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Exciting News About the Rome, Athens, Ephesus, Israel Trip

OK folks, I know late September sounds like a long way off, but it really isn’t. I know the phrase “once in a lifetime” is way over-used, but if there was one trip it would be properly applied to, this would be it. So we have some new details and, if you were sort of thinking about it, but hadn’t decided yet, maybe this will help.

Qumran Cave 7

First—Rome. Two pre-cruise tours, led by yours truly, visiting the Vatican and other key locations right in the heart of Rome. It is one thing to talk about Roman Catholicism, the Reformation, etc., it is another to actually see the locations. On the second day other key sites, including (most importantly for me) the Coliseum will allow us to really focus upon the perssing issue we face today—how the early church interacted with the Roman Empire, how following the Lordship of Christ related to the demands of Caesar. How many of our brothers and sisters stained the floor of that building with their blood? Important things to think about, and having the location in mind can bring some serious clarity of thought.

The Snake Path Up to Masada

Then, off to Israel. We will have time for preparation on the cruise over, as well as fellowship, teaching, and worship. Once we arrive we will be hitting two major areas, the region around (and including) Jerusalem, and then moving on to the Galilee area, as well as Qumran, the Dead Sea, and (this is really exciting for me), Masada! I did not think we would get to do Masada. I will try to remember to bring along my DVDs of the Masada mini-series for the cruise over! Anyway, regular folks will take the cable cars up, but I, and anyone else who thinks they can do it in less than 35 minutes, will charge up the infamous Snake Path (weather permitting of course). I have some unfinished business with that mountain! Of course we will likewise be taking time to study the Scriptures in Capernaum, next to the synagogue where Jesus delivered the words recorded for us in John 6. We will also see the synagogue at Migdal, which is from the first century. The stones we will see heard the Son of God preach. That particular location really touched me when I visited in 2018.

Mosaic floor in the First Century Synagogue at Migdal

When we head back to sea we will still have some incredible sights ahead of us: Ephesus and Athens. Mars Hill. The city Paul used to establish a key church through which to evangelize Asia Minor. I wish I could tell you what things will look like, but this will be my first visit to both locations, personally. Our guides tell me Ephesus, especially, is simply stunning as far as the ruins to be found, surpassing any other location. I cannot wait to see it myself.

So if you have been thinking about joining Jeff and I for this adventure, you really need to jump on board, especially before the end of January. We really hope to see you as we meet in Rome and set sail for Israel! See the banner ad above or just click here.

The Gospels Reading Plan for 2020

It is about that time of the year when we are introduced to creative ways to read our Bible for the next calendar year. Did you do it this year?

This is my twelfth year encouraging others to take each day of the year to read and reflect on a single unit in the Gospels. Did you know there are about 365 units in the Gospels? In the past, I cited five good reasons to own a Gospel Synopsis. The fifth reason is:

“Read a synopsis in one year by reading one pericope [a gospel unit] every day. By coincidence, the synopsis contains 367 pericopes. That is, all four Gospels combined contain 367 units.

Get the following edition so you are ready to go: Synopsis of the Four Gospels

Alexanders and the Church

When Paul wrote his last epistle to Timothy he knew his time was short. I have often commented that what you include in your last communication with a dear friend will reflect what weighs the most heavily upon your heart as you stand on the brink of eternity. So it is important to see that though he did not wax on about it, Paul was a hurt man. I do not have time today to fully unpack the section, but take a look at 2 Timothy 4:14-18. Paul says that at his first apologia “no one showed up.” He was alone. Why? The older I get, the more I experience false brethren and the strife and hatred they sow, I think I know why. Can you imagine what the private Facebook group for the former members of the churches of Galatia was like? Oh my. The slander. The railing. The lies. Former members who have been put out of a fellowship can be like that, as everyone actually involved in ministry knows—at least those who still practice church discipline and call for repentance and restoration. Paul surely did, and can you imagine what vilification he was subject to on a daily basis?

But here’s the point: I am sure many recognized the lies that were hurled at the Apostle, but that is why slander is so vociferously condemned as sin in Scripture: it works. It distracts. It divides. It poisons. It destroys, both the one against whom it is directed as well as the one producing it (it is poison to one’s soul, but it is often a slow and very fatal poison). But it is easy to make the calculated decision to “stay away” when the incoming fire is heavy, and hence, was that why “no one showed up” at Paul’s first apologia?

But notice that even in this, his last word to Timothy, he “names names.” Alexander the coppersmith. Alexander did Paul much “kaka,” evil, harm. God allows that to happen. I wish He didn’t, but He does. Evil men can harm even apostles of the Lord. Godly ministers have had to endure Alexanders throughout the history of the church. They have been sanctified by the suffering these men have brought into their lives. But notice as well. “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” There’s actually a variant here. Either, “the Lord WILL repay him” (statement of fact), or “the Lord repay him” (expression of desire or wish). God may use these Alexanders, but oh my, the judgment that awaits them will not tarry, and it will be harsh.

Then Paul warns the next generation: you will have to be on guard. This will not stop with Paul’s passing. No, the Alexanders are tireless. They stay up at night digging for dirt and lies and slander. They wake in the morning hatching plots and scheming schemes. This is their life, and a miserable one it is, but oh how they love it! Power over others! They do not care about money—they want to destroy, divide, draw men away, all to their own advancement and position. So Alexander will keep going like the Energizer Slanderer, so watch out, Timothy! He will come after you as well, for “he strongly stood against our words,” i.e., our teaching. Whether Alexander was a false brother or just a pagan opposer, we cannot know for certain. But one thing we do know: Paul had to endure him, and Timothy did as well.

It has never been God’s intention that His church should sail through calm waters with ease. Each generation has its battles, and one of the most severe comes from within, from false professors, false brethren, who sow division and strife. The opposition of the world we can abide, but when it comes from those professing the name of Christ, there is little more draining, more challenging. But we can with Paul have his confidence: even though no one showed up, “the Lord stood with me and strengthened me,” and as a result his faith was strong: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will (literally) save me into His heavenly kingdom.” In the end, we have to put it all in the Lord’s hands. He knows our hearts. So many times we cannot even defend ourselves (as we are prohibited by Scripture, and others would be destroyed by our defense) against the lies and slanders of the modern day Alexanders. But God knows, and God will save, and God will judge. There is a far greater court than that of twenty first century social media, and as long as you know you can stand before that judge with a clear conscience, all is well.