Sunday, June 26, 2016

Egypt: Mount Sinai

From Cairo, CCF's five buses drove in convoy for almost seven hours to Saint Catherine located at South Sinai, Egypt. For hours all you can see from the bus window is the same barren and dusty land in different formation of rocks and sand. Yes it's amazing to see different patterns of rocks maybe if you are a tourist but staying in these place is way beyond the view, for others like Bedouin tribes(nomadic Arab of the desert) it is their everyday life. And somehow I wonder what are their struggles to live in a place with inadequate water supply and where there is almost no sign of green.

View outside the bus
Rocky blind spot
Finally we reached Morgenland around 6pm for an overnight stay. The hotel was interesting as it's a resort in the middle of desert surrounded by rocky mountains.

Morgenland pool side

We took a short nap(or I imagined I did) after dinner and at 11.30am we got our wake up call in preparation for the mountain hike in Mount Sinai. The Bible tells us that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai when he was 80 years old.

When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. -- Exodus 31:18


We started the ascend at 1 am, yes that was 1 am no typo errors here and we couldn't believe it ourselves. While others are sleeping soundly, we are in the middle of nowhere attempting to trek a 7500 feet or 2285 meter high mountain at 1 am in total darkness. I almost slept in between stop overs, only to be awaken that I was actually hiking. Using flashlights to guide our ways as it is still dark outside, we don't have any idea what and where we are exactly walking. We literally go with the flow.

Halfway through the hike, I could not imagine Moses was eighty years old when he hiked and met God exactly in this mountain. He must be one tough old man. He became my instant encouragement, every time I feel that my feet is dying and wants to give up, I remind myself that Moses was 80 when he did what I am doing, I don't have any excuse not to finish this. Starting from the Monastery at the bottom of the mountain, it took us 3 to 4 hours to make the ascend.



At the break of dawn, the sky started to guide us through the 750 spike steps all the way to the summit. Now we have a better glimpse of where we are exactly and how stunning the view of the mountain sides are.






The view from the top(almost) of the mountain is breathtaking. I may not fully understand why God asked Moses, who is in his eighties to go through the physical strive of hiking this rocky mountain, but one thing I know God is a great Creator. He was and is indeed amazing in all His creation and I felt grateful to be able to witness this at that very moment.

Smile amidst exhaustion :D
This cat also worked his way up to the mountain :)
Bedouin guide
Walls made of rocks


Rocky mountain
Kytin and me
We started the descend around 4:30am and this time we can now enjoy the fascinating view of the mountainous terrain of rocks in all forms, shapes and sizes. But looking at the rocky terrain, we also realize the risks of our mountain hike adventure, you could not afford to make a wrong step otherwise you will not only see Mount Sinai you will also meet Moses(as we were joking). Thanked God not only for providing us the strength but also for the protection of everyone especially the older participants.

Pastor Peter and his trekking pole. I thought I saw Moses :D
We're going down down down
Red mountain
Literally high way :D
Convoy of camels on descend
Finally reached plaza!

Mt. Sinai: The Site of Important Biblical Events
(Excerpts from a post in http://www.biblearchaeology.org/)

Mt. Sinai occupies an important place in human history, as well as in the history of God’s people. Most significantly, it was the place where God appeared in person to Moses and gave him the law. Earlier, at the end of Moses’ 40-year exile in Midian, God appeared to him in a burning bush at the base of the Mountain of God and called him to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites to freedom (Ex 3:1–4:17). When the Israelites first arrived at Mt. Sinai, Moses struck a rock at Horeb to provide water for the multitude (Ex 17:6). They then spent 11 months at the holy mountain before breaking camp and moving on to Kadesh Barnea.

Shortly after arriving at Mt. Sinai, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, visited Moses and advised him on how to govern the people (Ex 18). Moses then ascended the mountain and received the law from God, as well as instructions for constructing the Tabernacle (Ex 19–31). This was followed by the sin of the golden calf and its aftermath (Ex 32–34). Skilled craftsmen among the Israelites constructed the Tabernacle and its furnishings under Moses’ supervision (Ex 35–40). The first Passover was celebrated exactly one year after leaving Egypt (Nm 9:1). Before departing, more laws were given (Lv 1–27) and a census was taken (Nm 1–10).

