of the House of Representatives can be located and contacted through and all Senators can be found at The direct line to Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Contact all of the national leaders, too, and express your opposition.

I would like to suggest a couple of articles that shed more light on these unnecessary laws from Focus on the Family's Citizenlink and the Family Research Council.

This issue is ultimately not about homosexuality; it's about preserving our right to free speech and the practice of our faith. We can no longer take these rights for granted, we have to stand up for them. It seems those who have been preaching tolerance and acceptance aren't practicing it themselves towards Bible-believing Christians. They will not rest until they silence our voices. If we sit back and do nothing, we only have ourselves to blame when it becomes a crime to be openly Christian. Take a few moments and do your part.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Resurrection Weekend

I'm still in awe of what the Lord did over the Easter weekend at Calvary!

During the 6 services at our 2 campuses we had well over 10,000 people in attendance. There were 100 baptisms on Sunday night at the Central Campus and 586 decisions for Christ during the weekend!

I want to personally thank everyone who was involved in making it an exceptional weekend at both campuses.

  • Media
  • Worship
  • Choir
  • Children's Ministry
  • Security
  • Ushers
  • Hosts/Greeters
  • Clean Team
  • Facilities/Maintenance
  • Prayer Room Counselors
  • Bookstore
  • Coffee Shop
  • Deacons
  • Pastors
  • Elders

Please forgive me if I left any group or team out. All of us filled a critical need to make Calvary's Resurrection services a blessed time for everyone who attended which helped in the Lord drawing nearly 600 people into His Kingdom!

Let's keep on reaching this valley and beyond for the Lord Jesus Christ! He could return for His Church at any moment, may we remain His spotless and pure Bride and bring as many into His Kindgom as we possibly can, with all of our ability.

I love being your pastor!

Pastor Mark

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pro-Life Pastor in Jail

I shared this on Grace Mail a couple days ago, but I think it's something worth sharing again. What's happened to our First Amendment right to "Freedom of Speech"? Quoting below from the Family Research Council's recent update:

While sitting in a Birmingham jail--after being imprisoned on Good Friday in 1963 for breaking the law because it violated his moral conscience--a great man wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As we approach Good Friday 2009, another man sits in prison in Oakland, California for standing outside an inner-city abortion facility with a sign reading, "Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help you." That man is Rev. Walter B. Hoye.

The wrongful jailing of this peace-loving pastor continues to stoke the fires of the pro-life movement. Conservative African-American leaders are hopeful that Oakland's wrongful incarceration of Pastor Hoye will draw attention to the greater abuse of black women and babies by these so-called "family planning" clinics. On day 15 of his 30-day sentence, Hoye now sleeps on a top bunk in a large cell together with dozens of other inmates. On a juice-only fast, he is faithfully sharing the Gospel with fellow prisoners, some of whom have accepted Christ.

We're asking that you take a few moments to write Rev. Hoye a note of encouragement while he serves his time. You can reach him at Walter B. Hoye II, PFN# BGR852, Santa Rita Jail, 5325 Broder Boulevard, Dublin, California 94568-3309.

More info can be found here from Focus on the Family. Take a little time and write Pastor Hoye a note of encouragement.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passion Week - Resurrection Sunday's Coming!

Hi gang!

I've decided to convert my Israel blog into a regular blog where I plan to post things from time to time. The address is new ( but the Israel archives are still here!

I'm praying for everyone to have a blessed Easter. Tomorrow night we plan to pull out our copy of The Passion and watch it with family and friends to prepare our hearts for Good Friday.

Please join me in praying for this weekend's services, may the Lord bring many new souls into His kingdom and anoint all the services.

Looking forward to seeing you this weekend, don't miss it, and bring a friend! We'll have plenty of space this year with both campuses going during every service!

The Lord bless you!

Pastor Mark

Monday, March 30, 2009

Heading Home

We're heading back home tonight and have had a wonderful trip to Israel, we've learned so much this time we can't wait to share it and use things we've learned in our teachings at Calvary! The things we've shared on this blog are just the tip of the iceberg!

We hope you'll join us on next year's trip to Israel, March 1-12, 2010. Watch the Calvary website,, for details on registration, which should start in the next couple weeks.

We have an exciting tour planned incorporating many of the new things we discovered this trip into our itineraries. We're planning two "tracks" or options for the tour. The first track is for first timers, where you'll visit the most popular sites in Israel, and the second track will be for second timers or beyond, we'll still see the major sites, but will substitute other places along the tour so you can see many new and exciting things! Watch for details at Calvary!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

City of David Return - Dead Sea Springs Enot Tzukim

Today we returned to the City of David (the oldest part of Jerusalem, where David lived). We were able to meet with Eli Shukron, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority. whose involved heavily with exploration at the City of David.

In this photo we are sitting on the 2 original stones that Eli discovered just 5 years ago that led to the discovery of the Pool of Siloam. Pictured here is Oni Amiel of Amiel Tours, myself, and Eli Shukron.

We are looking at current excavation of what is believed to be steps that went up from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount (southern steps).

Here we are standing above where the Pool of Siloam stood, it was a 1 acre pool. You can see the steps from the first photo in the background on the left.

They believe that this may be the water tunnel that Joab entered through to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites for King David in 2 Samuel 5.

Next we took another exciting trip to the Dead Sea. We witnessed prophecy coming alive. This area is called Enot Tzukim, and it's a nature reserve with hundreds of natural springs of water flowing up to the surface and into the Dead Sea. This entire area was under water (in the Dead Sea, where nothing can grow or live) just 30 years ago. Because the Dead Sea is shrinking by about 1 meter a year, this land is now on the shores of the sea and all these natural springs of fresh water have emerged. They pump this water around the area and with the super-rich soil it's a superb environment to grow crops, which is what they do. We passed acres and acres of date palms, tomatos, grapes, just to name a few. 70% of Israel's exported crops are now coming from this desert!

There's even fish living in it!

We're right between the Dead Sea and the Judean desert (near Masada and Qumron, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found).

Several springs meet here and flow right into the Dead Sea.

This is prophecy being fullfilled right before our eyes, read Ezekiel 47 and Isaiah 35, it's incredible! Here's the Dead Sea right below this nature reserve with the springs of fresh water!

Har Azazel - St. George's Monastery

This morning we visited the highest point in the Judean wilderness, Har Azazel. This is the place where they would push the scapegoat over the cliff on the Day of Atonement. You can see the Mount of Olives from here so the priests would signal to each other as the goat was moving to this point. It's quite a drop still to this day.

We saw some more sheep in the bedoin communities.

Next we went to St. George's Monastery in a large cavernous area between Jerusalem and Jericho. You have to hike down into the valley and back up to the monastery. It's been there since the 5th Century. David probably wrote Psalm 23 from this area, it looks like the "valley of the shadow of death." It's also believed that Elijah hid from Ahab in one of these caves and was fed by ravens here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

City of David - Hezekiah's Water Tunnel - Nehemiah's Wall

The group we've been tagging along with most of the tour has concluded their stay so we'll spend the next couple days seeing some sites on our own. We first stopped at a location where you can help sift through archaeological debris recovered from the Temple Mount. You sift through the rubble and look for pieces of pottery, tile, seals, glass, metal, etc. looking for significant artifacts that validate the past.

When you find something, you place it in a marked container with similar objects.

Someone found an ancient Roman coin while we were there. This is definitely going to be one of the stops on our "Track 2" tour for those who have already been to Israel and want to see some different things.

We visited the City of David, this photo is remains of David's Citadel (his fortress, palace).

These stones are actually of the original Jebusite wall that surrounded the City of Jerusalem before David conquered it. They date back about 3,500 years. They're the same walls that surrounded the city while David lived there!

