Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wrapping It Up

Lunch in front of the Assyrian siege ramp at Lachish.

Lunch in front of the Assyrian siege ramp at Lachish.

Well all good things on earth must come to an end. Thankfully our time in heaven will be unending! We leave for Dubuque tomorrow morning. As you might expect for Julie and the kids it’s bitter sweet. They have enjoyed their time here but they miss their life in Dubuque. I miss it too, but there is just so much to see and learn here that I could stay for the year. It has been a fantastic experience from a professional development perspective. The dig itself opened my eyes to another set of data points that should be used to interpret the Bible. Participating in an excavation where we uncovered some of that data was very valuable. We have less than a week to go and we’re not wasting any time. There are still places to go and things to see! We just returned from Eilat on the Red Sea. Known in the Bible as Elath or Eloth, and near Ezion-Geber, the city sits at the north end of the Gulf of Aqaba arm of the Red Sea (Deut. 2:8). The region was important as an outlet for maritime trade in the Bible just as it is important as a port region today. Solomon and the rulers who followed him used this port as a trading center (1 Ki. 9:26; 2 Ki. 14:22; 16:6; 2 Chr. 8:17; 26:2). Today, the modern state of Israel still relies on maritime trade that passes through Eilat. In fact they consider the closing of the Straits of Tiran, further south on the Gulf of Aqaba, an act of war. These days things are pretty peaceful so it was fun and educational!

If you’ve been listening to the news, maybe you heard that an archaeologist claims to have discovered a palace of king David at a site overlooking the Elah Valley. This of course would be a sensational find if it could be verified. There is a debate raging right now about the nature of the kingdoms of David and Solomon. The Bible describes them as having large territories with well organized administrations, tax systems, and for Solomon, great wealth. The problem is that archaeologists have not been able to verify these details on the ground. Now before anyone says, “Well we don’t need to verify these claims. The Bible makes them, we just have to believe them,” remember that it is the apostle Paul who points us to the importance of verifying historical claims that have theological consequences. In his argument for the importance of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds his readers that some of the people to whom Christ appeared were still alive. He believed that verification of the resurrection was important. This of course raises a troubling question related to the kingdoms of David and Solomon. What does it mean that archaeologists have not been able to positively verify remains from David’s kingdom? Does it mean he didn’t exist? That was the entrenched opinion in the 70s and 80s until the discovery of the Tel Dan inscription. Many scholars argued that David was a figment of Israel’s imagination. That like king Arthur, Israel had created a myth to validate their existence. This construct came to an inglorious end in 1993, when an Aramaic inscription was found that made reference to someone from the “House of David.” Now this inscription does not prove the existence of David. What it does is provide evidence, incredibly valuable evidence, that a ruler in Judah was known abroad as having come from a “House of David.” To most scholars nowadays, this evidence is just too strong to dismiss. The consensus is that David was a historical figure. So the debate has now moved from a discussion about whether David existed or not, to a discussion about the nature of his kingdom. That is, does the Bible accurately describe David’s empire? Here is where the new discovery comes in. This site, Khirbet Qeiyafa, is located on the border between the Philistine kingdom and the Israelite kingdom of Saul and David. If David did rule over a nascent kingdom that was in conflict with the neighboring Philistines, then archaeologists might expect to uncover evidence of that kingdom on the ground. This is just what Yossi Garfinkel claims to have found. But is this indisputably true? There is no doubt that he found a large, building on the highest part of the site. His analysis suggests that it should be dated to 10th century BC. Also on the site, he discovered a building which he calls an administrative store room and claims that it was used to store agriculture products collected as tax payments. These evidence, when taken together, suggests administration. The size of the building suggests that it was a public structure. This points to a government that either had the money to pay people to build such a large edifice, or the power to force them to do it. Could it have been a palace? Maybe. It’s not like Garfinkel uncovered a sign that says “Welcome to David’s Palace”. Could it have been another kind of public, governmental structure? Possibly. Until more evidence comes out, and until other archaeologists and scholars have had a chance to verify Yossi’s claims, the best course of action is to wait on any definitive conclusion. If you’re looking for a talking point to use in conversation I would suggest this: Archaeologists have discovered buildings and artifacts that suggest a governmental type of authority was operating in the Elah valley in the 11th and 10th centuries BC. How’s that for a mouthful? No matter how much you might want this to be David’s palace, waiting until there is more evidence is a better choice.

Maybe you heard the news about the discovery of one of David's palaces. I was at the press event and this is the man who has made the claim.

Maybe you heard the news about the discovery of one of David’s palaces. I was at the press event and this is the man, Yossi Garfinkel who has made the claim.

The long (30m) wall of what Yossi Garfinkel is calling a palace of David.

The long (30m) wall of what Yossi Garfinkel is calling a palace of David.

The boy worked harder than he has in his life. Let's hope it translates into a good work ethic at home.

The boy worked harder than he has in his life. Let’s hope it translates into a good work ethic at home.

Port of the old city of Joppa. A leather back turtle had just surfaced near where we were standing.

Port of the old city of Joppa. A leather back turtle had just surfaced near where we were standing.

Dusty feet on the threshold of the gate at Lachish.

Dusty feet on the threshold of the gate at Lachish.

Our young man on Tel Azekah overlooking the Elah Valley. This is the location of the confrontation between David and Goliath.

Our young man on Tel Azekah overlooking the Elah Valley. This is the location of the confrontation between David and Goliath.

Elise in the Iron Age water system at Beth Shemesh.

Elise in the Iron Age water system at Beth Shemesh.

In a "bathtub" at Beth Shemesh. This is Samson country.

In a “bathtub” at Beth Shemesh. This is Samson country.

Examining a fragment of a mud brick at Beth Shemesh

Examining a fragment of a mud brick at Beth Shemesh

No kidding. This guy says "I like to visit my son in Chicago. When I go I like to rent a car and drive on Hwy 20.  So many hills then I see the casino and Wisconsin on one side, Iowa on the other side and Illinois..." He'd been to Dubuque. I couldn't believe it.

No kidding. This guy lives in the West Bank. We were chatting and I told him I was from Iowa, four hours west of Chicago. He said he knew where Iowa was. I’m thinking, yeah sure you just want me to buy something. He says to me in moderately good English “I like to visit my son in Chicago. When I go I like to rent a car and drive on Hwy 20. So many hills and then I see the casino and Wisconsin on the one side, Iowa on the other side and Illinois…” He’d been to Dubuque. I couldn’t believe it.

Last step before the Jordan River!

Last step before the Jordan River!

The boys couldn't resist taking this pic.

The boys couldn’t resist taking this pic.

Sea of Galilee. Tiberias in the background

Sea of Galilee. Tiberias in the background

Data in my Hands

In the Iron age guard tower at Arad.

In the Iron Age guard tower at Arad.

“So why are you here?” a fellow dig member asked. We were telling our back stories and I had just told him that I’m not a graduate student fulfilling an academic requirement, like many of the Gezer volunteers. He seemed to wonder why in the world I would come here. My answer was simple. I want to handle the data. An archaeological excavation is a chance to handle some of the data points that historians, theologians, and teachers use to construct our understanding of life in the ancient world. The Bible represents a massive set of data points, but it leaves many questions unanswered. For example, when the Bible speaks of gates and the business conducted there, it does not provide a picture of those structures. Archaeological excavations, however, have uncovered many, many gates in Israel and provide complementary data points which help us understand scripture more accurately. Of course, archaeological data, like Biblical data, must be interpreted. That interpretive process can be saddled with presuppositions that bias the results and lead to inappropriate conclusions. We have all heard the wild ideas presented as fact in popular television programs. Often these ideas are based upon archaeological data that has been interpreted through a biased lens and presented as the only possible interpretation. In terms of professional development, my goal is to gain skill in understanding how this kind of data is uncovered and interpreted so that I can be a better teacher. It really is quite the experience to uncover a wall from the time of the United Monarchy of Israel, or as we did last week, to remove a wall from the time of Solomon.

We’ve been a having a great time on the dig. I’ve become accustomed to getting up at 4:30 am every morning and then putting in a 17 hour day. We have two weeks left. Nathan has jumped in with both feet and is loving this experience. He ditched the square I was working in for another that had a cowboy supervisor, and two college aged guys working in it. It has turned out to be a growing time for him. The supervisor is a Pastor who has really taken Nathan under his wing, and Nathan has earned the respect of his square mates. It’s fun to watch them treat him as a regular member of the team. You can watch a short video of his experience here. While weeks days are a blur of dirt and dust, weekends are for touring. Last week we visited Beersheba, Arad and the southern parts of the Dead Sea. This weekend we’re off to the ancient city of Joppa and Aphek as a family. On Sunday I’ll join a group of Lancaster Bible College students on a tour through the West Bank. We’re headed for Shiloh, Samaria, and Mt. Gerizim.

A sacrifice!

A sacrifice!

Ready to read down into the water system at Beersheba

Ready to head down into the water system at Beersheba

Overlooking the coast near the ancient Philistine city, Ashkelon.

Overlooking the coast near the ancient Philistine city, Ashkelon.

Examining ice? Nope. That's salt near the Dead Sea!

Examining ice? Nope. That’s salt near the Dead Sea!

With dig directors, Sam Wolff and Steve Ortiz.

With dig directors, Sam Wolff and Steve Ortiz.

Dirt, dirt, and more dirt

Week one of the Tel Gezer excavation is over! Nathan and I survived.  We had a great time and learned a ton. I’m excited to be a part of this particular excavation because it is a teaching dig. The staff, from the co-directors to the square supervisors, are interested in teaching us how to be field archaeologists.

On a typical day my alarm goes off at 4:00 am. By 4:30 am I drive away from the apartment for the 20 minute drive to Neve Shalom where I meet the bus that takes all the volunteers to the dig site. We arrive on site by 5:30 am and immediately begin the walk up the tel to our squares. We carry water containers, pick axes, mallets, and any other tools we’ll need for the day. We quickly set up the shade tents and start working. For the first three days of the week we were moving dirt. Literally, just moving loads and loads of dirt.  We were digging through the dump piles of previous excavations to get to stratified layers of earth. It was simply manual labor. Think demolition without the mechanized earth moving equipment. This Thursday however, we reached a layer that was obviously NOT modern fill and finally the brushes, trowels and other tools came out and the fun began. Dusting, sweeping, small picking gave relief from the endless piles of dirt. Eventually a wall emerged from the soil and on Friday a smashed storage jar peeked out at us. When these things happen you can feel the excitement in the square. It’s early in the dig so we are anticipating many more finds! Back to the daily schedule. At 8:30 am we break for breakfast. The fare consists of sandwiches, cereal, yogurt, and fruit drinks. Same food every day, and it tastes great every day! At 9:00 am someone yells for us to get back to work and we trudge up the hill again to our squares and work until 11:15 am when the call for fruit break sounds. We crowd under a shade tent on top of the hill for a half-hour and eat watermelon and cantaloupe then it’s back to the squares until the call for lunch at 12:30. We carry our equipment back down the hill, board the bus and it’s off to lunch. After a few hours off we attend an hour long lecture at 5:30pm. This week those afternoon off hours will shrink as we begin to wash and read pottery. I usually stay for dinner with the group before heading home around 7:00pm.

Nathan joined me at the dig on Thursday and Friday. He took to the work quickly and enjoys driving the wheel barrow. This is good hard work for a thirteen year old young man who is now taller than his mother. Pray for us both. We are often walking on unstable ground and it would be very easy for anyone on the dig to twist an ankle or fall off a balk. Otherwise, we are all well, although I’m suffering from the ailments common to archaeological excavations. Julie and the kids came to the pool at the hotel on Wednesday, and today, Sunday, we visited a church nearby.

Thanks for following and praying. We have heard from some of you and we appreciate your involvement very much!

PS. The answer to the question from the last post? A bomb disposal device.

Moving a stone pillar

Moving a stone pillar.

11:30am fruit break

11:30am fruit break.

Field E from field W

Field East from field West.

These shade cloths are life savers

These shade cloths are life savers.

This is a goofa. It's made of used tires and used for moving dirt.

This is a goofa. It’s made of used tires and used for moving dirt.

The tools of the trade for moving large amounts of dirt

The tools of the trade for moving large amounts of dirt.

Diagnostic pottery in a bucket. Remember, Dirt goes in a goofa, pottery goes in a bucket.

Diagnostic pottery in a bucket. Remember, dirt goes in a goofa, pottery goes in a bucket.

On the goofam line

On the goofa line.

A broken pot in situ

A broken pot in situ.

Creating a shadow for the official picture

Creating a shadow for the official picture.

He is the king?!

It says, "May he live, the king, the Messiah!" Well some people think he was.

It says, “May he live, the king, the Messiah”

We are well. The dig starts next week. Feel free to send Julie an email. She’s feeling lonely. We went from family in the house 24/7 to just us, no TV, and no friends. It’s been tougher on Julie than either of us expected. If you’re praying, that’s something to pray about. Mail should take 5-10 days to get here so if you want to send a letter, email me and I’ll send you our address. Otherwise we’re doing great! We have a week to go before the dig starts. Still have lots of interesting things to see.

Speaking of seeing interesting things. The gentleman on the left is quite famous here. His face adorns the backs of many road signs, and his portrait hangs in many shops in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. His name is Menachem Mendel Schneerson but the sign suggests that he is much more than just a man. A prominent rabbi from New York City, Schneerson, at the time of his death, led an organization of Hasidic Jews called Chabad-Lubavitch. He was an influential man no doubt, and very popular among his followers. So popular, in fact, that some took to pronouncing their conviction that he was the messiah. He died in 1994 at Beth-Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. Interestingly, my sister was in the same hospital on the day he died. My father tells me that there were crowds of followers waiting to hear that “the Rebbe” had come back to life. They were disappointed. I was surprised when my father recounted this story because I had not reckoned with the fact that some men and women of Jewish faith are actually waiting for a resurrected messiah. Pray that the light of the gospel would penetrate hearts in this part of the world. It is a “stumbling block” to both Jews and Muslims. Impossible for us, “but with God, all things are possible.” Pray that many will believe the words of the angel, “He is risen, just as he said!”

These guys are part of a for-hire bar mitzvah troupe. They were waiting for the show to start.

These guys are part of a for-hire bar mitzvah troupe. They were waiting for the show to start.

A nymph on the edge of Herod's pool at Caesarea.

A nymph on the edge of Herod’s pool at Caesarea.

That's salt not frost. The Dea Sea is so laden with minerals that it feels like oil.

That’s salt, not frost. The Dea Sea is so laden with minerals that it feels like oil.

Those are Roman catapult balls she is trying to knock over.

Those are Roman catapult balls she is trying to knock over.

You can get a cheese burger at this McDonalds!

You can get a cheese burger at this McDonalds!

Tombs on the Mt. of Olives

Tombs on the Mt. of Olives

They would have signed up to join the tank division of the IDF in a minute.

They would have signed up to join the tank division of the IDF in a minute.

A pottery dump pile.

A pottery dump pile.

If you can tell me what this is maybe you'll get a prize...

If you can tell me what this is maybe you’ll get a prize…

Red plus yellow means go!!

Israeli drivers are aggressive. Wow. Here in Israel the sequence of lights at an intersection is a little different than in the US. They have the standard red-yellow-green, but the lights blink on and off differently. As you approach an intersection if the light is green no worries, carry on. If the light is blinking green however, you should begin to slow down. This is the indication that it is a “stale” green about to turn yellow. You could of course speed up so that you make it through the intersection before the light turns yellow then red! If you’re waiting at a red light you’ll notice something interesting. Before the light turns green it will show red AND yellow. This is your indication to get ready for the green light. You know, rev your engine, shift into gear, get ready to pop your clutch, or as I have discovered to lay on your horn so that the guy in front of you knows that the light is about to turn green. Good night! At first I thought the general Israeli habit of honking as soon as the light turned green was annoying, but this takes the pita! The light was red and yellow and the guy behind me still honked. Apparently this is common practice!

Another interesting part of life here is the security fence which surrounds portions of the West Bank. If you’re wondering, we generally don’t cross it (except to get to Bethlehem). We try to stay in areas that are open to the Israeli public. That usually covers all the sites we want to see as a family. Sometimes it gets in the way however, like today. When that happens I am sorely tempted to cross the fence, via an authorized checkpoint of course. Pray for me.

Yesterday I went exploring one of the ancient routes from Jerusalem to the Aijalon Valley, known as the Beth-Horon Ridge Route. The road is mentioned most famously in Joshua 10 as the location of Joshua’s miraculous defeat of the Gibeonites. Today the road is highway 443 from Jerusalem through Modi’in another famous place. Mattathias sparked the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids here. The road wanders along the ridge connecting a series of hills as it heads west towards Jerusalem. My intention was to stop at the site of two ancient villages, Upper Beth Horon and Lower Beth Horon, but the security fence kept getting in the way. In fact, the fence runs the whole length of the highway from Jerusalem to Modi’in. I think someone is trying to say “just keep driving!” I stayed calm and carried on… but it was difficult. This morning I took a chance and explored a tomb in the Kidron Valley. I was definitely being watched. After a few minutes and a few pictures it was time to get out of Dodge.

Life here is so different from Zambia. It’s nice to be in a developed country again. The streets are clean. Services work. I understand enough Hebrew to get into trouble. I am generally addressed by people in Hebrew. They assume I’m from here. I generally respond: Ata medaber anglit? (Do you speak English?) I get a funny look and then sometimes the conversation continues in English. Generally we have not had trouble. That said the spiritual needs here are great! It’s fascinating to be in a country where spiritually related practices are on display all the time. Jerusalem, of course, is filled with religiosity. Don’t doubt for a second that these people are not committed to what they are doing! On a recent trip to Bethlehem I spoke with a Muslim student who is studying comparative religions at Hebron University. He was convinced that the only way to run a just society was to base all governmental activity on religion. Why? “Because people will obey laws if they are told that they come from God.” He was seriously concerned about what was best for the public. Who chooses which religious laws are put into effect? “He said, “Muslim nations get Muslim laws. Christian nations get Christian laws.” He was a very sincere individual. I tried to speak with him about heart change and the nature of Jesus’ mission. We did not have very long to talk. Pray for him, his name is Muhammad (no kidding, at least that’s what he called himself.) Don’t laugh, my grand-father’s name is Jesus, I have an uncle and a cousin named Immanuel, and my mother’s maiden name, my second last name, is Cruz meaning “cross”! It’s no wonder I ended up in this line of work. Pray for people in this part of the world. Unlike Zambia, many of them live in relative prosperity, so they have more to cover up their spiritual need. Pray for us. We are here to study archaeology, and geography but you never know when the door opens for a conversation.
Thanks for following!

Remains of the pool at Herod's Caesarea palace.

Remains of the pool at Herod’s Caesarea palace.

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Oldest complete dome in Israel. Herod had this built over a room in his bath house.

Look at the plaque closely. It's her memorial tree on the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles.

Look at the plaque closely. It’s her memorial tree on the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad VaShem.

Found on a hike near Socoh.

Found on a hike near Socoh (Elah Valley).

At first I thought this applied to me but then I remembered that I'm not an Israeli.

At first I thought this applied to me but then I remembered that I’m not an Israeli.

In the amphitheater at Bet Guvrin, waiting for the lions.

In the amphitheater at Bet Guvrin, waiting for the lions to come out of those trap doors behind him.

He fell off his chariot in the hippodrome at Caesarea.

He fell off his chariot in the hippodrome at Caesarea.

Back in the Land!

After a mad dash through London, we have settled down in Israel. The last two weeks were spent “guiding” my parents on a tour of the land. They had a great time! We did as much as we could do in ten days and they left exhausted this morning. The experience was very helpful for thinking about how I lead trips. Every time I’ve been in Israel I’ve been part of a tour which includes a bus, driver, and a guide. It’s a totally different experience to fly solo. Our GPS unit helps incredibly and I know enough about the land to not listen to it when it tries to send me in the wrong direction.

We have settled in an apartment in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion. It is a nice, quiet neighborhood. The rent fits into our budget and the location is perfect for our upcoming dig – only :30 minutes away. Sadly this part of the world is neither safe nor quiet. While we detect almost no threat to our safety on the ground, the government of Israel is preparing for trouble. Recently we were alerted to a chemical warfare preparedness drill planned for next week. Our landlady sent it to us and showed us the bomb shelter in the home. In case you are wondering, Israelis are not running around shaking. They have come to live with this tension. To me is seems vaguely similar to the way I grew up in Brooklyn. Yes there were muggings every day in crime ridden NYC, but you learn to live with it. You adjust to your circumstances. You go on with life. So it goes in this area of Israel. Sderot is a different story.

For the next few weeks I’ll be visiting important sites in the land sometimes with Julie and the kids, sometimes without. Pray for me. I’ll be going off the beaten path. That’s the point of being here without a tour group. For example, last week we all jumped on an Arab bus and rode to Bethlehem. Honestly, it was fantastic. Felt as safe as downtown Chicago. I even got a chance to witness to a Muslim university student who was keen to talk. That said, I’m not sure a trip like that is for everyone.

