Caesarea—A Place for Entertainment, Evangelism, and Education

People had money to burn in Caesarea.

As one of the largest seaports on the eastern Mediterranean—and located along the International highway—Caesarea enjoyed a constant flow of people and commerce.

Caesarea—A Place for Entertainment, Evangelism, and Education

(Photo: The theater in Caesarea)

The bustling seaport featured all the usual touches of Roman culture—including a vast entertainment industry for the masses that frequented the city.

This hub of transportation became the means by which people received more than a good show.

They received good news.

A Land Without Absolute Truth

I read an article that surveyed what adults rank as the most important thing they learned from their father. A few mentioned skills, like how to change a tire, or drive a car, or play sports. Saving money ranked even higher.

(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)

But the highest category adults ranked? Their father taught them to tell the truth.

That’s great. But these days, what is truth?

Avoiding Spiritual Roadkill

I commute to work in the dark hours of the morning. Navigating the twisting country roads on my way to the highway, my headlights are the only illumination. But I always have to watch out for critters that get frightened by my lights. I see lots of roadkill. (Unlike some, I don’t pray over them.)

(Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/proimos, via Creative Commons)

More than once I have slowed to a stop for deer to scramble over adjacent fences, or a family of raccoons to cross single file, or numerous rabbits, skunks, squirrels, cats, and dogs. (I never slow down for snakes.) One morning, a buck with a multi-pointed rack just stood still and stared me down as I inched by. No movement. No fear. Amazing.

And then there are possums. Oh, dear.

Our Desires and Our Duty

Ascension Day on Thursday is a good time to remember why the disciples didn’t ascend with Jesus . . . but were left on Earth.
In fact, why don’t we just ascend to heaven after we believe in Jesus?
During Christ’s entire ministry, the apostles had as their main concern their own swift entrance into God’s kingdom. 
Granted, the timing made sense now that Easter was over. Now that the prophecies of the suffering of Christ were fulfilled, the promises of the kingdom of God could begin! (Especially those promises about the apostles ruling alongside Jesus.)
However, the Old Testament promised the blessings of the Kingdom to more than just the apostles and the believing Jews. “All the nations will be blessed in you,” the Lord assured Abraham (Gal. 3:8).
So, Christ realigned their priorities, telling them, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know” (Acts 1:7, NLT). Okay . . . so what ARE we to know—and to do?
Jesus’ final words to His Church—“be my witnesses”—came as a commission outlined by geographical parameters. The book of Acts reveals how the Holy Spirit used the Church to spread the gospel message successively: in Jerusalem (see Acts 1:1–6:7), throughout Judea and in Samaria (Acts 6:8–9:31), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 9:32–28:31).
Like ripples in a pond, the good news went out . . . but the splash began in Jerusalem.
Just like the apostles, we can quickly crave the blessings of our own lives without considering the condition of others.

Could Christ be waiting for us to share with a certain person before He comes?

How would we have felt if other believers had asked Christ to come just prior to our conversion? 

Preach the gospel every day; if necessary, use words. —Francis of Assisi

 Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), page 115. Used by permission. Images courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

Arrival in Israel!

We arrived yesterday in Israel for IFL’s 2010 tour of the Holy Land.

We spent most of the day trying to recover from the dizzying fog of jet-lag. Home is eight time zones away! And yet, something about coming to Israel provides a rush of adrenaline that makes sleep secondary to all we get to see.

Something that helped clear our jetlag was wading in the cool Mediterranean Sea along the coast of Tel Aviv. Cathy and I took a walk on the beach and meandered down to ancient Joppa.

Joppa was Israel’s primary Old Testament port, and it always makes me think of the reluctant prophet, Jonah. Remember him?

Jonah had no desire for God to forgive the wicked Assyria. So when the Lord told him to preach in Assyria, he took a ship from Joppa bound for Spain—the opposite direction of God’s will! In the furious storm that followed, Jonah found himself in the belly of a great fish, finally confessing, “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). (Of course, Jonah meant his salvation, not the Assyrians’.)

The fish hurled Jonah onto dry land. Again the Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh in Assyria, and this time Jonah obeyed. He preached, Nineveh repented, and what Jonah feared, happened . . . God forgave them.

As Jonah later pouted in the sun, watching what would happen to the city, the Lord provided a plant for shade. And for the first time in the book, Jonah smiled. But then God sent a worm to eat the plant! When the heat hit Jonah’s head, he became faint and begged God to take his life.

How often do we feel life isn’t fair or, worse, that God has let us down because He runs the universe differently than we would? We become more concerned with trifles such as shade trees than with people made in God’s image. Our grumblings only betray that we’re running in a direction opposite from God.

In His grace, God appointed the fish, the plant, the worm and the wind . . . all to get Jonah to change. I can’t help but wonder: what creature comforts will God remove from our lives to reveal an inordinate preoccupation with self?

Tomorrow, we head north and follow the path Peter took . . . from Joppa to Caesarea.

Want to see video of our trip each day, starting tomorrow? Subscribe to IFL’s Video blog.

I’m Headed to Israel!

In just a few days, I’ll take my seventh trip to Israel.

After going again and again so many times, I have to be honest . . . it never gets old.

Why? Because seeing the places where biblical events occurred helps me understand the words of Scripture like little else can. Frankly, I have spent hundreds of hours studying the original languages of the Bible, but nothing has broadened my understanding of the Word of God more than studying and experiencing the places where Scripture occurred.

For many who will join us on our tour with Insight for Living, this tour will be their first to Israel. What a treasure awaits them!

My request of you? Please pray for us. Specifically, for:

  • Good health and adequate rest
  • Safe travel . . . alert bus drivers . . . agreeable Israeli guides
  • Excellent weather
  • Opportunities to share Christ with those who may not know Him
  • God’s grace for Chuck Swindoll as well as for those of us who will be teaching at various sites. (I’ll be serving as the Bible teacher on Bus 4—the “Green Bus.” Our busses all have color names in addition to numbers.)

In addition to following the daily posts on my blog, you can also subscribe to Insight for Living’s Video Blog. There you will see video from each day’s touring . . . as well as candid interviews and photos of folks taking the journey with us.

Shalom . . . and thank you for praying! 

Israel Filming Trip Report


I just returned from a wonderful—but fast!—few days of filming in Israel. Thank you very much for your prayers! They really made a difference, because God answered so many of them! For the most part, we had good health and adequate rest, safe travel and an alert driver, no technical glitches with cameras, microphones, etc., excellent weather—no high winds or rain, good access to the locations where we need to film, quick minds and ability to remember our scripts, creativity, openness to God’s leading and redirecting, and finally, opportunities to share with others.

The opportunity to share came unexpectedly. We had just filmed a segment at the City of David and we were about leave. A man with an Irish accept approached me and asked, “What are you filming?” He introduced himself as a journalist and raised his handheld video camera for my answer. What an opportunity! I answered that we were in the City of David to film where David looked on Bathsheba and sinned, and later David wrote Psalm 51 where he asked for forgiveness through a sacrifice. That ultimate sacrifice came through Jesus who died for our sins and promised that whoever believes on Him would have forgiveness. He filmed the whole thing!

Other than the privilege of sharing, the greatest experience was seeing Israel in spring—SO green and beautiful!

Thank you again for your prayers and for your part in what God will do in the production of the video we shot—and the lives that God will change as a result.
_____________

Prayer in Evangelism – My Interview on Campus Crusade

Listen as I discuss the subject of prayer in evangelism on Campus Crusade for Christ’s radio program, Lighthouse Report.

Lighthouse Report

Listen here:

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From Lighthouse Report:

A good salesperson knows that you never presuppose a customer’s response. Now relate that to witnessing. Do you presuppose someone’s response to the Gospel? Never, ever, doubt what God can do in an unbeliever’s life. Wayne Stiles addresses this on today’s Lighthouse Report.

Want to find the station where Lighthouse Report broadcasts in your area? Go here.

The Ever-Ready Message [Podcast]

1 Peter 3:13-22

If Christ is set apart as absolute Lord of our hearts, then we should be ready at any moment to give a reason for the hope of heaven. And once that reason is given, our good conscience and behavior—regardless of our suffering—should match the message we share. Christ exemplified this behavior of readiness amidst unjust suffering—even going so far as to proclaim, after His death, a message of victory to the damned.

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He Loves Me Not [Podcast]

1 Peter 3:1-6

Just as all believers are to submit to proper authority—even when it’s unjust—so that principle extends to the home. Peter offers practical advice to wives of unbelieving husbands, as to how excellent behavior can also be a tool through which God works on a husband’s heart.  Peter also gives comfort to the weary woman who struggles with a husband who doesn’t love her.

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