We went down into King Hezekiah's water tunnel, another cool place we're seeing on "Track 2" next year. This tunnel brings water into the city from the natural spring outside the walls.

Bring shorts and water shoes because the water's about 2 feet deep!

The beginning of the tunnel, see the water flowing.

This is actually part of Nehemiah's wall, built after the Jews returned to the land after the Babylonian exile.

We're still planning the different sites we'll see on Track 2, we've been doing a lot of research on great places to include. We should have details in the next couple weeks and we'll begin registration for the trip (both tracks)!

Shabbat Shalom! It's Friday evening now here in Jerusalem and everything's shutting down for Shabbat.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Western Wall - Temple Mount - Southern Steps - Garden Tomb

We couldn't post yesterday due to Internet problems so here's a quick look at what we did. We started the day passing by the Western Wall where the Jews pray on our way up to the top of the Temple Mount.

It's pretty huge up there, lots of space and lots of trees cover part of it. We were right in front of the "Dome of the Rock."

This is the "Dome of Spirits," directly north of the golden dome, it's on top of where they believe the "Holy of Holies" was in the Temple.

We walked through the Antonia Fortress and these stones are from the time of Christ and would be the place where Jesus was scourged before His crucifixion.

A walk through the busy market in the Old City.

Teaching on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount.

We finished the day at the Garden Tomb, where Jesus may have been buried for three days and three nights before His resurrection.

Nearby there's an area with what looks like a skull where Jesus may have been crucified (Golgotha), it's the word we translate "Calvary."

The tomb is still empty!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Model of Jerusalem - Mount of Olives - Garden of Gethsemane - Bet Shemesh - Elah Valley

Yesterday we didn't take a lot of photos because the sites we visited didn't allow pictures to be taken. Also, it rained most of the day here in Jerusalem, however, we did get some outdoor photos during a break in the rain of the model of Jerusalem. It's a model of what the city looked like during the first century. Notice the Temple here in the middle.

A view of the southern half of the city.

The northern half of the city.

One of our favorite quick stops is at Aroma Espresso Bar. Their signature "Aroma" drink is a latte with cocoa and chunks of chocolate. It's incredible!

While we were stopped at the Mount of Olives, you could take a short ride on a camel for a few dollars. This one's name is Kojak.

A view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

This olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before his arrest and crucifixion is 2,000 years old. Remember, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and cut down all the trees and leveled the city. Anyone who's tried to kill an olive tree in their yard knows how difficult it is to keep them from growing back. The stump in the center is over 2,000 years old and would have been a tree in the Garden when Jesus was there praying. After the trees were cut down for wood and only the stumps were left, several shoots grew out of the stump and even the stump grew up in the center. It's a cool picture of Romans 11 and how the Church is grafted-in to Israel.

Pastor David Landry of CC Casa Grande teaching at Bet Shemesh. This is where Samson was born. Read the story of Samson and Delilah in Judges 13-16.

This is the Elah Valley, where David slew Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

A photo of the dry creek bed (flows when it rains) in the Elah Valley where David would have picked up the 5 smooth stones before he killed Goliath. We picked up some stones here, and they're still all pretty smooth!

We've sure been having a great time on this tour. Remember, we're not on a "normal" tour because we've been able to break away from the group and do some cool things on our own. I hope you can join us next March 1-12 when Calvary takes another group to Israel. We're actually planning on 2 tracks (or 2 levels) on this upcoming tour.

We'll have a regular tour with the most common sites people visit (like last year's tour) and then a 2nd track for those who've been to Israel before and would like to see some of the less common sites where groups don't always get to go. We'll most likely still be all staying together at the same hotels and we'll have times of teaching at the bigger sites with everyone together, but the 2nd track folks will visit other sites of biblical significance instead of the most common sites that they may have seen already. The cost should be about the same for the 2nd track, we're still working out the details.

We'll probably start official registration for the tour in a couple weeks, pray about joining us!