Monday, June 30, 2014

Gary Thomas' book, "The Sacred Search" a must-read for all young singles!

Author/Speaker Gary Thomas has a book that's simply fantastic!  I saw this book at the bookstore last week and bought it.  I haven't been able to put it down since I started it.  As a single woman desiring a godly mate, I share this information from Thomas' book to encourage anyone--- who has the same desire-- reading this blog to sincerely consider his advice.

Here are just a few notes from his book…

  • You don't want what you think you want...  "Most married women desire their men to be godly, to have a good sense of humor, to be an involved dad, to have a strong work ethic.  And yet those four qualities sometimes take a backseat with single women.  Some are more attracted to the dreamer who has lots of plans than they are to the workhorse who puts in a lot of effort.  They value immediate sexual chemistry over a man who keeps his word and lives a respectable life.  What so many single women want is a guy who makes their hearts race, their palms sweat, and their sexual chemistry boil, while so many wives want a man they can count on, who will be there for them and their kids every day, and who will faithfully deposit a check in the bank at least once a month." (Thomas, pg 45)

  • You have a choice...Some people realize that perhaps they shouldn't get married to someone, but, the date is saved, the invitations are sent, and the venue is secured.  But, here's the question one needs to consider:  "Breaking an engagement and calling off a wedding can be very difficult.  No one wants to do that, especially to someone they feel deeply for.  But going ahead with a wedding just because calling it off would be hurtful is one of the most foolish things a person can do.  You are accepting a life sentence because you don't want to endure a difficult season.   
Think about that:  life sentence or difficult season.  
That's what you're choosing between." 

  • Prepare for it to be really hard--twice as hard as you think it will be.  Is the person you're in a serious relationship with 'strong enough to be your (wo)man?'  "Some people may want to be married to you, but they may not have what it takes."  Is the person you're in a serious relationship with going to be able to handle real life circumstances and trials?  You don't know what the future holds--possible financial problems, health crisis, child disabilities or child-rearing challenges, etc---life is usually full of trouble; is the person you're considering marrying spiritually strong enough to weather the storms?  Are you spiritually strong enough to be married?!

You'll have to get the book, dig in & read to get the rest of the gold!  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Hidden Sin of One Man Named Achan (Joshua 7)

One of the greatest stories in Israel's history is the conquering of the city of Jericho, a portion of land God promised them.  This is what Jericho looks like today (see pic below):
Our 2013 FCA West Bank Sports Project team on top of the mtn @ Jericho
The conquests of the Israelites for the land of Jericho and the distribution of real estate is a pretty pleasant story of blessing up until you get to chapter 7 of the book of Joshua in the Old Testament.  There we begin to hear about the hidden sin of one man named Achan from the tribe of Judah.  (The nation of Israel had been divided and organized into 12 tribes or camps, as recorded in Numbers, Chapters 1 & 2.  The purpose of this was for proper worship practices amongst each ancestral house)  
The verses in Joshua 7 reveal that Achan is hiding things that belong to the Lord in his tent.  He had secretly stolen clothing, money and gold from the spoils of the Lord's house and concealed them in his family's tent.
God makes this matter known to Joshua, the commander of the Israelites.  Joshua knows from past experiences that two factors distinguish victory from defeat:  obedience and sin.  It's simple.  Whenever Israel obeyed God and confessed sin, He gave them overwhelming victories over their enemies.  When they disobeyed, He left them. 
Joshua begins to line all the tribes up and starts searching for the "bad apple" amongst the group who's causing Israel's misfortunes in battle.  When he gets to Achan's tent, Joshua asks him to confess his crime.  When the "devoted things" are found, Achan and all his family, including everything he has, are killed and plundered in a nearby valley called Achor.  
In short, Joshua cleaned house.
Is there an unconfessed sin "in the camp" (the church, body of Christ) that needs to be dealt with? 

The God of Israel is waiting for a confession.  He's gracious and forgiving, abounding in mercy and provision.  

"As far as east is from west, so far has He removed our transgressions 
from us."  Psalm 103:12

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Dare to Dream & Act on the Dream"

Every morning, Monday through Saturday, President Steve Middlebrooks sends all of his employees at Heyward Allen in Athens an email to open up the workday with some valuable reasons to be motivated to be excellent in what they do.  The information is taken from one of John Maxwell's books, which feature short, one page devotions about leadership.

A couple of months ago, I asked Steve to add me to his email list.  The one from today was so good, I had to post some aspects of it here on For A Better Dawg.

From John Maxwell, author & speaker:

A dream does many things for us:
  • A dream gives us direction.
  • A dream increases our potential.
  • A dream helps us prioritize.
  • A dream adds value to our work.
  • A dream predicts our future.
That last statement left the strongest impression for me. 

A possible conclusion:
What is important is not so much where someone has been or what they've done.  Perhaps it's is the direction he/she is moving!

 (On top of Mt. Arbel in the Galilee of Israel)


Friday, July 5, 2013

An Impactful Moment in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River baptismal site, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are all popular sites to visit for Christians on their first pilgrimages to Israel.  But, by far, the one place Christians want to see is where Jesus was crucified and buried.  

Two sites claim Redemption's Hill, or the "Golgotha" of John's gospel account of the crucifixion.  They are:

1.  The Garden Tomb, owned and operated by the British (Also known as "Gordon's Calvary" below). 

2.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is owned and operated by three major religious sects (The Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, & Armenian Orthodox).  Traditionalists insist that is in fact the site where Jesus was executed.  The archeological evidence of this site is quite convincing as well.  
Above:  Our tour guide, Alex, shows us the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Personally, I like the Garden Tomb more because it feels less "churchy" and more realistic to what it must have looked like when the story happened.  

However, when I was in the basement level of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in a small cave under the massive rock mass where archeologists suspect the cross of Christ was set in, an immediate sense of solemn came over me.  It was then that our trip leader, Mike, said, "Wow, just think, Christ's blood probably ran down over these rocks we're looking at right now!"  

In that moment, I forgot everything and everyone around me.  I closed my eyes and asked God to help me remember that moment for the rest of my life.  If I never go back there, that moment will forever be a land mark in my intimacy with my Savior.  The Holy Spirit was in that cave that day.  I know it without a doubt!

I encourage you to go and experience it!  You may encounter God in the places you least expect.  You have to really look for Him because sometimes the tourism and church rituals can cause us to miss the presence of God.  

Above:  The ceiling in one section of the Church.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bethlehem: The House of Bread Part One

We spent a week in Bethlehem conducting sports camps with the Palestinians.  This is by far the best part of coming to Israel for me because I get to serve in an atmosphere that combines two passions:  coaching and sharing the Gospel!  In my opinion, you can go to Israel. A tourist and take pictures of stone or you can meet and get to know "living stones", the people!!
  I had a chance to photograph some of the Christian Arab Families we met.  Their children attended our basketball clinics.  
We need to pray for these brothers and sisters in Christ because they are in a spiritual battle to keep Christianity alive in Bethlehem, where our Savior was born.

The Cavanati's:  they own a hotel on Manger Street where we stayed the whole week.

Wael, our tour guide.  Oh, and he doesn't charge us for his services.  

(Photo above Wael)This is Wael's mom and sister, Grace.  Wael started coming to FCA camp when he was 9 years old and now he's 24 and is our own personal tour guide as we travel through the West Bank and Israel proper.  Wael and his family live in Nazareth (there are 4 children in their precious family:  Milad, Wael, Grace, & Magad---Magad is my favorite)

The Handal's live right down the street from our hotel.  Their daughters came to basketball camp.  They hosted a very nice dessert social in their home for us this week.  What a beautiful family!  I love these people!

Here I'm pictured with Sumnar and her husband.  They have 3 children.  Sumnar is the athletic director at Bethlehem University.  It was a pleasure to work with this woman and her staff who are so passionate about the students and giving them opportunities to participate in competitive sports.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 3 & 4 Tour in and through the Galilee

Well, it's day 5 of our trip and the past couple of days have been pretty packed with much excitement.  We toured all the places along the Galilee.  Our first stop was Mt. Arbel, a mountain top that reveals a breathtaking view of the Galilee.  We had our second life lesson there.  I shared with the group from Matthew 17 about the story of the Transfiguration:

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. (Matthew 17:1-9 KJV)

Abby Bryant, one of my teammates from Athens, poses for a pic at Mt. Arbel.

We completed a 3 mile hike down the mountain, then headed to the sites along the Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a fresh water lake instead of a sea.  It has been called several other names like Lake Gennesaret or Chinnereth, and the Sea of Tiberias.  No matter what people call Lake Galilee, it will always be associated with the life and ministry of Jesus.
It's surrounded by mountains, some almost 1500 feet high.  Travelers can travel by bus around the 11 mile long, 8 mile wide lake, making stops at these locations:

*The Mount of Beatitudes &Tabgha nearby:  where Jesus fed 5,000 people and gave the greatest sermon in all of history--Mathew chapters 5-7.

*Then there's Peter's Primacy, the place where Jesus met the disciples after His resurrection.  You may recall in the Gospels that Jesus told Mary at the tomb on Easter morning to go and tell the guys He was going to meet them on the shores of the Galilee.  Since visiting this place for the first time in 2011, I've often pictured in my mind this place as I've prayed.  I imagined Jesus waiting there for me, sitting by a fire, cooking some amazing fish (salmon, ha ha) and we talk about what's going on in life and the hope of Eternity to come.

*Capernaum is by far the most amazing place along the Galilee in my opinion.  From the Gospel of Mark, we learn that this was where Jesus made His home for almost three years.  This is also where Peter's extended family lived.  There is a synagogue there from the first century and many ruins of old homes  where you can see what life might have been like during Jesus' life there.  If I could say anything about this place, it's just that you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit there!

*Tiberias is a festive social city.  This is where we stayed for two nights.  Many Israelis hang out there in the evenings at the shops and restaurants along the board walk.  There is also quite a bit of activity on the lake with water sports.  We saw jet skis, people wind surfing and sun bathing along the shores.  This is where we caught the Jesus Boat ride across the Sea.  One of my teammates brought a Bose speaker aboard and played " Waiting Here for You" by Christy Nockels as we looked out over the water. It still gives me goosebumps when I replay that experience in my mind.

Next stops are all along the eastern border to see sites along the Dead Sea/Eastern border of Israel.

Below is a picture of our group during a team meeting on Friday night in Tiberias.  We meet every night to have a devotion and then talk about the plan for the next day.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 5, 2013...first stop...Nazareth

We arrived in Tel Aviv Yafo at 10:15 am this morning after a long 11 hr flight from Newark, NJ.  Our team is doing well.  We're tired but there is a good spirit with this group.   We boarded a bus with our tour guide "Sammy" and headed North up towards Nazareth for a visit to the Church of the Annunciation, the reputed site of the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah.  (We had a short tour stop at Megiddo on the way and took this team shot.  We have a GREAT team!
The entrance to church of the Annunciation (where Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing Jesus' conception through the Holy Spirit)

We spent the night in this city.  It was surreal to sleep in the place where Jesus grew up and lived a very quiet life for 30 years prior to His appearing on the shores of the Jordan River to be baptized by John.  
Imagine for a moment that you were Joseph or Mary.  Can you imagine what they must have thought about as they were raising this special son,  knowing how He came about and all the miracles surrounding His birth?  
There is a passage of scripture in Deuteronomy in which The Lord reveals His greatest command to His people.  It may have been words that Joseph recited to his young son, Jesus, to teach Him the heritage of their people and their relationship with the God of Abraham.  
It is in chapter 6, verses 4-9:

"Listen, Israel, The Lord is One.  Love The Lord your God with all Your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength .  These words that I am giving you today are to be on your heart.  Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the  door posts of your house and on your gates."

As Jesus grew in physical maturity, I wonder if He began to recall these words on His own as He was with the Father in the beginning of Israel's redemptive story.  
The view from our hotel window; the people of Nazareth sure love their satellites!

Visiting Nazareth, I imagined a young seven year old Jesus with a big broad grin on His face as his father,  Joseph taught Him from the scriptures that God Himself had inscribed onto men's hearts in prep for His physical manifestation on earth.
Church of Annunciation door in Nazareth depicting the life events of Jesus
Mike, our trip leader, reads from Luke at the Synagogue in Nazareth.  This is where Jesus proclaimed the Scriptures read from the Isaiah scroll were fulfilled.