The dig begins on June 16th and I’ll be there every week day for five weeks. I’m really looking forward to this experience. Unfortunately some of the living arrangements didn’t workout as we hoped. Initially it was looking like it would be affordable for Julie and the kids to stay with me at the hotel associated with the dig. However, after trying hard the dig director was not able to negotiate a price for the children which fits in our budget. You will remember that our apartment plans came together at the last minute. Well that seems to have been part of God’s plan for us all along. The dig is only :30 minutes from the apartment, so it looks like I will commute a few days a week to the site. I’ll return home on weekends. During the week we are close enough that Julie and the kids can come to the hotel and use the pool! It will be more comfortable than what we had planned, even if it means I’ll be away from everyone for a few nights each week. In addition it fits into the budget. Zambia was relatively inexpensive compared to Israel! I’ve attached some pics and created a Facebook album which you can see here (even if you don’t have Facebook).

Thanks for following, praying!

Overlooking the Jezreel Valley in Nazareth

Overlooking the Jezreel Valley in Nazareth.

The kids are having a great time learning and climbing on every thing they can see!

The kids are having a great time learning and climbing on every thing they can see!

Inspecting Jerusalem from the south

Inspecting Jerusalem from the south.

Mom and Julie had a great time together

Mom and Julie had a great time together.

Overlooking Jerusalem. Dad kept up every step of the way

Overlooking Jerusalem. Dad kept up every step of the way.

Where did you go?!

We have not disappeared. We are well. Please for give my lack of posts. We have been on the move and often times without a robust internet connection. I’ll bring you up to date quickly.

Our time in Zambia came to an end on Saturday. We had a wonderful time. If you prayed for us during this portion of the trip, God heard you. There were no major injuries. No one was bitten by a snake or any other reptile. We got along very well with our Zambian partners and our family.  The kids had a good time and were sad to go. Isaac’s allergies were not a problem at all. In fact, his skin issues improved! Our travels through Zambia were safe and uneventful. We spent the last two weeks traveling about the country to Julie’s ancestral homeland (Sakaji School, North-western province). We also paid a visit to Victoria Falls, and Chobe National Park (Botswana). If you search for these places on a map you’ll see we covered some ground. Thank you for your prayers.

We left Zambia and arrived in London on Saturday. We planned a three day layover so that we could spend some time with Julie’s very good friend, Bethie Grove. We descended on her tiny, North London flat like a Mongol horde! One of the highlights of our time in London was a visit to Speakers’ Corner. This corner of Hyde Park allows free, open-air discussion on any topic. Many Christians use the place to proclaim the gospel and to answer questions or debate with skeptics and critics. Most of the critics are Muslims, some of whom are genuinely questioning their faith. Boy some of these men and women are quite sharp and certainly aggressive. The Christians here train to answer their questions and to point out problems with Islam. I intended to just lean against a fence and watch what the action. That didn’t happen. We stayed for almost three hours and witnessed to an orthodox Jew, a moderate Muslim Palestinian, a radical skeptic, and a radical Pakistani Muslim. It was exhilarating.

Today we leave for Israel. Again, we can tell you were praying. The Lord has provided housing for us! You know we were struggling to find a place that fit within our budget. Through a friend we found a three bedroom apt outside of Jerusalem. The location is probably better for our family and the terms are perfect! Thank you for praying. Please keep it up. If you’ve been watching the news you know what I mean. I can tell you that we won’t be spending much time in the Golan Heights, unless we need to.

Thank again for standing with us. Keep watching this space. Once we settle down in Israel I intend to resume regular posting!DSCN3300 DSCN3313 DSCN3346 DSCN3341 DSCN3342 DSCN3345 DSCN3485 DSCN3488

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Location Affects Application

Have you ever thought that a particular text in the Bible just doesn’t apply anymore? Consider for example the command that an elder be the “husband of but one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). This text doesn’t seem to have much direct application in an American context. I mean, can you name one American man who was disqualified from being an elder because he had two wives? I realize there other ways to interpret this text so that it fits, but here in Samfya the text fits just the way it is written because we meet men who have multiple wives!

Another example is the command against a unique form of stealing. “If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain” (Deut 23:25). The idea here is that if you’re walking from point A to point B and you walk through your neighbor’s field you may take an ear or two of grain but you can’t harvest your neighbor’s crops! This may not seem like a problem in a world where farms are gigantic and no one but the farmer walks through them. But here in Samfya, where there are many small subsistence farmers with tiny plots of land, this passage is helpful. A few weeks ago the Bible school was in a rush to put up a fence around its corn plot because people were walking through and taking much more than just an ear or two.

Next time you are ready to jettison a passage because it doesn’t seem to apply, stop and consider that somewhere in the world there is a Christian who is thankful that passage is in the Bible. I don’t say this to suggest that we take every passage and apply it slavishly to our context. That’s a post for another day. I only mention this now because my time in Samfya has helped me see that my view of the scope of scripture is influenced by the fact that I live in America. Being here has helped me develop a deeper appreciation of the value of the scripture around the world. The Word of God is useful in a wide variety of cultural contexts. It’s depth and breadth of content is astounding. It’s ability to speak into different cultures makes it unequaled in the world of literature.

I’m drawn to this topic because I’m in the middle of teaching a Survey of Theology course at the Samfya Bible School. I have a class of four students. These three men and one woman have registered for this compressed program because they are unable to attend school for a whole semester. We meet for three hours each morning. Here are some details about the group.

1. They can all function in English and I am teaching in English. But “function” can be defined broadly, and I have an American accent.

2. One student has been through the SBS one year program, but the others have not.

3. They are all adults over 25.

4. They are inquisitive and ask good questions.

Pray that our time together would be profitable. Pray that I would be able to communicate well. Pray that language and cultural barriers would not be a significant cause for misunderstanding.

On other fronts, we could use your prayer finding housing for the Israel portion of our trip. The prices are coming in much higher than we expected and we need to wrap this up in the next week or so. Pray that the Lord would lead us to the right apartment.

We are down to our last month in Zambia. The time has gone so fast. We are thankful for all who are praying for us.

Elise got braids and went wild. I have no idea what she thought she was going to kill with her flaming arrow.

Elise got braids and went wild. I have no idea what she thought she was going to kill with her flaming arrow.

I go through about five sticks of chalk in three hours. The boards here are plywood painted black. The surface is like sand paper.

I go through about five sticks of chalk in three hours. The boards here are plywood painted black. The surface is like sand paper.

My desk (and my clothes) are covered with chalk dust.

My desk (and my clothes) are covered with chalk dust.

Here are (from left) Adam, Charles, Miriam, and Innocent.

Here are (from left) Adam, Charles, Miriam, and Innocent.

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If you have a good child, I’ve found the perfect school for you!

Palm Sunday in Samfya

Many of Samfya’s Christians gathered to celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus

We received an question from a reader who wanted to know how Easter is celebrated here in Samfya. I can tell you that the traditional American icons have not made an appearance. We have not seen the furry, white, edible mammal with the long ears, or his fluffy, sugary, also edible, avian friends. Rapbbits, and Peeps aside, there are no Easter decorations visible at all. But that doesn’t mean Zambian Christians don’t celebrate! On Palm Sunday a number of churches gathered in an open field outside town for a simple service and a march, with palm fronds in hand, back into town and then to their own services. You can see the video here. There were prayers, brief sermons. It was interdenominational. It was also hot and crowded, but it gave me a sense of what it must have been like for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem surrounded by thronging crowds. Amazing that in just one week, these same crowds would be shouting for his death. Thankfully, Jesus sought the praise that comes from the Father not from men.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:8-11).

I’ve never celebrated Palm Sunday this way. It was a fun manifestation of the great diversity of expression in the worldwide body of Christ. I sure wonder what the celebration in heaven will look like.

Have a wonderful Easter!

I like this one. A reminder that Dad is in the background keeping a watch!

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Nathan has been doing a lot of this lately.

Our friend Levi’s car

About Those iPhones

A precious package arrived from the United states this week. It contained three iPhones (3G) and one second generation iPod Touch! When combined with the iPhone (1st gen) that we received last month we now have five iOS devices in service for our EmmausOnline iPhone Pilot Program. Many thanks to the five people who donated their phones. Our plan is to load these up with EmmausOnline videos and distribute them on loan to responsible, interested parties. Pray with us that these tools would help extend the reach of of God’s kingdom.

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