You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2014.

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For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, it is not a matter of what we know.  Rather it is more important that we know what we believe.  What we believe is not a matter of what we say.  Rather, we live what we believe.

This book series “Real Life” is about our daily living.  When we embrace and express our faith in our Savior, we live differently.  The Holy Spirit makes it possible to live each day differently because of what we believe to be true.

This volume Always Hope is about living each day after the bottom falls out from underneath us.  No one like tough times.  Trials are not our choice.  But, they happen in all of our lives.

When they come, each day keeps on coming, one after the next. They do not slow down or stop or disappear.  How we live those days when trouble has slammed into our lives is what this volume relives.

I was hurt by others and difficult circumstances.  Each day I got up and struggled through the subsequent days.  By God’s wonderful grace and the love of His finest, I kept getting up, day after day.

If you read this book and the words inside cause you to smile, laugh, hope or reflect on good things, then it was worth the effort it took to write it.  May your hope forever be a part of your new days to come.

It is available on Kindle for all e-book readers.  Or you may order a hard copy from http://www.createspace.com/4190780. Thank you and enjoy your reading!

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Israel 2014 IFL 159Nearly every site that I have visited in Israel over the four privileged trips that I have enjoyed, my soul relishes in the memory of being on the Sea of Galilee.  It is really not a Sea since it is fresh water.  The name Lake Tiberias is its modern designation.

This body of water is 13 miles long, from North to South.  It is 8 miles wide, from East to West.  This site of many miraculous and spiritually rich events is at times over 700 feet below sea level.  At that depth it is the lowest fresh water lake in the world, second only to the Dead Sea, which is a saltwater lake.

Everyone looks when they get the first glimpse of the Lake.  All of begin to pick out stories that stand out in our minds about the life of the Savior who walked these shores and sailed on these waters.  Jesus taught so many special lessons to His disciples while on a boat during good weather but when the famous storms of the Sea engulfed their sailing vessel.

Our guides directed us to the dock.  There nine boats awaited us.  Some of the boats could carry as many as 200 Israel 2014 IFL 179guests.  Others were limited to 100 guests.

All of the vessels looked like what we imagined ancient ships would have been in Jesus’ day.  The sailors were cheerful friendly and looked like they knew how to embark on a voyage.  In modern Hebrew they shouted out orders and reported lines being cast off.

The engine started and we were off motoring our way out to the middle of the Lake.  In the center of this armada of ships was the largest, the lead boat.  It arrived some where in the middle of the waters and the other boats closed in, tied up and before long we were a single floating flotilla.

Israel 2014 IFL 180There on this historic seascape we had a worship service.  Chuck Swindoll challenged us to consider all of the sorrows in our lives that we have had a difficult time letting go.  It is that episode, that person, that trial or that betrayal from or past.

Each of us had a rock that we had brought on board.  He asked us to pull out that stone.  Then, we were to personalize that weight with our past pain.  He gave us time to pray and then when we were ready we each dropped our rock overboard to be forever at the bottom of this special lake.  My rock lies at the bottom of that Lake and I am glad it is there.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3489The build up to the most important event in the Christian calendar is nothing less than mind-blowing.  Months before Easter Sunday arrives, followers of the Savior plan, rehearse, organize, design, administrate and delegate.  Colors, music, printing, rehearsals, meetings, construction, purchasing, distribution are just a few of the activities that blend into a blur of fast-paced dust-creating calendar-filling moments in the fellowship of Christians around the world.

Do not let the flurry of busyness fool you.  Easter is far more than a single event.  This historic life-changing episode is more than just one more day on the calendar.

There are holidays and then there are holidays.  Sometimes we get a day off from work.  Schools shut down to give students a break and families time to connect.

Routines are interrupted to recognize a day in history, lives that sacrificed themselves for others or a ritual for our culture.  All of those occasions are wonderful.  They give us a chance to enjoy those closest to us and reflect on what is most important in life.

Easter stands above these calendar highlights.  This occasion is more than a reason to party.  The celebration will never be overshadowed by colorful eggs, rabbits or marshmallow chickens.

All those extra trappings are fun.  I have enjoyed a tasty treat or laughed at the discovery of a plastic egg filled with treats or given a solid chocolate rabbit to a very grateful child.  Yet, these happy moments lift the real reason for this special day.

Jesus rose again from the grave on Easter.  Three days after He died for the sins of the world, He rose.  His Resurrected life made it possible for all of us to put our faith in Him, have our sins forgiven and inherit eternal life forever.

This truth is more than a memory of a historic moment.  It is instead the memory of a new beginning available to all.  His grace made possible for every human being on the earth.

This great news crystallized when Jesus was Resurrected.  It is His Resurrection that is at the heart of the Gospel.  That is why Easter is more than a single day that is celebrated.

Are you enjoying the days until you can enter into eternity through Jesus’ righteousness?  It is not a matter of being good enough or not that bad.  Rather, it is a recognition that the impossibility of being holy or righteous are made possible because Jesus is our substitute.

He did it all and we benefit from His sacrifice through faith in Him.  Believe and enjoy not just a day but an eternity.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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Everyday the sun comes up, moves across the sky and then sets in the West.  It makes this same repeated journey every 24 hours and does so right on time.  Life follows the rising and the setting of the sun.  When we are joyful or grief stricken, the pattern or every new day is relentless.  Keep up with the dawning of every new day.  When the days keep coming live each one with all of the enthusiasm that you can pour into your responsibilities, your routine and your daily regimen.

Maybe you are reflecting over your life.  The years ahead are fewer than the years behind.  Use your past as new skills to meet the future days that are coming your way.  Rise up and live with a greater fervor.  Determine to pass on your knowledge to the next generation. Give them a leg up beyond just what we can do humanly.

Now, see that faith is at the center of life.  Choose faith as your great asset to make each new day a day that will be a part of your forever.  It is a choice that each of us can make.

Those horrid days are long past, now.  But, the memories are still fresh.  You have a choice.  Will you succumb to bitterness and resentment?  Or will you take life by faith and look for better days ahead.  The best is always yet to come when you make the choice of faith.

Yes, you have been hit hard.  Everyone has.  Get up and get going again.  It is the best way.  Let your past be your wisdom for the future.  Live today with the insight of the past and make today count for your forever.  In the aftermath of trouble, disaster or pain you are better prepared to live better, wiser and with great insight. For today and the rest of your todays, choose faith.

Read more.  Order you copy of Choose Faith from https://createspace.com/4602632

You can also order your e-copy from Kindle.com  Thanks!

photo credit: cover design by brucefong design and photography

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Israel 2014 IFL 153There are many ruins in the Land of Israel today.  Archaeological digs are happening in many parts of this country. Construction by law is stopped when new foundations uncover a potential site that would be of interest to Antiquities.  The leftover relics and broken down buildings are of some interest but the events that took place there are especially fascinating.

Our buses rolled into the very small parking lot for a visit at Capernaum.  This ancient city was the headquarters for  Jesus during His Galilean ministry.  It was also the home of Peter, Jesus’ disciple.

The miracle of the lame man who was lowered through the ceiling took place here.  A foundation of the traditional home of  Peter is marked by the church built over the location.  Wrapping your mind around all of these great events calls for a moment of personal contemplation.

Many of  us who love the Savior are stunned at the archaeological discoveries.  Two synagogues were dug up here.  One was built on top of another.

The color of the foundation stones are different.  Their distinct separation shows the different times when they were inIsrael 2014 IFL 154 use.  Once a location for the synagogue was designated it was rebuilt in the same spot after an earthquake devastated the previous one.

This habit of rebuilding in the same location leads us to conclude that when Jesus was in Capernaum and teaching in the local synagogue, that He did so on the very stones that we were standing during our tour.  This sends shivers down my spine every time I have strolled over that synagogue floor.  Standing where Jesus stood and seeing the town before Him, looking into the  eyes of people searching for spiritual truth and giving them the words of the Father is a treat.

Israel 2014 IFL 155Off in the near easterly direction is the Sea of Galilee.  Up the westerly slopes of  the rising landscape is the site where Jesus likely gave His sermon on the Mount.  Nearby is a possible location of where Jesus fed the 5,000 after multiplying the fish and loaves.

God called me many years ago to speak on His behalf in this world.  He did not call me alone.  Many others answered the call to serve Him as well.

Reviewing that calling here on the synagogue floor where Jesus taught stirs my spirit.  He has captured His Word for all the world in the Scriptures and gives all of us who ministry an extra boost with special visits to remarkable places like Capernaum.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 341

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your sprit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love,
How can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love,
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

Israel 2014 IFL 336

photo credit: brucefong photography

the Garden, where Jesus prayed before He was crucified for our sins

Israel 2014 IFL 125The road sign was a welcome indicator to all of us on the bus. We had entered into the town of Nazareth. This was the home where Joseph and Mary we betrothed in marriage.

In many respects this is the town where so much of our real faith began.  At least it was the beginning of the new beginning.   God’s promise for the redemption of man started in Eden.

Nevertheless, the plan for the reconciliation of man with God required a satisfaction for the sins of man.  This meant that a sacrifice of eternal proportions was needed.  How does one find both perfection for a sacrifice and an actual death of such perfection?

God answers the impossible search by giving His one and only unique Son.  Jesus is born Israel 2014 IFL 129 of a virgin. This simple statement means that a human life begins, then it can die.  At the same time this life is protected from the sin nature with the Holy Spirit overseeing the conception.

For ages this miraculous truth rests in the hearts and convictions of generations of believers.  It is unbelievable yet miraculous.  The redemption story requires this inexplicable historic event.

The right woman to bear this child is Mary.  She is betrothed to the ideal righteous man to be her husband, Joseph.  She is total submissive to God in this divine strategy.  He is totally loyal and loving to Mary to believe the story and assume his role while protecting Mary through the standard social morass of a gossip and whispers.

Israel 2014 IFL 118Today’s modern Nazareth is couched in traffic jams and shops vying for business.  In contrast is a special plot of land set aside to recapture ancient Nazareth.  People herding beasts of burden, in costume locals portraying the craftsmanship of a carpenter’s shop, common workers harvesting olives, weavers working on a loom and others grinding grain.

Here ancient tools, pottery, furniture and buildings transport usIsrael 2014 IFL 142 back when a young couple are arranged for marriage.  They are excited and eagerly looking forward to a future together.  Yet, God finds their life of faith and righteousness ideal for His plan of destiny for the world.

God would send His angel to deliver a message to each of these two individually.  He would bring peace and faith to them so that obedience and courage would emerge from the both and together.  All the world would be forever blessed because of their choice.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 115The remarkable words of Jesus know as the sermon on the mount is a treasure-house of truth, wisdom and comfort.  Followers of the Christ have often meditated on His elocution of these remarkable moments of mediation.  The crowds who heard were large even by modern standards.

Our buses filled the parking lot.  By groups of 40 the pilgrims disembarked.  Each one of us was filled with wonder as we walked the grounds where traditionally Jesus had preached this wonderful sermon.

It was a beautiful sunny day that welcomed our steps on this historic Israel 2014 IFL 097site.  The flowers were in full and radiant bloom.  The scene overlooking the Sea of Galilee was pristine.

Yet, as wonderful as the landscape and sacred church were, it was not the site that stunned us.  It was what occurred here 2000 years ago that mesmerized us.  Our Savior spoke here words that are miraculously preserved in Inspired Scripture for all of us to read.

Israel 2014 IFL 111Steve Green powerfully punctuated our experience with a song that brought to the threshold of worship.  Chuck Swindoll delivered a sermon from the Word that parked us right at the throne of grace.  Each drank in the moment that would forever be in our minds when we revisited that passage in the Gospels again.

Israel 2014 IFL 101On the way out of that worship gathering, I spied a thistle growing out of the rocky ground.  It was in bloom.  Like so many of us as pilgrims living our lives out of ground that wants to challenge every day we awake with heartache and obstacles, life can overcome when we trust in the Savior.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed ar those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute your and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5.3-12

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 079Weaving through the Golan Heights, modern reminders of the ravages of war were common along the side of the road.  Blown out buildings, wreckage of lost armored vehicles and warnings of live mine fields give a sobering reminder that people in this region are at odds with each other.  Cattle seem to oblivious to the barriers that divide fields filled with delicious grazing and others with explosives buried just below the surface of the ground.

Then, our bus catches up with several other modern comfort liners.  We wait our turn to enter into another important Biblical site.  The rain is coming stronger, the wind is blowing a bit stiffer and pilgrims never complain but cinch up their parkas and huddle out to the site right behind our tour guide.

Our Caramel Bus 11 group huddles off the beaten track in a designated seating area.  The head waters of the Jordan River bubble up from a spring and head south to feed into the Sea of Galilee.  Mt. Hermon looms behind us.

Israel 2014 IFL 082This is a sacred site for Christians.  Jesus was here in His day.  He gathered His disciples and asked them a telling question, “Who do people say that I am?”

His disciples give a cross section of popular opinion.  Some believe Jesus is a prophet.  Others think that He is John the Baptist.  Yet, others believe that He is Elijah.

Most important to Jesus is who His disciples believe that He is.  This is when Peter offers his own opinion.  Peter confesses that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus commends Peter, assuring him that His confession was a revelation to him from God the Father.  It was a truth that Peter believed.  This declaration shaped Peter’s life and the lives of believers who came after him.

Knowing that this watershed moment occurred in this place called Caesarea Philippi, gave us all pause.  It is right to wonder if we are living our lives of faith based on convictions of our beliefs.  Too often Christians misunderstand that it is more important to believe than it is to know.

A confession is about what we truly accept as truth.   We understand it and embrace it as conviction.  It shapes our values because it is what we believe.

What do you know about your faith?  Can you distinguish that from what you sincerely believe?  It is not about what you know but far more about what you believe.

photo credit: brucefong photography.

IMG_3434We had a half of a day left in Tel Aviv before our pilgrims arrived for their Once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Holy Land.  My bride and I had heard of an open air market that was just blocks from our hotel.  We were in an adventuresome mood.

With a not-to-scale map in hand, we got general directions from our hotel concierge and set off on a hunt for the open air market.  After a short six block foray we started seeing people coming from a common direction.  Each was carrying a plastic bag filled with produce.

That brought a smile to our faces.  We just went in the opposite direction.  We dodged a few cars, stopped a bus at an intersection and froze as a motorcyclist zoomed around us.  Then, the market came into sight.

The hustle and bustle of people foraging for necessitates and ingredients for the evening meal was fun.  I am not a crowd IMG_3435person but the experience of being in such a lively place pushed aside my inhibitions.  We clasped our hands tightly together and got jostled about and found ourselves having to step out of the flow to get a flavor of modern Israel.

A huge display of Turkish Delight made us smile.  Surely, the Chronicles of Narnia popped into our heads.  The powdered sugar jelly morsels made my mouth water.

Just ahead a brilliant display of baklava gave us more reason to salivate.  The honey aroma filled the market place.  That was
a temptation.

IMG_3436My attention was arrested again with the sight that is not common back home.  Fresh and smoked fish lay on open display for shoppers.  Fish farming is a huge success in Israel.  This selection had my jaw on the floor.

Food is a big attraction in this market place. Of course it is why people come.  Vendors hope to sell their foods to those who come here by the thousands.

But it is the crowds that ultimately fill my mind.  People are not bothered by the throngs.  Instead, they are focused.  A list is in their minds.

They are limited in what they purchase.  Most are walking, travel by bus or have a bicycle.  A big box store does not exist IMG_3433here. What someone can carry is common among the shoppers.

Bartering is going on all over the place.  Not only do people only buy what they need, no one wants to pay more than they have to in order to fill their shopping bags. Quality and bargain prices trumps quantity that will always be purchased tomorrow.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

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