Genesis Land

IMG_2940.JPGBenny the camel 

In Hebrew it’s called “lekh-l’kha” or “lech lecha.”  This was the famous “call” to a 75-year old man named Abram to leave his home in Ur of Chaldees and to go to an unknown place, a place that God would show him, as recorded in Genesis 12:1-3,

 “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”

IMG_2934.JPGEliezer, the servant of Abram

And so the Hebrew nation was promised, and so it began with a man who was told to leave Mesopotamia (“between the rivers”), his home in the wealthy city of Ur with almost 25,000 people, for Canaan…what would become Israel. Abram obeyed God and left, not knowing where he was going, but by faith he believed God (Hebrews 11:8).

Today, within a two-hour walk of where Abraham is known to have settled, you can meet Abraham again in the heart of the Judean desert, at a place called Genesis Land.

Genesis Land is a time machine that transports you back to around 2000 B.C. to Abraham’s tent, where the famous hospitality of the desert is in full force as we see in the Bible when Abraham has three guests visit him (Genesis 18:1-8). This land is a harsh place and a good host was obliged to provide food, water, and shelter (sometimes this was a matter of life and death in an arid land like Judea). Abraham even bowed to the three strangers which may seem strange to us, but it was typical desert hospitality, as was washing their dusty feet (John 13:1-6).

After a welcome introduction from his servant, Eliezer, you are robed and invited to break bread with Abraham in his tent (a full meal with six fresh salads, breads, beef kabobs over yellow rice, date honey chicken, dried fruit, and tea or coffee).

IMG_0315.JPGTwo at a time!

While you enjoy this scrumptious feast, Abraham himself welcomes you to his home and explains how he came to be here. The re-enactor, Josh Goldsmith, does a masterful job of portraying the Father of the Jews and oozes hospitality (Hebrews 13:2). He really connects with you and you get the distinct feeling that you are his dearest friend. This is the essence of the shepherd tent hospitality so famous in the Scriptures (Exodus 2:20).

After this very satisfying meal and a truly pleasurable time with Abraham (who makes you feel like a prince), it’s time to leave…by camel!

One of the must-do things when you go to Israel is ride a camel, and here at Genesis Land you are given the opportunity to do just that. It’s just one more thing that reminds us of the rich heritage that Israel has had over the centuries as a welcoming land to strangers, as Josh puts so succinctly,

IMG_2938.JPGTaking a break

An experience at Genesis Land is intrinsically inspiring because it brings the Bible to life in the actual setting of our ancestors. Sharing the power of Abraham’s hospitality ismething people can relate to themselves and translate it into their own lives. The world would likely be a better place if we spent more time sharing each other’s company.”

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Josh “Abraham” Goldsmith and a friend

Amen! And doing it over a hot meal in a cool tent, and later on a warm camel, makes it all the more enjoyable. Be sure to stop in to visit with Abraham while you are in his land of the Bible. It’s guaranteed to be a refreshing stop that you’ll never forget on your own lech lecha!








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The Jesus Boat

IMG_2100.jpgA remarkable catch

In a life lived in a desert country, a drought is as much a part of living as dying. It’s a harsh place, especially in biblical times when those in Galilee depending on fishing to make it. A drought almost always brings bad times, even death.

Late in January 1986, during one such drought, between the ancient harbors of Gennesar and Magdala, local residents (ironically fisherman brothers like Peter and Andrew) made the chance discovery of a boat’s oval outline in the muddy lake bed. Word spread like wildfire. In less than two weeks, local newspapers were announcing discovery of “the Jesus Boat!”

Archaeologists, called to examine the still unexcavated vessel, announced it was the first ancient ship ever found in the Sea of Galilee. They suggested that it was built and used between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. – the time of Jesus of Nazareth!

Marathon round-the-clock excavations ensued, racing against both now-rising waters of the Sea of Galilee and treasure seekers. The archaeologists even invented new techniques of excavation and preservation as they went along. Just before the site was flooded, the almost completely intact hull was fully excavated, encased in polyurethane, and floated to shore for further study and conservation.

The boat is almost 27 feet long, just shy of eight feet wide, and roughly four and a half feet high. It was probably of the Sea of Galilee’s largest class of ships. Fore and aft sections were most likely decked and it had a mast, meaning it could be both sailed and rowed depending on the weather.

Evidence of repeated repairs suggested the boat had a long life. Studies of ancient ships suggest this vessel had a crew of five (four rowers and a helmsman). The ancient Jewish historian Josephus Flavius referred to such ships holding 15 people. Skeletal remains from Galilee during this period indicate males averaged five feet, five inches tall and roughly 140 pounds. Fifteen such men could fit into this vessel easily. So that begs the question did Jesus and His 12 men sail together in this boat?

IMG_2099.jpgThe race was on to preserve it, and won

The Galilee boat dated to the general time of Jesus’ ministry. It was the type used by Jesus and the Twelve, and was large enough to hold 13 men no problem. It could indeed have been in use at the same time He sailed the sea here, but Jesus cannot be connected to this particular boat with any degree of certainty. Yet, it does help us visualize daily life in Galilee, as Jesus knew it.

You can see the Jesus Boat at the Yigal Alon Center (operated by the Kibbutz Ginosar) on the western shore of the Sea of Tiberius. It’s something you should not miss and can only truly be appreciated when you see it in person. You’ll be treated to a fascinating video about the boat’s history, discovery, and trip to this museum. The gift shop has some amazing items about the boat as well. If you exit at the rear of the museum you’ll come out to the Sea of Galilee where you can take a boat ride on the same lake that Peter and his friends fished.

It’s all rather surreal when it sinks in that these men really lived here, droughts and storms and all, and used a boat just like this one. Perhaps the other amazing part of this story is how a drought gave life, maybe for the first time ever, to a kibbutz and their two fishermen named Moshe and Yuval. I think Peter and Andrew would approve. Be sure not to miss this once in a lifetime experience.

Like the thousands of fish taken with it, it’s a keeper!



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Charles Orde Wingate

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The great Wingate all smiles as usual

Sometimes a short life, lived to the fullest, is the most rewarding. This could be said of the son born in 1903 to a British officer in India who lived for only 41 years, but they were full ones. A solid Christian who believed in the prophetic place of Israel in his beloved Bible, Charles Orde Wingate would, in the spirit of his hero Gideon, go on to make Israel a safer country. His Plymouth Brethren upbringing made him not only a devout believer in Christ and Israel, but his six siblings helped forge a fierce and independent fighter too. A glimpse into his early military training sheds some light on this unique soldier’s character.

In 1921, Wingate entered Britain’s officer training school for artillery. Like most military schools, first-year students got pretty rough treatment for minor infractions. One punishment used on plebes had them strip and run a gauntlet of knotted towel raps from seniors, and then tossed into an ice-cold tub of water. After a minor cavalry offense (he was an extremely talented rider), Wingate refused to take the humiliation and instead took the offensive in approaching each senior, toe-to-toe, daring him to hit him with his towel. Each one refused, all the way down the line. When Wingate successfully challenged the last boy, he flung himself into the cold tub to the shouts of his classmates. A leader was born.

After his military education, Wingate served in the British army in India and Sudan. In 1936, after studying the history of Palestine’s Arabs and Jews, he was transferred to his dream post, Israel. He would spend three hard years here and earn such distinction for his actions in defending Britain and Israel that the College of Physical Education in Netanya would one day be named in his honor, as would Wingate Square in Jerusalem, a forest at Mount Gilboa, and the Orde Youth Village in Haifa.

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“Nowadays people seem to imagine that impartiality means readiness to treat lies and truth the same, readiness to hold white as bad as black and black as good as white.  I, on the contrary, believe that without integrity a man had much better not approach a problem at all.  I came here with an open mind and I testify that I have seen.  I believe that righteousness exalteth a nation and righteousness does not mean playing off one side against the other while you guard your own interests.”

 Captain Wingate earned the love of the Israelis almost instantly, when as an innovative intelligence officer, he put a stop to the deadly raids and riots by local Arabs. His reputation, albeit somewhat eccentric, was sealed as surely as Gideon’s with his men when he took the trouble to learn Hebrew and set up a commando style camp at the Spring of Harod to train his infamous SNS.

The “Special Night Squads” that Wingate trained, and personally led with extremely unconventional methods, were made up of Haganah soldiers. In the spirit of Francis Marion and John Mosby, they combined audacity, surprise, and mobility to thwart Arab incursions in night attacks and even defensive stands protecting the Iraq-Haifa oil pipeline. Moshe Dayan was trained by Wingate and attributed his leadership to making the famed IDF what it would one day become. Underlying his passion for Israel was a firm belief in their right to their biblical homeland, as well as the source for his Christian faith, and something that made him beloved as a “friend of Israel.”

His successful ambushes and brutal attacks, along with his strong stance for Zionism, made him more controversial that Britain preferred and in 1939, under Arab pressure, he was transferred back to England. He would arrive just in time for the outbreak of World War II.

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Airborne Orde

In 1941, he fought in Ethiopia and helped liberate it from the Italians by creating the Gideon Force (a small guerrilla unit made up of Ethiopians, British, and Sudanese soldiers). Wingate recruited some SNS friends to help him and with the aid of local fighters, they continuously harassed the Italians and their supply lines. By the end of the Ethiopian liberation, his Gideon Force of less than 2,000 fighters forced the surrender of almost 20,000 Italians.

In Burma, he organized and trained the Chindits, a special-forces jungle unit named for the Burmese Lion (the Chinthe) that operated behind the Japanese lines. Although a dangerous environment to fight in that proved costly in lost British, Gurkha, and Burmese soldier’s lives, their deep jungle penetrations caught the Japanese completely off guard and forced them to alter their plans to fight the Chindit incursions instead.

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His untimely death was front page news

Sadly, Major-General Charles Orde Wingate was killed in an airplane crash in Burma in 1944 and eventually buried in Arlington National Cemetery (several Americans died in the crash, and with all 10 men burned beyond recognition, they were buried together at Arlington).  Churchill called him “one of the most brilliant and courageous figures of the second-world war.” Knowing Wingate, his Israeli title from the Yishuv (Jews in Israel before 1948) of “ha yehdid” probably meant more to him than the Prime Minister’s praise. It translates simply as what he always wanted to be, “The Friend (of Israel).”


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Our Dad Who Art in Heaven

Dad  21.jpgMy dad at 21 (who is now in Heaven)

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they (Matthew 6:25-26)?”

Some say we view our Heavenly Father through the lens of our earthly father. A sort of imprinting from their characteristics in how they raised us, whether generous, severe, distant, or approachable, your dad affects how you see God. Since we just honored our dads with Father’s Day it seems appropriate to comment on our Heavenly Dad.

Jesus described Dad as benevolent, valuing us more than all of His other creation (that incidentally, never worries; some say that man is the only creature who does worry). When the disciples were in danger of drowning, Jesus rebuked them for not trusting Dad, and quieted the tempest with a word (Mark 4).


Dad, far right, at his brother’s wedding.

Dad considers you precious and He will take care of you, even if your life isn’t as you think it should be because of real needs with money, your health, or maybe even your own father. Does Dad really see us as precious? Yes, definitely! Jesus goes on to say this,

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!”

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My dad at 6 with his dad (not sure if he’s in Heaven)

What does this tell us about our Dad in Heaven? He loves us (or Jesus is a liar)!

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

The key to claiming this promise is to put Dad’s interests first (He loves people), His kingdom (sharing the gospel with those people), and He promises to care for your needs. And if you are in the deepest pit, it doesn’t mean that Dad stopped loving you. Just look at the cross. Dad didn’t just say it, “He demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. So come back! You are worth so much more than anything else Dad made. No worries!

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My dad at 70 with my mom (also in Heaven)



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Gardening with General Patton

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).”

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General Patton on Memorial Day in Nuremberg 1945

At our house, Mother’s Day is all about death. My wife loves flowers, which means seeds go into the ground to die with the hope that something new pops up beautiful and alive. It’s a good “death” for the seeds and my garden-savvy wife looks forward to caring for some gorgeous flowers.

First Corinthians 15 is the Bible’s “gardening chapter.” It’s also about planting seeds (death), hoping a new life results (resurrection). Do you see your death that way, as a good thing? According to the Bible, death can be a great event, a miraculous change to be anticipated with intense joy, just as we do with our Mother’s Day flowers.

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Sgt Meeks, his friend and valet, was the only black pallbearer at Patton’s funeral

Patton knew death, but he didn’t fear it and wisely asked, “Did you ever stop to think that death may be more exciting than life?” The Apostle Paul agreed and said, “…to die is gain.” For a genuine believer, death is a friend that brings us eyeball to eyeball with Jesus Christ! That’s mighty good news, if you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation.

But if your sin remains, then you should fear death and the coming judgment (and don’t kid yourself and think you’re not that bad. If you sin just three times a day and live 70 years, that’s over 76,000 sins! A just God cannot be righteous and ignore that.)

Those 76,000 transgressions are a moot point, however, because we’re all born with a sin disease that’s fatal. Paul said, “…by a man came death…as in Adam all die.” Bob Dylan agreed and wrote, “I was blinded by the Devil, born already ruined, stone cold dead as I stepped out of the womb.” If you’re a human being, then you’re contaminated by heredity with Adam’s sin. Sin is fatal and death is certain (Romans 6:23).

Screenshot 2017-05-16 16.34.25.pngPatton with his flowery wife Beatrice and their son

Despite that, death can be a friend…if you repent and believe. The litmus test of your belief is your complete assurance when death arrives, as Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church:

 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord 

Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

There are two types of people facing death, those who grieve with hope and those who grieve without it. For a genuine Christian, it’s not a loss at all. It’s a tremendous gain to pop up again beautiful and alive with Christ.

I pray you’ll choose to grieve with hope and accept Christ.







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Mom Nature

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Dena Dietrich

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:20-21).”

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”

That iconic Chiffon Margarine commercial made a big impact on consumers in the 70’s. If you’re too young to remember, it showed Mother Nature tasting what she thought was butter, and then when the narrator tells her she’s wrong, she angrily flashes her thunder and lightning threat with this catchy phrase.

Pretty effective advertising as her saying is still used today, especially when the weather acts up. So why mention this commercial? Frankly, I’m fed up with Mother Nature and cringe every time a weatherman uses it in their forecast.

It’s subtle, I know, but it undermines God’s place as our Creator. As Paul said in Romans, everyone knows He’s real because of the marvel of nature. Before you judge me as a nitpicker imagine this scenario.

You’re watching the weather tonight and there’s crazy stuff going on, from tornadoes to floods, to hail and ice, and the weatherman says, “God has really let lose on the Midwest with His power as this severe storm barrels down on Michigan.” It’d never happen, and if it did happen that person would be fired. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

I’ve never heard a meteorologist attribute the power of acute weather to God, but always to Mother Nature (and she doesn’t even exist!) She’s no more real than the Tooth Fairy, Santa, or the Easter Bunny (and those last two minimize His rightful place too). The point is this.

Unlike Mother Nature, God is very real and even atheists are “without excuse.” Just look around as spring bursts forth today. His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” And since we are the pinnacle of His creation, it also means that we are accountable to Him as our Maker (Hebrews 9:27).

As our Creator, He has every right to expect something from us. One day, as our Judge, He will look upon us for His holiness, which apart from Jesus’ blood to cover our sins and make us holy, just doesn’t exist. As James said, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

We are all guilty, and despite our very best efforts, unlike Mother Nature’s faulty taste buds, we can’t fool God by our good deeds when our sin remains (Isaiah 64:6). He knows real butter from margarine. Thankfully, He has withheld His thunder and lightning judgment that we deserved, and Jesus joyfully took it for us to make us as holy as God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Now that’s truly iconic!


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Twain’s Quip Twip

Screenshot 2017-04-07 12.00.17.pngSam Clemens

In 1867, Mark Twain was not very well known yet, but fame was waiting for him just around the corner, and his trip to Israel launched that famous writing career with his travel book, The Innocents Abroad. What he saw in Israel over 150 years ago is not what you would recognize today, with lush fields filled with crops. The national transformation of Israel is quite stunning today.

He had much to say about the Holy Land, then ruled by the Ottoman Empire, and Americans ate it up. The Innocents Abroad became a bestseller with vivid descriptions like these:

 The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the ‘desert places’ round about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour’s voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.

IMG_2112.JPGThe Sea of Galilee

A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. 

 And Jerusalem was not the amazing city we see today either:

IMG_2897.JPGNear David’s Tomb in Jerusalem

Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross.

 It seems to me that all the races and colors and tongues of the earth must be represented among the fourteen thousand souls that dwell in Jerusalem. Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound.

IMG_3206.JPGDavid’s Tower in Jerusalem

 He was struck by the size of the city of Jerusalem too:

 A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is.

IMG_2874.JPGBelow the Temple Mount (Wailing Wall)

 He had this to say about the Temple Mount:

 The mighty Mosque of Omar, and the paved court around it, occupy a fourth part of Jerusalem. They are upon Mount Moriah, where King Solomon’s Temple stood. This Mosque is the holiest place the Mohammedan knows, outside of Mecca. Up to within a year or two past, no christian could gain admission to it or its court for love or money. But the prohibition has been removed, and we entered freely for bucksheesh (bribe money).

 IMG_2696.jpgThe sealed up Golden Gate

He had this impression of the Golden Gate:

 Close by is the Golden Gate, in the Temple wall–a gate that was an elegant piece of sculpture in the time of the Temple, and is even so yet. From it, in ancient times, the Jewish High Priest turned loose the scapegoat and let him flee to the wilderness and bear away his twelve-month load of the sins of the people. If they were to turn one loose now, he would not get as far as the Garden of Gethsemane, till these miserable vagabonds here would gobble him up, sins and all. They wouldn’t care. Mutton-chops and sin is good enough living for them. The Moslems watch the Golden Gate with a jealous eye, and an anxious one, for they have an honored tradition that when it falls, Islamism will fall and with it the Ottoman Empire. It did not grieve me any to notice that the old gate was getting a little shaky.

IMG_2142.JPGThe mighty Jordan

And after seeing the Jordan River:

“When I was a boy I somehow got the impression that the river Jordan was four thousand miles long and thirty-five miles wide.  It is only ninety miles long, and so crooked that a man does not know which side of it he is on half the time.  In going ninety miles it does not get over more than fifty miles of ground.  It is not any wider than Broadway in New York.”

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The best part about his trip had nothing to do with Israel, per se. That distinction would go to a man in his group of travelers, Charles Langdon, who would become his friend and introduce Twain to his sister Olivia “Livy” Langdon…and she would become his wife in 1870, Mrs. Olivia Langdon Clemens.

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