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Joshua 23
Part 1 of 6

There are humorous words spoken by people trying to make a career in business. Mistakenly, they were not prophets and guessed wrong on the future of their field. Those in the world of science, technology and music all let words fly. Later, they would likely have preferred not to be remembered by those attempts at prophecy.

The chairman of a major technology company estimated, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
The President of a major digital equipment company in 1977 declared, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
A memo in a major communications company in 1876 concluded, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
An Ivy League professor in management responded to a paper by Fred Smith, eventual founder of FedEx, on a reliable overnight delivery service, “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”
A major recording studio rejected a contract with the Beatles in 1962 concluding, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

More remarkable are the words of important leaders who speak memorable words. Joshua’s words are memorable and are captured in the last two chapters of the book bearing his name. Chapter 23 records the words Joshua speaks to Israel’s leaders. Chapter 24 records the similar words Joshua speaks to the people in general.
More later…

Disney World 2014 084Some people imagine Disney World with animation.  Characters that have made Disney famous dance in the minds of those who try to capture the breadth of this theme park.  No doubt everyone has their favorite character or two.

Others zero in on the radiant castle that Tinkerbell flies around as the Disney Marquee.  It is certainly stunning in appearance.  Walking among its many rooms and photographing its majestic towers is unforgettable.

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Colorful buildings of cultural vintage and ethnic flair mark the grounds that envelope us for our dream vacation.  Epcot is unforgettable and the geodesic globe stands out as a hallmark feature of the park.  Everyone is included in this magical world.

Flowers are stunning.  Landscapers must be full-time and constantly planning the next season’s combination of colors, textures, heights and dimensions.  Trees, shrubs, lawns and blooms make up this critical piece of the Disney motif.

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Nevertheless, do not forget the water.  As blue as the canopy of skies overhead, the water ways, lakes, ponds and waterfalls are front and center of Disney World.  No matter where we turned or planned our day, water had to be crossed by bridges, boats or overhead trams.

Bodies of water are picturesque.  They reflect the beauty of vast blues and sparkling lights.  Inside of key exhibits there are massive tanks of water that are the homes of magnificent sea creatures, both large and small.

The reflection off of the surface of these waters adds to the wonder of this magical kingdom.  A steady wake from our water taxi makes our hotel begin to shimmer in the morning daylight.  When the sun sets, the reflection turns into something spectacular.Disney World 2014 128

Those who plan these water features must have a lot of fun dreaming about what could be done.  Ideas must rush from their planning and dreaming sessions like a geyser on overload.   Water must be placed in its location first or at least steer the conversation of how these parks are organized, planned and laid out.

Guests are guided along trails that submit to the restrictions of these planned walkways.  Bridges are engineered to make the 100,000 walkers connect with the water.  They pass over waterways without getting wet or slowing down.

Posing together for unforgettable memories are mighty trees, splendid buildings and resplendent colors.  Together they bond together for happy moments for countless people.  Yet, the water is almost always there.  Add water and there is life, beauty and splendor.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

Disney World 2014 078Disney World is a special treat in and of itself.  We dreamed of visiting this theme park for years.  The savings started years ago to make our dream a reality.

Finally, we booked the tickets, set aside the vacation days and anticipated the vacation.  I emailed our travel agent countless times building this dream trip for our simple lives.  Planning the trip was a big part of the excitement.

In that planning stage I was introduced to the the Disney website.  One of the features on the site was ordering a welcome gift that would be delivered to your room.  It would be my secret for my bride.

Scrolling through the options was like most online options.  You could buy a gold plated Rolls Royce with a Mickey Mouse hood ornament or a candy bar with a Donald Duck sticker on it.  The range was limitless.

Winnie the Pooh caught my eye.   It was in the price range that I could afford but more importantly, my bride likes these cute little characters.  Furthermore, the gift came with a number of balloons and we could deflate them when it was time to board our airplane home.

The agent on the telephone was so friendly.  She was careful to get all of the details and rehearsed the delivery date and location.  I was looking forward to the surprise when it welcomed my bride to our dream vacation.

When we walked into our room after a night out with great friends, the welcome gift was sitting on the side table.  All of the balloons were inflated and dancing in the air conditioning breeze.  Pooh topped the piece with his indomitable smile and cheery eyes.

On another helium floater, Pooh is hugging little Piglet.  The first balloon was terrific.  Both Tigger and Pooh are trying to squeeze some joy into Eeyore.  It is a lost cause but their efforts are part of the cheer.

My bride not only liked it, she loved it!  She sat for posed pictures with this special addition to our journey.  Through the night and several days after she smiled at the pictures of her bouquet and thanked me long after the first presentation.

Simple gifts filled with color and unexpected but attached to inner delights sure make great memories.   I had the job of deflating the balloons on our last day in Orlando.  Once flattened my bride took over to fold each balloon neatly into a package for transport home and into our world of nostalgia for years of reliving.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Disney World 2014 071Everyone has heard of the millionaire who stops to pick up a penny as he walks to his car.  Few have ever known someone who was extremely wealthy and then asked them why with all their wealth do they bother with the addition of a mere penny.  One curious friend of modest means was with his wealthy friend and had the chance to ask that question.

After the wealthy man brushed the penny off he looked it over with familiar examination.  Smiling he thrust it into his pocket and was about to continue on his way.  That is when his friend dared to ask that puzzling question.

“George,” he asked with some hesitation.
“Yes,” George answered with no assumption of the kind of question would follow.
“You have so much wealth.  Why would you bother to pick up a stray penny?” the friend honestly saw a disconnect.
“Ah,” the answer was ready on George’s lips.  He reached back into his pocket to retrieve the newly acquire coin.
“Look here.  What does that say?” the expectant George waited with eagerness.
“It reads, ‘In God we trust’,” his friend said without making any connection with the words, their meaning or the fact that George wanted him to read them.
“I never want to forget from where my worldly resources have come.  So each time I handle a coin or currency, I see those words and it makes me remember.  It is not about my ability to make money. Rather, it is God in His great mercy that allows me to be a steward of what is all His.”

That kind of attention to detail can alter the way our world runs if the people in it would see it that way.  For example, my bride and I spent years saving up for a special vacation, our first trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It shocking to be the focus of so much attention by the cast of this resort.

Yet, as the cleaning crew, yard workers, greeters, counter clerks and alike greet you with a smile it is shocking.  A waitress strikes up enough of a conversation to make you feel at home without being intrusive.  Or a store clerk goes the extra mile to direct you to another shop to find what you want makes you feel grateful beyond description.

Every detail in spirit and service blend into an amazing experience.  Sure I want to come back.  After all, that is what attention to detail reminds us of every time we watch it being done.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

IMG_3870It has been years…ok, it has been decades since we have longed to experience the wonderful world of Disney.  Much of our life has been on the West Coast so Disneyland has marked our lives several times.  However, Disney World in Florida has been an elusive dream.

That life list item is now a reality.  We landed in Orlando on a Sunday afternoon.  It was the fulfillment of years of  savings, failed schedules and foiled plans.

Now, we went for it.  We sent in our check and blocked out every intrusion that threatened to swallow up our vacation dates promised to Mickey.  There were a couple of close calls, but we made it to the Magic Kingdom.

At the airport cast members from Disney smiled and welcomed us on a comfortable bus.  We would not have to rent a car, figure out where to drive, how to drive or where to park.  That unique Disney friendliness was striking!

Hosts and hostesses jumped at the chance to take care of us at our hotel.  They were so friendly and well prepared to manage all of the details for our vacation.  In our hotel room, Goofy left us a welcome voice message.

Disney is a great place for kids.  It is also just a perfect for adults who still have that kid in them.  Yup, that is me!

Every where I look there are amazing things to see.  That is a certainty.  Yet, how the cast members greet and cheer on the guests is breath-taking.

Alice skipped towards me.  We have never met but our eyes connected.  She flashed a huge smile.

“Hi, Alice,” I started our conversation.
“Nice to see you,” she countered.

Next, she was surrounded by children a lot smaller than me.  So, I let the little children have their day.  The pleasure of a first-hand interchange with a Disney celebrity was too fun.

Around the bend a long line was waiting by the shoreline of the Epcot Lake.  In the shade of a grove of giant trees, I recognized the costume of a familiar character.  It was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

From my vantage point I watched her smile, hug and give lines of great joy to children who took their turns with this famous star of the Disney family.  My camera was up and snapping photos.  It was just a fleeting moment but I wondered if that last wink was sent just to me.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 401There is a military presence in Israel that we do not experience in America.  Modern warfare and international threat are a part of an Israeli’s daily routine.  They go about their errands and travels without distraction from the weaponry and what those trappings of war could mean in a day that has the potential to erupt into violence.

On my tour I have subtly glanced at the presence of soldiers who were around.  When a man in fighting fatigues is in my vicinity and he is heavily armed for an altercation, I take notice.  Yet, there is something unique about Israel and its presence for battle.

You can look exclusively at the weaponry or you can look into the faces of the soldiers.  The guns and ammunition tell you that these soldiers are ready to fight.  They are colleagues who will fight together and for each other.

Yet, their collegiality supersedes their armament.  There is calm in their countenance.  A joy is pervasive among these young combatants.

They are not nervous about carrying weapons into a crowded square, packed with people from all around the world.  Locals mix in with pilgrims are part of the gathering that these sentinels are to guard from harm.  A successful sense of calm and security come with the presence of these warriors.

Israel 2014 IFL 402Each one carries his armament like he is comfortable with them.  That confidence comes from splendid training and experience.  Preparation like that gives us visitors a peace that frees us to enjoy our visit.

At the same time that sense of peace is held in check.  The very presence of the military reveals that the threat to peace is ever-present.  Contrasting political views vie for dominance.

Some want only peace and have proven their willingness to coexist.  Others are not so gracious.  That tension is the basis for placing these soldiers in our presence.

The spiritual world is the same.  We are surrounded by the trappings of spiritual conflict.  There is an invisible yet clear presence of an enemy who is constantly attempting to derail those in pursuit of righteousness.

We have been given the equipment to battle successfully against the wiles of the Devil.  They are listed for us as pieces of armor.  Each item is effective but we need to practice, train and utilize them until we are comfortable with them.

Our battle calls for truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, Word and prayer.  These are for our protection.  Are we comfortable with each and all?  Being prepared for war is wisdom.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 396Some of the sites in Israel are splendid to the eye.  The Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee are like that kind of tourist highlight.  Most likely the Valley of Jezreel that is guarded by Megiddo should also be included in this.

Those who are fortunate to make it down to the Red Sea and relax at Elat would chime in for that location as well.  Swimming in those crystal clear waters or lounging on the sea-shore with many recreational guests taking advantage of the water and sun would nod in agreement.  Elat is a resort for modern-day Israelis.

Then, there are historic and prophetic sites.  The Western Wall or the Wailing Wall is such destination.  My soul is always stirred when I walk to the Wall.

Every year that I have help to guide a group to the Holy Land, someone always asks for an explanation of the significance of this place.  Yes, the wall itself is remarkable, showing the different historical seasons of occupation in this land.  Others point out the quality of its construction and longevity of this kind of engineering feat of massive stones cut and then placed without the benefit of power equipment. There is much more, however.

The Temple was located on the other side before it was destroyed.  That means that the Holy of Holies was located near that place as well.  This would mean that the ark of the Covenant was near this place.

The ark was where God met the nation of Israel.  On the cover of the case surrounded by two angels God accepted the blood sacrifices of the nation of Israel.  Thus, it is not the wall that is special but the location of the wall that gives worshipers a special reason to come here.

If you stand close to the wall, then look  immediately to your left, there is an arched opening.  Archaeologists have been uncovering more of the wall.  Inside there is an approach to a massive stone in the wall that is believed to be adjacent to where the Holy of Holies was situated.

It is a huge stone standing out in comparison to all of the other stones in the construction of the wall.  How it was ever moved to the location let alone moved into place is a marvel of engineering and craftsmanship that remains a mystery.  Nevertheless, let your worship spontaneously express itself at this very special wall.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3574When history is the topic at hand and mouths yawn, I perfectly understand.  After all, I am a teacher and have been exposed to many circumstances that make slumber a viable option for exhausted students.  Some topics like history have a tendency to seem boring.

However, there are certain history stories that have so greatly impacted our lives and in my case my faith that they are exhilarating!  The Bible is a case in point.  This treasured book is the product of historical finds of ancient manuscripts.

Once a shepherd boy or perhaps a goats herder was wondering in the desert region of Qumran.  He was trying to round-up any stray animals.  That is when he spied a cave.

Naturally, an animal trying to escape the heat and sun may have sought shelter in such a place of refuge.  The boy tossed a rock inside to scare any of his animals out.  Instead, he heard the crashing sound of broken pottery.

Now, his curiosity got the better of him.  He climbed into the cave and saw that his stone had broken a clay vase.  Parchment with writing on them were strewn about.

He brought some of these back to his father.  They kept them for later use.  When they went to a market place they attempted to trade these, barter for items they needed.

The price of these ancient manuscripts of the Bible were ridiculously low.  In actuality they were priceless. Someone in the marketplace recognized the intrinsic value of them and got the herdsmen to agree to show them where they were discovered.

This launched one of the largest most productive archeological expeditions in modern times.  From this came many other caves.  Ultimately, over 900 fragments and manuscripts of the Bible and other historic notations as well we retrieved from these caves.

It was a great find because of the historic significance.  Yet, there was more than that.  These documents validated the precision of the current Bible translations that were being used in modern times.

The Bible is not only an amazing anthology written over decades by scores of different authors.  It is a well-preserved book with an uncanny accuracy that has spanned the ages of civilizations and catastrophic human events.  These caves in this desolate part of the world are a major player in this profound validation of the Holy Bible.  Not a bad story that all began with a shepherd boy tossing rocks into a cave.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

Joshua 21,22
Part 7 of 7

 

When we are in the middle of a misunderstanding and our accusers are vehemently convinced that we are guilty of their imaginations, remember to put your deepest trust in the fact that God knows what really is the truth.  Trust must result in confidence.  Tell the truth but do not fight as the world fights.

 

Say the words “The LORD knows,” so that you hear yourself declare that truth.  Others will try and bait you with their challenge to fight, but do not sink to their level.  They may well resort to anger, vile allegations or even tears, but resolve to maintain your dignity and control.

 

Finally, when all is said and done there may be no resolution to the truth.  Resist being bitter.  God said that we would suffer trials of many kinds.  In the end how He provides and how He leads us will be the best testimony of what is true.

 

Misunderstandings will happen.  People will be divided on what is true.  Tell the truth and let the results be arranged by God’s providential blessing in the lives of the afflicted.  If we follow these instructions, His name will be glorified in our lives.

 

Thanks for walking with me as we live these Scriptures.

IMG_3562There is a tree in Israel that everyone knows.  It has a name that stops conversations, bows heads, infuriates the righteous and saddens the majority.  Everyone knows the Judas tree.

Of all who walked with Jesus and all of us who are following Him today know the name Judas.  It stirs feelings of disdain in all humans.  Even those who are outside of the faith know the dastardly deed of the most infamous of traitors.

After two thousand years of history no one has surpassed Judas in recognition of the worst of betrayers.  When trust and love are given in bountiful doses, he turns on his benefactor and betrays Him for 30 pieces of silver.  No one believes that any amount of anything justifies betrayal, but mere monetary gain makes a despicable deed even more repulsive.

Life is difficult for most of us.  Each one of us has our own story of excruciating pain that came from a betrayal.  It is the kind of life experience that takes a chunk out of our hearts.

Israel 2014 IFL 386Warm tears soak our pillow at night.  Nightmares of imagining the hideous gossip, slander and conspiracy efforts of these wicked people tear into our minds.  It is impossible to escape the surprise moments when this pain resurfaces at the oddest moments.

Yet, there is relief.  The haunting of these who hurt us can be made impotent.  No, those people never change.

Instead, we can change towards them.  Jesus showed us the way.  He forgave Judas and all those who turned on Him.

The ignominious death of our Savior is a portrait of how ugly sin is.  Judas’ betrayal triggered this awful event.  How could someone turn against pure love?

Yet, for every betrayal in all of our collective lives we have felt a small dose of that personification of evil.  The hurt is unimaginable.  Discovery of this kind of vicious human wickedness is shocking.  Trying to describe the abandonment, the astonishment or the bizarre nature is for want of words.

We see it.  Our mouth turns up in frustration.  Our head shakes in disgust.

Betrayal when only trust and love have been given is the worst of sins.  Have you trusted someone who went behind your back and conspired to betray you?  Did you get blindsided when a trap was sprung by those that you thought were in your corner?

See this tree?  God understands.  He has felt that ugliness and is ready to bring you the salve of His grace and mercy.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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