Friday, September 23, 2016

Israel: Jerusalem

Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world originated from the Hebrew word "Yerushalayim" from two root words: Yarah (pronounced as yahr-ah) and Shalom. Yarah which means "he threw, cast" and Shalom meaning "peace." Together Jerusalem means "foundation of peace."

Geographically, Jerusalem is located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, elevated 2600 feet above sea level. The city is inside Israel but under the Governorates of the Palestinian Authority.

Shopping time at the Old City(Jerusalem)
Jerusalem is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible and is called a variety of names including Zion, city of God, City of the Great King, Salem, City of Judah, and City of David.

To name a few, God instructed Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah. 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies Mount Moriah as the place where Solomon later build the Temple of Jerusalem (Genesis 2:1-19). David fortified Jerusalem and reigned 33 years (2 Samuel 5:3-16, 2 Kings 19:31, 1 Chronicles 11:5-6). David purchased the threshing floor outside "the City of David" so he could build an altar. His son, Solomon, later built the Temple on this exact location (2 Samuel 24:18-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1). David died and was buried in Jerusalem (1 Kings 2:10). Solomon reigned 40 years (970-931 BC) and had many building projects including the Temple. This enlarged Jerusalem to include both the lower City of David and the higher Mount Moriah (1 Kings 6-9; 2 Chronicles 2:1-5:14).

Walking through the path where Jesus Christ walked more than 2000 years ago
The Dome of the Rock
Spice up your life!
Kyts, me, Grace and Mitch behind mosaic

As per Wikipedia, the Old City of Jerusalem is a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem.

The current walls of the Old City were built in 1535-42 by the Ottoman Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The walls stretch for approximately 4.5 km (2.8 miles), and rise to a height of between 5 and 15 metres (16.4–49 ft), with a thickness of 3 metres (10 feet) at the base of the wall.

The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Agsa Mosque for Muslims, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981.

Today, the Old City is roughly divided into Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter.

Below are two pictures showing the interior and structure of St. Anne Church. This marks the traditional site of the home of Jesus' maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, and the birthplace of the Virgin Mary.


Above picture from the left shows the Muslim quarter in ground level, while the opposite picture is a staircase(not accessible to all tourists) which leads you to the subterranean paths of the Old City.

What is interesting about our Jerusalem trip is we did not just walked through the usual Via Dolorosa station of the cross paths that most of the travelers go through. Instead we opt to see the underground city walkway which is believed to be the ancient paths of Jerusalem. Overtime the people build layers and layers of civilization in this city so the deeper the track ruins the more archaic the remains were. Underground Jerusalem reveals recent excavation and exciting archaeological finds of this ancient City of David.

Underground city pathwalk
This spot is believed to be the spot where Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate

Above picture to the left shows the church facade and walkway to the market. While exiting the walled city we witnessed a woman wearing white dress playing harp inside an stone arched wall. Along the streets we also saw traditional bread in various sizes sold to tourists.  

Traditional bread sold outside Old City of Jerusalem

CCF: Where Sin Runs Deep God's Grace is More

September 18, 2016
Joshua Gurango

In spite of Jacob's shady past, God remains faithful and reinstated His covenant with Jacob. Genesis chapter 33 accounts the first meeting of Jacob and Esau after more than two decades of running away from his family. He showed humility by bowing down to his brother several times and calling him 'my lord'. Esau ran to meet him and without a word they reconciled forgetting 21 years of separation. By God's grace Jacob was delivered from the wrath of his brother Esau, because where sin runs deep God's grace is more. Our response to every circumstance should be to rejoice in God's deliverance. The Lord worked in the heart of Jacob transforming his heart from deceitfulness to humility, at the same time with Esau from revenge and bitterness to gentleness and love.

Image courtesy of

While God does many miracles in our life, the greatest miracle He did for us is to deliver us from the slavery of sin. Giving the righteousness we do not deserve.

As Jacob settles in a land near his brother Esau, Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite defiled Dinah, daughter of Jacob to Leah. After hearing the news, Jacob kept silence while his sons grieved and were enraged of Shechem. Grieve is a natural human response just like Jesus grieved for the lost souls, hence laying his life in the cross for every one to believe in Him and be saved. 

Blinded by anger, Jacob's sons schemed as Hamor spoke with them asking Dinah to be his son's wife by giving a condition that they will only give their sister to circumcised man. They asked all their male to be circumcised just like them, which Hamor and Shechem agreed. They were able to convince all the men in the city and while they were in pain, Jacob's son, Simeon and Levi took their sword, murdered all the men and plundered the city.

Here we could see how sin begets sin after another sin, but the issue is you cannot commit sin, wrap  it nicely and expect God to to accept it. This is called man-made religion, when we try to outweigh our sins with our good works and try to live a double life.

Following the laste passages, while Jacob seems passive, his sons took justice into their hands. When faced with sin, we should neither be like Jacob who kept quiet and let wrong doings unnoticed or like his sons who avenged for themselves. When faced with prejudiced, we should leave justice to the Lord and trust Him that He will do what is right.

The most unjust killing in all of history is the death of Jesus Christ. Simeon and Levi slaughtered because their enemy has offense but Jesus died in the cross without sin by the people who offended him.

Finally the passage teaches us to show mercy like Christ did in the cross where justice was met and at the same time mercy was freely given away to the sinners at a precious price. We are reminded to show mercy like Christ did to the people who turned their back on him and rejected him. Jesus remained pure and sinless by choosing to show mercy and grace – God's richness at Christ expense.

Transcribed by:

Monday, September 12, 2016

CCF: The Beginning of Wrestling with God

Pastor Jay Jackson

Image courtesy of
After Jacob stole the birthright of his brother Esau and deceived his father Isaac by taking the blessing supposed to be given to his first-born son, Genesis 28 accounts that Jacob was on the run, away from his family and from his brother who plotted to kill him. For twenty long years, he worked for his uncle Laban in Paddan Aram where Jacob had his wives, children and flocks, then the Lord directed him to go back to the land of his father in Canaan. Genesis 32 gives us an account of how Jacob prepared to meet his brother Esau.

Terrified of his brother Esau who is coming to meet him with 400 men, he divided his people and flocks into groups in case Esau attack them. Then he prayed to God claiming His promises and instruction to go back to his country. He pleaded for protection over his brother Esau. That night Jacob wrestled with God and asked Him for blessing. Clearly in the past, Jacob has made poor choices that leads to broken relationships -- with his brother, father and Uncle Laban, and now he is face to face with God, exposing all his deceitfulness through his name “Jacob” which meant "the supplanter."

When you and I refuses to follow what God is telling, what God is wrestling with us in our lives, it impacts more than just ourselves. It impacts everybody who loves us, just like what happened to Jacob.

He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm. – Proverbs 13:20

Another observation we see from Jacob in this chapter is that he was in great fear and distress in spite of God's promises. Sometimes we are like Jacob, afraid of situations where we don't have control and still tries to figure out how we can solve the problem on our own. Jacob planned first before he prayed, when he should be doing the other way around – Pray now, plan later. He choose fear over trust, thus suffer unnecessary anxiety.

The most striking point in this chapter is the wrestling match. In the middle of Jacob's crisis, God came and wrestled with him. He could have easily crushed Jacob but He pulled punches to give him opportunity to surrender. To acknowledge that Jacob is in this dilemma not only because of what he did but ultimately because of who he is. Nearing daybreak the man touched Jacob's hip and he was in great pain. Similarly the Lord knows the part of our lives that are important to us that when He intervene with will cause us pain. He does this not to threaten us but to help us make the right choices in life.

As God resolve all this to Jacob's life - Jacob is hurt, broken and in the verge of wasting his sorrows, he asked for blessing. Instead the Man asked him his name, this question allowed Jacob to actually see and understand himself – who he was and what he had done to other people.

This is the same reason why God wrestles with you and me, for us to understand who we really are and understand our brokenness in the face of God. So He can transform us. He wants to change us from the person that we are into the person He has dream us to be, that's the reason why He keeps pressing.

Transcribed by: