Day 6 - Jericho, Lazarus, snow in Jerusalem

This post is going to blow your mind! This was the day when my head exploded and I had a hard time digesting so much awesomeness. Yeah, that is a lot of hyperbole, but that's what I'm good for and this was in the top 20 days of my life.  By the way, I'm several days behind, so I'm typing this a couple days after the fact.

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Israel Day 5 - Jesus childhood home, wedding at Cana and public toilets

I'm a day behind after yesterday's early evening. I went to sleep immediately after we finished dinner at 8pm. Sadly, Jessica flew home this morning with 2 other wives (this was part of the plan) so I'm flying solo now with the other 53 people in our group. I was way more sad that she was leaving than I was anticipating. I'm glad she was here for at least part of the experience, but now I wish she would have stayed.

So Day 5 we did quite a bit, I'll hit some highlights. We went to one of the cities of the Decapolis, these 10 cities were all very greek/roman and were not Jewish, so Jesus and other jewish folks of the day would have avoided them like the plague. I'm blanking on the name of this particular city this moment and I'm in a coffee shop with good wifi but not near my notes so I'm going to go with Scythopolis. There is a huge excavation of this entire city that was very focused on commerce and entertainment, because the Romans figured out that the way to keep people happy was to entertain them. Sound familiar? They had public toilets and below is a picture of a bunch of our staff reenacting the scene of public toilets, thankfully they are no longer in use.


From there we went to Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus and the location that Mary received her vision from the angel about Jesus forthcoming birth. Below is a picture of what could have been Jesus childhood home. Whether it was or not He certainly lived within a stones throw of this location because the ancient town of Nazareth was not much bigger than a couple of football fields. In the first century the population was only about 600 people, now its quite developed and about 80,000 people live there. Crazy to think that the boy Jesus grew up here. The town is on a ridge overlooking a well travelled valley where the end of the world may happen.


This is the church that is built over the ruins of the small town Nazareth. It's very well done with mosaics from around the world.


Not too far from Nazareth is the ancient city of Cana which literally no longer exists. It was destroyed in 66AD by the Romans and never rebuilt. We just "happened" to see a rainbow singing over the former town in the picture below. If you look at the base of the mountain behind the rainbow that is where Cana was located. If you aren't familiar with Cana, it is the location of the scene in John 2 where Jesus turned a large amount of water into wine during a wedding. Classic story that we YL leaders are very familiar with so it's fun to see this location. Another fun fact, there are 2 different families with us that have daughters named Cana, so the rainbow showing up at this time was a nice touch. Thanks Jesus!


What we did the next day is so mind blowing I had to make a separate post. Get ready for some seriously, insanely cool stuff!!!!!

A few insights on the birth of Jesus

December 25 is not the only day that Christmas is celebrated around the world. The eastern churches celebrate Christmas at different times in January, therefore it is still Christmas time over here in Israel. There are different churches that celebrate Christmas on January 6th, 7th and 19th.

Thoughts on the birth of Jesus

  1. He was most likely born in the summer because otherwise the shepherds wouldn’t have had their sheep in the fields. If the sheep were in the fields in the non summer months they would have been crushing the crops or eating the seed, however if it was in July -September they would have been in the fields after the harvest.
  2. Jesus was probably born outside, not in a barn. The word “inn” is probably more accurately translated “guest room”. There was most likely no room in the guest room of Jospeh’s family because everyone was in Bethlehem for the census or because Mary’s pregnancy was a shame filled controversy. On top of that Jesus was probably born outside because that would be less messy and ceremonially unclean. 
  3. The Magi are really most likely Jewish wise men who were living in the East because they were operating their own religious system that was outside of Roman politics and influence. Herod, who was king at the time was appointed King by the people that ruled over Israel, these wise men were seeking the real King who’s star they had seen.
  4. The manger was definitely made out of stone, like this one.

Day 4 - Places Jesus walked, talked and changed the world

Words can't describe the overwhelmingness of where we went today. We saw the hill where the feeding of the 5,000 took place, went to Capernaum where Jesus spent a great deal of time and stood on the beach where Jesus reinstated Peter after his triple denial in John 21. Let me start there.

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20 Years on Young Life staff. A few observations on how things have changed.

20 Years on Young Life staff. A few observations on how things have changed.

The world has changed quite a bit since 1994 and how I do my job has changed drastically. Technology has been a huge part of this change. In fact, things have changed so much that I often sit back and think "What did I do all day before the internet was really a thing? How did I do my job?"

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An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 12

There are quite a few misconceptions about the Bible. Some folks think it's just a collection of moral stories that are to be emulated, not true. Others are under the impression that it's antiquated flowery words that are irrelevant to the modern person. However, if those people would take the time to read the scriptures in a modern language translation and give them some common sense consideration I think they would discover that God's word is incredibly poignant and helpful in our current culture.  It's timeless. Furthermore, individuals who choose to read the Bible may also discover that it is at times hilarious in its bluntness. For example, this from the first verse of Proverbs 12:

 "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. "


Bam. Reading it kind of feels like a punch in the face. A punch full of truth. If you're too scared to hear anything negative about your own life you're a fool, because you're unteachable. How can we can continue to grow and develop if we aren't willing to hear about the areas where we need to grow and develop? Each of us need people in our lives who will tell us when we have behaved poorly to others or when we believe something that is flat out wrong. As we get older we tend to surround ourselves with voices that agree with us all the time. I think this stunts are growth because we stopped being challenged or corrected.  

I don't want to hear from God that I was acting stupidly by not paying attention to those who offered wise reproof in my life. My prayer is for people who love me enough to share with me the truth.  

Young Life Katy Area Alumni Giving Challenge

Hey folks, take a few minutes and check out the video from our banquet. Cinco Ranch alumn Mark McDaniel edited it for us and he did a fantastic job. We are confident it will move you.


YLKA2013 from Mark McDaniel on Vimeo.


The night we showed this video we had our largest banquet of all time and raised way more money than we have ever raised before. That was just 2 weeks ago. We have raised (in gifts and pledges) $250,000 towards our budget of $460,000. This budget year started in October, 2013 and lasts until September of 2014.  We still have $210,000 to raise. This is where you come in. We are hoping to get 100 or so of our thousands of alumni to pledge an average of $50 PER MONTH to help us bridge the gap to raise the rest of our budget over the next 10 months.  Would you consider giving us $100, $50, $25 per month to help us reach that goal?

If you want to do that you can do so easily by clicking right here on this link! If you want to give monthly (you do) then be sure to check the box that says "make this a recurring gift".


Derek Bonesteel
Darren Cameron
Andrew Packard
Mark Maxey
Joel Scott

and the entire YLKA team! 



An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 10

4 "Lazy hands make for poverty,

    but diligent hands bring wealth.

He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
    but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son."


I read this chapter with some friends yesterday and we each shared which part of Chapter 10 grabbed our attention. These 2 verses were what stood out to me as I thougth about our YL budget this year and how large it is. ($450,000). Raising that money is like a large project (like gathering crops at the harvest) and requires diligence. I think our current culture sometimes makes diligence extra hard because there are so many distractions, mainly the internet. It becomes difficult to bear down on a large task day after day when you're inundated with a couple hundred emails, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all your text messages, not to mention phone calls and actual people who want to meet or chat on the phone.

While the author of Proverbs had no way of forseeing all of this stuff, certainly God knew it was on the horizon, so maybe these verses are even more relevant for us than they were 2800 years ago.

So my new theme for the year..... diligence. Gather the crops in the summer!


An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 9

My whole premise in doing this read through of Proverbs was to pick one thing that stood out to me in each chapter after I read it. Never is this more evident than in today's post.

7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
    and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
    reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction[b] to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
    teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.


There is a pretty good chance you ended up here becuase of some form of social media (Facbook, Twitter, etc.). If that's the case, this post will make perfect sense.  The second I read the phrase "Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse" the only thing I could think of was Facebook. I've noticed recently that conversations on Facebook where two people disagree with one another turn contentious and vicious pretty quickly. Especially when it comes to matters of faith and/or politics. Especially politics. If you even try to disagree with someone in a comment thread watch out, because you're taking your digital life and putting it at risk of being piled on and abused by the infamous "angry facebook guy". So many people on the internet become "scoffers" because they say things on the web they would never say in person, or they say things in a way on the web that they wouldn't dare say to someone's face. They make themselves into cartoon characters who just spout inane platitudes that attack other people's beliefs, thus making themselves feel smart, but really just outing themselves as bitter scoffers.  

My policy on all this, don't engage in political debate on the internet at all, and only use the most gentle and thougtful language when discussing matters of faith/belief.  The only way to disarm a scoffer is with humility, because they have a hard time scoffing and disparraging someone who is genuinely not trying to go to battle with them.

Those are my thoughts for today.

One last thing though, the very next verse is tattoo worthy:

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Once you understand who you are and who God is, you're ready to start figuring life out, slowly, but it starts with knowing the difference between Him and you.

An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 8

In this passage, it is Wisdom who is speaking, wisdom that is derived from the Lord.

17     I love those who love me;
        those who search hard for me will find me.
18     Riches and honor are the benefit of following me;
        so are lasting wealth and justice.
19     My reward is better than gold, even the purest gold;
        and my profit is greater than the highest quality silver.
20     I follow the way of right living.
        Follow me along the path to find justice;
21     I’m ready to meet those who love me, bestow true riches upon them,
        and fill up their lives until their treasuries overflow.


Wisdom is reminding the reader that having him is far more beneficial than beign wealthy. We've seen this played out time and again in our day through the wonder of modern media. We get to watch daily how fabulously wealthy athletes and celebrities lose everything and make a train wreck of their own lives even though they have piles of money. Whenever I come across such stories I always think to myself "If I had that kind of money, I'd never let myself waste it all like that", but without Wisdom from above, I would. All of us would because that kind of temptation is so strong, so seductive, that it distorts how we see reality.  It becomes impossible to see the world as it really is once you have begun to view it through the prism of incredibly fame and/or fortune. That is, unless you have become wise before that fame or fortune is thrust upon you. 

Very few of the people who read this will become fabulously rich or famous, but the need for Wisdom is still as important, because without it, we will make the same blunders and let our lives slip into meaningless waste.

An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 7

After an extremely long hiatus, the adventure in Proverbs is back. I got distracted by a great many other things in my life, but I'm making time to do this again, so here we go with Chapter 7, a brief observation.

1 My son, keep my words
    and store up my commands within you.
Keep my commands and you will live;
    guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
    and to insight, “You are my relative.”

I've been reading the Bible for 25 years now. I'm not an expert by any means, but as I think about all of information, questions, phillosophical meanderings, and life lessons that are contained in the grand story of the scriptures I feel like I've learned one major thing that often goes unnoticed. The guys (and possibly women) who wrote the Bible were every bit as wise and smart as we are. While they didn't know anything about molecular biology or deep space or calculus they were asking the same questions about life that we ask. Their answers, contained all through the Bible, are every bit as profound and satisfying as anything that anyone in our own era has come up with. Therefore we should take the wisdom of the Bible very seriously. Even though many of the folks who wrote down the words were merely nomadic farmers and shepherds, they were deep, thoughtul, wise truth seekers. In fact, because they didn't have all the endless distractions that we have they probably took much more time to consider the main questions of life than we do.

So let's guard those teachings in our heart and take them seriously, because in my experience the wisdom contained inside the Bible makes for great counsel and when put into practice actually works! Imagine that!  


An Adventure in Proverbs - Chapter 6

9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Interestingly I've been thinking a lot about productivity in the past week since I read this, and in the midst of that ruminating came a piece that blends well with this topic.

This article by John Ortberg that someone sent my wife is more lengthy than anything I've posted in The Adventures in Proverbs, but it's very easy to read and incredibly insightful.

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