I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily … (Hosea 14.5)
“The Asclepion is a place where people came to be healed of their diseases and the complex included temples, dining rooms, bathing facilities, dormitories, and other structures. Asklepios was actually a deified Greek physician and the symbol of Asklepios is an entwined snake (the same as the modern medical symbol).”
* “A town dating back more than 2,000 years has been discovered on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, in Israel’s Ginosar valley. The ancient town may be Dalmanutha (also spelled Dalmanoutha), described in the Gospel of Mark as the place Jesus sailed to after miraculously feeding 4,000 people by multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread, said Ken Dark, of the University of Reading in the U.K., whose team discovered the town during a field survey. The archaeologists also determined that a famous boat, dating to around 2,000 years ago, and uncovered in 1986, was found on the shoreline of the newly discovered town. The boat was reported on two decades ago but the discovery of the town provides new information on what lay close to it.”
* “The location of Dalmanutha has been debated for a long time.”
Holy Land travel & ministers: Why You Should Send Your Pastor to Israel [amen!]
“To be sure, many truths in Scripture we have to accept by faith. But the lands of the Bible are still there to see. The places where Jesus walked, taught, and healed haven’t moved—nor are they inaccessible. They stand ready to offer a greater understanding of and love for the Word of God.”
Magdala & synagogues: First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?
“The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls. There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50. A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city. If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!”
Near the top of Tel Jaffa (Joppa; Yafo) in Abrasha Park there is a modern sculpture known as the Statue of Faith. Beautiful carvings adorn it, but it’s location and shape are meant to convey as much as the engraving.
In OT times, Jaffa was Israel’s only port of any size. Consequently, it was the way for many people and products into, and from, the rest of Israel by means of the sea. On land, ancient cities were often walled and the city gate, this statue assuming the shape of the frame for such a gate, was the entry and exit point for such.
The huge, solid pillars, each being four meters in length, speak of strength. And the carvings depict the strength of faith in the mighty, acting God of Israel. The carvings in the pillar on the right in this photo represent Abraham and his binding Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22; notice the ram at the base of the pillar). The engravings on the pillar on the left portrays Jacob’s dream of the ladder to heaven (Genesis 28). And the cross-piece on top, the lintel, depicts the conquering of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 6). God’s promise first made to Abraham flowed through Isaac, and Jacob, and began to be realized through Joshua.
Aliens, hospitality & immigration: True Biblical Hospitality: Loving Immigrants, Strangers, and Enemies [required reading]
“… what does it actually mean to show hospitality? This is where things really get interesting: in English, we typically understand hospitality as a willingness to host, feed, and entertain a guest … something we all do and especially with our personal friends. However, what if the biblical term has a much deeper (and more difficult) meaning?”
Astronomy, awe, creation, earth & space: A Glimpse of Earth, Shining Brightly, From Very, Very Far Away
“[This] … picture … from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. On July 19, at a distance of 1.4 billion kilometers (900 million miles) from Earth, it took [this] … image. … Cassini was on the far side of Saturn, looking back toward the inner solar system.”
Atonement: At-One-Ment by Edward Fudge [required reading]
“We recently ended an assortment of twelve gracEmails, in which we explored the atonement made by Jesus Christ and the way American evangelicals have limited their conception of it almost exclusively to the penal substitutionary atonement theory to the neglect of other theories that are equally Bible-based. Now you can see all twelve of these in one location.”
Budget, economics, finances, income & money: Family Budget Calculator
“EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard by estimating community-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. The budgets, updated for 2013, are calculated for 615 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children).
“As compared with official poverty thresholds such as the federal poverty line and Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets offer a higher degree of geographic customization and provide a more accurate measure of economic security. In all cases, they show families need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by.”
Competition: Should There Be Competition in Sunday School?
“When we ingrain a competitive spirit into faith – a culture of public shame and reward – is it any wonder we end up with some really faith damaged adults?”
Humility: In Humility Hold Others Above Yourself [essential reading]
“When it comes to humility I think a lot of Christians tend to work with the wrong idea. The idea that many seem to have is that humility involves thinking less about yourself, to have a negative or even morbid self-concept. … Humility is less about thinking other people are ‘better’ or ‘more important’ than you are. Humility isn’t about a morbid ego or a low self-esteem. Humility is, rather, a form of honoring and care-taking. Humility is lifting up (hyperecho) the concerns of others, placing them above and ahead of your own.”
Old Testament: And the Main Point of the Entire Old Testament is …
“I was taught in seminary and graduate school, as were many others of my generation and several before that, that the OT doesn’t have ‘a’ central point–there’s no central concept around which you can organize the OT. The OT is too diverse for that sort of thing. As soon as you find a theme that seems to work, it either doesn’t (e.g., covenant) or it’s too broad to be of much use (e.g., God).
“I agree, but some themes are right there in your face, more than others, and one of them is getting higher and higher on my top 10 list: land.
“That may sound off a bit boring–maybe even not terribly spiritual–but land is a major idea the Bible keeps on the front burner. Actually, I may even be understating things bit. The promise to receive land, getting it, how to hold on to it, losing it and getting it back, and how not to lost it again. I’ve just described the main storyline of the OT.”
“… Addis has traveled and photographed squatter communities in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; Lima, Peru; Mexico City; Mumbai, India; Cairo; and Dhaka, Bangladesh.”
Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird— no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! (Hosea 9.11)
Bible maps & Israel: Touring Israel in Google Street View [very cool!]
“Google has rolled out a rather substantial Street View update this morning, covering hundreds of towns in Israel and updating various other cities across the world. Some of the highlights include the Sea of Galilee, the Western Wall …”
Capitalism, government, Jesus & socialism: Jesus, Socialism, and Capitalism by James F. McGrath
“… Jesus said nothing about implementing any Christian principles in government, unless one includes the future Kingdom of God he envisaged as involving ‘government.’”
Confession, pride, repentance & sin: Four Things Christians Can Learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle by Ed Stetzer
“The rise and fall of Lance Armstrong should serve as a reminder for us all as to how easy it is for us to allow sin to destroy all that we have. The patterns evident in this story are not new.”
E-mail forwards: 3 Steps to Polite, Secure Email by Kim Komando
“I love my sister to death, but not when it comes to email. Every day when she gets off of work, I know I’m going to see a few dozen messages sent to me and everyone else she knows about some scam or some weird picture of a dog. Plus, my email address is visible to people I don’t even know. I hate to be mean to her, but I’d really like her to stop sending so many and so publicly! How should I break it to her?”
Gambling: I’m Losing Money. So Why Do I Feel So Good? by Randall Stross
“… Jon E. Grant, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, says … ‘The gambling problems of the people who are coming in for treatment, or who we see in our research, appear to be more severe than they were 10 or 15 years ago’ … and the popularity of multi-line slot machines is one reason. Addiction specialists are concerned that the near-wins and false wins served up by digital gambling technology set off the same reward mechanism in the brain that is activated by actually winning a game.”
God, love & power: God is Love, Not Control by Mark Love [required reading]
“… when we say that God is in control, I think what that should mean to us is that there is nothing that can happen to us outside of God’s love for us. Neither famine, or nakedness, or sword. Not even death itself can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. And this love is not just God’s good feelings toward us. It is not primarily sentiment, but power. God puts this love to work in us, pouring it into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that no matter what our life’s circumstances are,we find our condition changed, our life transformed, our world more hospitable.
“And this allows us, I think, to picture God more faithfully when disaster does strike. Our picture of God in these moments should be less as the cause and more as the one who grieves with us, the one who bears our suffering, the one who will not let us go no matter what. This we can speak of confidently.”
Gold: A Rumble in the Jungle
“It is estimated that up to a fourth of global gold production now originates not from licensed, regulated and monitored mines, but from often illegal, unregulated artisanal, or informal, mines … “
Marriage & missionaries: Cinderella Lied by Dan Bouchelle [required reading]
“‘And they lived happily-ever-after.’ I don’t know whether to say ‘aaaawwww’ or throw up. Depends on how much pain I’ve been listening to lately. So, here is the true end of Cinderella …”
Spiritual growth & maturity: Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 4, What are the Instruments of Good Works? by Richard Beck
“What does spiritual growth and maturity look like? What’s on the syllabus of this spiritual education?”
Capitalism & the common good: Capitalism & the Common Good by Tim Gombis
“If humanity’s end is enjoying God and enjoying God’s blessing along with others, is capitalism an inherent threat to God’s aims for humanity?”
Celebrities & faith: Celebrities Can’t Save! Linsanity? Koo-sanity? Tebow-sanity? etc.? by Sam Tsang
“In my 49 years of life on this earth and having been raised as a Christian, I can honestly say that many celebrities have been propped up too early. Some have done well simply because they were not new converts, and have merely carried on living out their faith even after they became famous. Many new convert celebrities had been welcomed ‘all-access’ into many pulpits just because of their status. When they mess up, people make excuses simply because they are celebrities. No one wants to see a hero (i.e. idol?) being propped up only to stumble and fall. According one blogger, if the same standard is applied to all baby Christians, the church would have been filled with heresies by now. The problem is deeper than the mere fall of a celebrity.”
Facebook: Be Careful What You ‘Like’
“… what if your friends didn’t actually like the page? What if a page shows up as liked by you and you didn’t like it. What if that page supports ideas diametrically opposed to what you believe? What then? … Facebook denies that they’re doing it and they want it to stop. It’s terrible for their business model if fake-likes are being generated because they can’t give consistent ad statistics to potential advertisers which undermines the value of any advertisement. But people are still phantom-liking pages that they’ve never clicked on, never seen, and sometimes can’t even read. So, what’s happening.”
Faith, reason & unbelief: Does the Universe Have a Purpose? [2 min., 34 sec. video clip]
“Here’s an interesting animated video from Neil deGrasse Tyson on whether the universe has a purpose. Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. But it’s still a creative way of presenting an argument for why an atheist like Tyson thinks that religious arguments for a purposeful universe are unconvincing at best. Check it out and let us know what you think.”
Infographics: Create Your Own Infographics by Jeremy Smith
“You may have wondered how people make their infographics. Yes, most of them are done in some expensive image editing software and with a company that has a designer with their $120,000 art degree. But, if you are on a cheaper budget than that, we have some alternatives for you.”
Politics & wildlife: Introducing Fallow Deer
“Persian fallow deer (Dama Mesopotamica) native to Israel from Biblical times were hunted to extinction in the early 1900s. The fallow deer is mentioned among the eight other kosher mammals listed in Deuteronomy 14:4-5 … Only the gazelle and ibex remained in Israel by the 1960s. …
“… General Avraham Yoffe … had the idea to resettle fallow deer in Israel so he began courting high-ranking Iranian officials. He invited the Shah’s brother Prince Abdol Reza Pahlavi, an avid hunter, to Israel’s Negev desert to hunt the rare Nubian ibex. Months later, he arranged a second hunting trip for another senior Iranian wildlife official, Rashid Jamsheed, who bagged an ibex with 53-inch horns, the world record to this day. It is against the law to hunt ibex but special permission was granted in this case by then Minister of Agriculture, Ariel Sharon (an Israeli army general who became an important politician). In 1978, with the stirrings of the Iranian Revolution, the prince agreed to give Israel four fallow deer. …
“… Dutch zoologist Dr. Van Grevenbroek who was in charge of the project arrived from Israel to capture four deer. He was armed with a blow-dart gun disguised as a cane. …”
Thinking: The Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Roger E. Olson
“Every great prophet of social reform has been a negative thinker—at least some of the time and about some things.”