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.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Some Great Advice For Our Dawg Grads (New York Times)


How to Get a Job

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Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?
Josh Haner/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman
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Readers’ Comments

"I recently applied for a job via HireArt. This so-called custom-written online interview consisted of exactly three questions: "Who are you," "Have you previously been employed in this capacity," and "Why are you a good fit for this job?""
Yet Another Job Seeker, Manhattan
One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt ( Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.
“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also ... have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”
The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate), is that clients — from big companies, like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then HireArt culls through the results and offers up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.
With 50,000 registered job-seekers on HireArt’s platform, the company receives about 500 applicants per job opening, said Sharef, adding: “While it’s great that the Internet allows people to apply to lots of jobs, it has led to some very unhealthy behavior. Job-seekers tell me that they apply to as many as 500 jobs in four to five months without doing almost any research. One candidate told me he had written a computer program that allowed him to auto-apply to every single job on Craigslist in a certain city. Given that candidates don’t self-select, recruiters think of résumés as ‘mostly spam,’ and their approach is to ‘wade through the mess’ to find the treasures. Of these, only one person gets hired — one out of 500 — so the ‘success rate’ is very low for us and for our candidates.”
How are people tested? HireArt asks candidates to do tasks that mimic the work they would do on the job. If it is for a Web analytics job, HireArt might ask: “You are hired as the marketing manager at an e-commerce company and asked to set up a Web site analytics system. What are the key performance indicators you would measure? How would you measure them?”
Or, if you want to be a social media manager, said Sharef, “you will have to demonstrate familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, HTML, On-Page SEO and Key Word Analysis.” Sample question: “Kanye West just released a new fashion collection. You can see it here. Imagine you had to write a tweet promoting this collection. What would your tweet be?” Someone applying for a sales job would have to record a sales pitch over video.
Added Sharef: “What surprises me most about people’s skills is how poor their writing and grammar are, even for college graduates. If we can’t get the basics right, there is a real problem.” Still, she adds, HireArt sees many talented people who are just “confused about what jobs they are qualified for, what jobs are out there and where they fit in.”
So what does she advise? Sharef pointed to one applicant, a Detroit woman who had worked as a cashier at Borders. She realized that that had no future, so she taught herself Excel. “We gave her a very rigorous test, and she outscored people who had gone to Stanford and Harvard. She ended up as a top applicant for a job that, on paper, she was completely unqualified for.”
People get rejected for jobs for two main reasons, said Sharef. One, “you’re not showing the employer how you will help them add value,” and, two, “you don’t know what you want, and it comes through because you have not learned the skills that are needed.” The most successful job candidates, she added, are “inventors and solution-finders,” who are relentlessly “entrepreneurial” because they understand that many employers today don’t care about your résumé, degree or how you got your knowledge, but only what you can do and what you can continuously reinvent yourself to do.
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