When the Israelites left Mt. Sinai, God’s presence went with them and the mountain no longer was a significant religious center. Mt. Sinai appeared in recorded Biblical history only one more time. Nearly six centuries after the Israelites were at Mt. Sinai, Elijah fled to “Horeb, the mountain of God” to escape the wrath of Queen Jezebel following his encounter with the priests of Baal at Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs 19:1–21). All told, some 63 chapters of the Old Testament are devoted to events that took place at Mt. Sinai. This amounts to 14 percent of the 436 historical narrative chapters from Genesis to Esther. After Elijah’s visit, Mt. Sinai dropped out of Biblical history, and its location faded from the remembrance of God’s people.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Egypt: Pyramids of Giza

After our short UAE stint, we took a 3 hour flight from Dubai to Cairo, Egypt for the official start of our Holy Land Tour.

Egypt was one of the greatest civilizations in the ancient world, they have rich history and culture which started way back 3100 BC. Their history is overwhelming that there was a discipline called Egyptology which is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion and arts from the 5th millennial BC.

The first mention of Egypt in the Old Testament was from the book of Genesis 12:10, when Abram went down to Egypt because of famine in the land. But perhaps you would better remember Egypt in the story of Joseph in Genesis 37 when he was sold into slavery in Egypt, who eventually rose to become the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh. In Exodus, the death of Joseph connects to Moses, who was called by God to lead the liberation of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt to the promised land.

Whew! Hope that provides a background why our Holy Land Tour started in Egypt. So back to the tour, our first stop is the Egyptian Museum or Museum of Cairo. The museum houses an extensive collection of more than 120,000 items of Pharaonic antiquities. Among the greatest display we get to see are actual royal mummies preserved more than thousand of years back and the treasures of King Tutankhamun.

After a long day we get to check in to Le Meridian Pyramids Hotel and Spa. The view from the hotel is outstanding, as you could see pyramids through the background.

View from hotel's swimming pool
The following day, we visited the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain intact - Great Pyramids of Giza. Egyptologists believed that the pyramid was build as a tomb for King Khufu, an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh during the 4th Dynasty(26th century BC). Standing tall today at 138 meters(455 feet)high, Egyptologist estimated it took more than 2.3 million blocks of carved limestones with a workforce of 100 thousand slaves to build the largest pyramid within 20 long years.  

Red Bus of CCF Holy Land Tour 2016

Panoramic view of the Pyramids of Giza

Pyramids relative to size of the bus :D


Adjacent to Pyramids of Giza is the largest single massive stone statue in the world standing at 73.5 meters(214 feet) long 19.3 meters(63 feet) wide and 20.22 meters(66.34 feet) high -- the Great Sphynx of Giza. Sphynx is a limestone statue of a reclining sphynx, a mythical creation with a lions body and a human head. The face of the Sphynx is believed to represent Pharoah Khafra, another ancient Egyptian king during the 4th Dynasty and the son of King Khufu.

Sphynx

Streets of Cairo
On the bus we had a glimpse of the longest river in the world - Nile river and the flourishing vegetation alongside it. It is evident that the areas near Nile river cultivates different kinds of greenery and life.

We also get to taste local KFC in Egypt, haha we love KFC. Next thing I know we are set on a seven hour travel to St. Catherine to visit Mount Sinai. On our way we had a short stop over in Marah where in Exodus 15 the Israelites came to drink but the water was bitter and Moses performed a miracle by turning the water sweet.


The Parable of the Talents

This story accounted in Matthew 25:14-30 in among the 46 parables told by Jesus in the New Testament. A teaching about the three servants who were given talents by their master according to their abilities. After returning from a long journey, the master found that the first two servants were able to gain five and two more talents respectively from what was given to them, and the master was pleased and rewarded them. While the third servant hid his talent because of his fear to his master, so the master was resentful and took the only talent he got and gave it to the first servant with 10 talents.

The parable of the talents presents four elements significant to our Christian walk:

Time.
Money.
Work.
Profit.

To summarize the four elements and how they come together:
Resources(Talents) + Work + Time = Profit(Spiritual)

Spiritual profit is something we acquire that is relevant to the work of God. An outcome that useful for God's glory like evangelism or sharing the gospel to others, spiritual growth as a believer, living a Godly life, or simply loving others and reaching out to them to give glory to God.

The truth is for every resources that we have, every talent, ability that He gave us, God expects a profit. He expects a profit according to what He has given, for us that is parallel to stewardship. He makes us accountable for what we have done with what He has entrusted us. Not only does He expects a profit, God rejoices in it. He is pleased on the achievement of the first two servants who were able to gain more talents and He celebrates with them. Finally God expects a profit and He gives reward. At the end of it all, He raises those who work their heart out to honor Him and rewards them, at the same time punishes those who took their resources for granted.

Friday, June 17, 2016

CCF: Stopping God in His Tracks

Genesis 18
Pastor Caloy Pena

There is a wide definition of the word friendship or friend today. Social media has somehow associated friendship to the list of people(you may or may not met) who are linked to your account. Merely contacts you get to see updates every now and then.

Genesis 18 gives us an account of Abraham, a friend of God who was able to stop Him in His tracks, this story redefines the meaning of friendship and reinforces the depth of the relationship. But what does it mean to be friends of God?

When we are friends with God...

1. Fellowship with Him becomes more fervent
“He saw... he ran... he welcomed... he bowed low...” (1-2)
“...stop here... rest in the shade... feet washed... let me prepare some food to refresh you...” (3-5)
In term of presents, God gets the best!
“...the best flour... tender and choice calf... he took curds and milk...” (6-8)
In terms of preoccupation, God gets the most!
“he was standing by them” (8)

When we are friends with God, fellowship becomes more eager, more urgent and we lavish God with our gifts.

2. Our unbelief becomes more apparent
When relationship becomes closer our failures becomes more visible
“Is anything too difficult for the LORD? (14)
A real friend will continue to love us in spite of our imperfections. Both Abraham and Sarah doubted about them having a child because of their old age, but God corrected them with love.

3. The LORD Himself becomes more transparent
Commitment to the covenant:
Abraham will become a great nation... all the nations will be blessed through Him (18)
God bound Himself in covenant with Abraham. He is committed to Abraham and revealed His plans about Sodom and Gomorrah
Rule of Righteousness:
He will direct his sons to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. (19)
Justness of God's justice:
I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. (20-21)
Invitation to Intercede:
God discloses Himself to Abraham so that someone would stand in the gap between a Holy God and a sinful man and intercede for them.
"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." – John 14:21

Divine disclosure is love and obedience, the more we obey God, the more we love God, the more we love God, the more He reveals Himself to us.

You are my friends if you do what I command you, no longer do I call you slaves for the slave does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” --John 15:14-15

Slaves obey out of duty, friends obey out of devotion. God wants a relationship of love.

4. Our prayers become persistent
Audacity of haggling with God(23-32)
The basis of persistent praying is not about our character, or the gravity of our situation but about the character of God Himself. The reason why we can pray persistently to God is because of His nature.
God of justice.
“Should not the judge of all the earth do what is right?” (23-25)
God of mercy.
“...let me speak even though I am but a dustand ashes” (27)
“Please don't be angry” (30, 32)
God of grace.
“But he hesitated.. the men seized his hands, his wife and two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him” (19:16)

Abraham understood that God is a God of justice, mercy and grace.

All of us who have come to know Christ have access to this great opportunity to be friends with God, but it is up to us to determine how deep, how intimate we want to be friends with Him.

Transcribed by:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Five Things I Learned in UAE

Being able to explore the two most famous emirates of UAE - Dubai and Abu Dhabi in an exciting two-day adventure, these fascinating cities has made so much impression to me.

1. Architects here are bored
Dubai and Abu Dhabi is not a place for the traditional rectangular skyscrapers but they boast for modern architectural wonders. To name a few contemporary building that we saw - Burj Khalifa, world's tallest structure; Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel in the world; Etihad Towers, sophisticated complex with five towers; Aldar Headquarters, world's first circular skyscraper. UAE were gifted with brilliant engineers and architect who don't just settle for good enough but aims for perfection and challenges the norm. 

2. Parking space is gold
Because of the transient workforce, buying second-hand vehicles in Dubai is widely prevalent. Cheaper prices of car in UAE compared to US plus the benefit of being in an oil-rich country also encourage expats to buy new or second-hand cars. Given these factor and the growing population in this travel connection hub, commuters in Dubai experience high traffic congestion and if you are lucky to have your own car, the probability of winning the raffle could be higher than finding a parking spot.

3. Summer in Dubai is first-class 😎
Dubai having a tropical desert climate has only two kinds of weather - the hot summer and the super hot summer. Hot season starts in May averaging to 31 degree Celsius all the way to September with 36 degree Celsius average. In one of our city stroll mid of May around 12pm, the temperature displayed in the car dashboard is a steaming 46 degree Celsius. Whew!

4. Less can be made more
If countries during early centuries expand their territory by conquering other countries, modern land possession is dominated by UAE in the 21st century. Countless reclamation project has remarkably changed the geography of the seven emirates of UAE. Dubai being most famous of reclaiming land projects like Palm Islands, Dubai Marina and Burj Al Arab has wowed the world in these land innovation.

5. It's always seem impossible until it is done - Nelson Mandala
Dubai is literally a desert turned into an oasis. A rich, state-of-the-art city in the middle of dry land. Hats off to the leaders of this country for utilizing the little that they have and developing it to its fullest potential.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Amazing Abu Dhabi

Home to cutting-edge skyline architectures, we found our way to the capital of the United Arab Emirates on our second day in Dubai. Though it took us one and a half hour drive to reach this impressive city of Abu Dhabi, it was all worth it. Thanks to my brother for driving us all the way through and for having an instant tour guide.

We started our trip in the grandiose mosque of Sheik Zhayed, the largest in UAE and by far the most extravagant place of worship for Muslim I have ever been to. The flamboyant building features white marble domes, crystal chandeliers and Persian inspired architecture.

Prior to entering the mosque, as a sign of respect to other worshipers and the place we were required to wear black abaya, a simple robe-like garment usually worn by women in Arab countries. This made the experience more legit :) (Is it only me, but for a moment I felt this is gonna be more like a Harry Potter adventure)

Grace, me and Michelle in abaya
Outside view of Grand mosque
As we drove around finding our way to entrance, we can't wait to be inside the building and be more amazed by the beauty of the place and we were not disappointed. Let the photos speak for myself.







Later we visited Yas Island where we get to try local KFC chicken rice and pass by at Ferrari World.


Just because we need to try this humongous KFC chicken rice of UAE




Friday, June 3, 2016

Music: Blessings

If there's something engaging about this song more than the lyrics and rhythm is the story behind the song. Laura Story, a contemporary Christian singer-songwriter got married to her husband Martin Elvington in 2005. After a year of marriage Martin was diagnosed with brain tumor that was life threatening which he eventually overcame but left him with vision and memory deficit. It is during this challenging season of their life and at the same time raising three young kids that Story wrote the album. In May 2011, Story released the album entitled "Blessings." Her first single in the album, also titled "Blessings" reached No. 1 in the Billboard Christian Song charts after a month. 

Hope this song bless your heart and soul as it blesses mine. The words carefully chained into lyrics is a good reminder to see beyond what is obvious, because the best things in life are not seen by the naked eyes. Maybe that is the reason why we close our eyes when we pray.

This song taught me that wherever you are in your journey, however messy it is, choose to believe and hope for a God who hears your prayers and know your heart because everything will come to pass. And the best is yet to come, for this is not our home. 





Blessings
by Laura Story


We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise