Some of you are aware of this already, but I wanted to let others know that I am on my way to the Middle East to travel with what is called the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS). It is a three week trip where I will travel with seminarians from other schools to travel throughout the Middle East, visiting archaeological sites and exchanging ideas regarding the church, the Bible, and Christianity. I feel extremely blessed to be able to be on this trip and plan on blogging about my time over the next few weeks. I don’t think I’ll be able to post pictures, but if I can, I will.

We leave tonight for Damascus – one of the oldest cities in the world. Rich with biblical significance, this will be an opportunity to see and smell the city.

My prayer is that I will grow in my understanding the biblical story so as to help the people God entrusts to my care as a pastor. Please pray for my wife and me as we will be apart for these three weeks. We thought we got all our crying out on Friday night, but found we had more tears on Saturday morning when I flew out to ATL for briefing time. Please pray we would love Jesus more, trust him more, and grow stronger in our marriage and devotion to God.

One thought I want to share already is the fact that although it is beneficial to visit the biblical sites, the New Covenant floors us with the truth that the temple of God dwells in those who have built there life on the chief cornerstone – Jesus Christ. He holds us together by the word of his power. While I will definitely be blessed with my time with others and seeing the sites, as a Christian pilgrimmage is no longer “necessary” in the sense that it is a discipline we must complete. This is the beauty of the fact that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us – “tabernacling” among us. We rejoice in the fact that the Temple is now the people of God. Wherever they go, they take the sweet fragrance of Christ with them. Pilgrimmage is not a spiritual discipline. Yes, it is a blessing to visit. But tranfers of grace do not accumulate in my storehouse of faith. I may touch the Wailing Wall, and may even pray there. But God will not hear my prayers any better there than he did this morning when I was eating breakfast in the hotel.

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This post has 8 Comments

  1. Going on a journey like a pilgrimage is much like fasting. At least, back in the olden days, it was a DIFFICULT thing to go on a pilgrimage. And just as God tends to be that little more attentive to those who have fasting (see book of Jonah), sure God will be a little more attentive to someone who has gone through the difficulties to a pilgrimage.

    Anyway, I get your point, but I don’t think you should completely downplay the spiritual value of a pilgrimage. Besides, you shouldn’t you shouldn’t be talking and eating at the same time, you know :)

    Enjoy the trip, and be sure to keep all us bloggers in your prayers.

  2. This is Joel,

    Have a great time man; I’ll be praying for you and I can’t wait to hear how your trip was!

  3. I just read that Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Sounds like an awesome trip. There’s is still a Straight Street there, which is where God directed Paul to find the house of Judas in Acts 9:10-12.

  4. Damascus is also the city where Abram beat the stuffing out of those kings of the East. He beat them all the way to Damascus and they ran home with their tails between their legs. (Just read that last night).

  5. Blessings on your trip Matt. May your understanding of the Scriptures and the world they were produced in grow so that you can continue to point people to Jesus.

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"My Enemies are Men Like Me": A Dialogue

This is probably the song that set men against Webb’s political push through song. The tune itself is slow and contemplative – a good fit for the song. By virtue of this, the words are that much more poignant and bruising. In light of the wars in the Middle East – in which the United States is the scapegoat by all those who oppose war, this song hits hard.
I have been thinking about our position in the Middle East – as pertains to war. In so many ways the wars in the Middle East are like hog-tying. We know there is an objective – stop the terrorists. Yet, how do we define the terrorists? What is more how does a nation differ from the mandate to forgive your enemies?

(vs. 1)
i have come to give you life
and to show you how to live it
i have come to make things right
to heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

because i would rather die
i would rather die
i would rather die
than to take your life

Not much to say here other than the bitter irony of the cross. Jesus came to give us a more abundant life by being slain at the hands of Roman soldiers. The abundance does not come by way of Lexus or gold. The benefits rendered by the Cross would be diminished if they were equated with such paltry wealth. The blood of Jesus is trampled upon by men like Creflo Dollar and cronies who make the Christian life a parade of materialism rather than a procession of death (2Cor 2.14-16).

Let it be said that the Christian life is much more than majority evangelicalism in the United States lives. It is more than being good throughout the week – if good is defined by avoiding sin merely. The Christian life is going out to the highways and by-ways and compelling the drunkards and prostitutes to come to the banquet spread for them – though they have done nothing to deserve it. It is realizing that we are not the physicians. We, indeed, are sick men who must have an intravenous supply of Christ welling up in our hearts through his Holy Spirit. Broken vessels we are. Fragile clay pots.

What is more…a Christian realizes that God has every right to take his life. He is not his own. Not only did God have every right to smite us with sickness – due to our rebellion. But also, God continues to bear that right since we were bought at a price. Those who belong to Jesus realize that he died in our place. On the cross, our sin was crucifixed with/in him.

how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me

As Christians we must protest the sword if it is not wielded well. The Lenin-Soviet Union, Hitler’s Reich, Mao’s Massacres. Yet, the sword is still in the hands of the government. When Jesus commanded his disciples to turn their cheeks, he was speaking of forgiveness – not a literal turning and invitation to smite again. Jesus himself did not offer the other cheek in such a staunch interpretation. He rebuked the one who slapped him: “Why did you hit me?” He had done nothing wrong. We must forgive. How? More on that in another post (I want to write another post that explains how and upon what basis Christians forgive).

We are to kill the ones we are supposed to love when they kill. That is, I don’t kill by my own vigilante justice. Rather, the governing bodies above me dictate where justice should be meted out. This is due to sin that reigns in men’s bodies. God has given us institutions like government as a gift of common grace to guard from hell-ward justice.

(vs. 2)
peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

Not exactly. Peace is brought about when injustice is squashed. The wars we see are foretastes and foreshadowings of the final battle that will cleanse the earth of sin and distribute perfect justice. True righteousness will only reign when God’s enemies are decisively put underneath King Jesus’ feet. In other words, without men being given justice in this life we can expect no peace.

Imagine, if you will, the Hussein brothers being asked to stop raping and torturing women. Ridiculous! They were representations of evil in this world. The only way to bring about beauty is by wiping off the filth.

when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

This is sadly more true than I would like to believe. Economically speaking, the rich get richer. Venture capitalists and middle class Americans who love cheap gas are the ones who love to hear of wars and rumors of war.

This is why the church must be more than a country club. If it is true that the poor get poorer. The church must come alongside these poor and show them how to make ends meet. If we are the church constituted by the Lord Jesus, and evidenced in the book of Acts, we will share with all those who have need.

May God grant us the grace to live life like Christ…

Friday Foto

East & West

Taken in Lebanon this summer.

Photos of a Temple to Ba'al

While on my trip to the Middle East, we went to Ba’albek, Lebanon. This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world. It is a massive center with three temples: Ba’al (converted to a temple to Jupiter after the Romans took control of the area), Bacchus (Phoenician god of fertility), and Venus. Check out my photos of this site here. Also peruse the other albums as I added more photos to them (since they pertain to those respective subjects). You can also subscribe to my flickr account to see when I update it. I spent a little more time making comments on the photos in hopes that it will help with your study of archaeology and biblical history. For more information go to this site.