Sunday, December 31, 2006

Antioch on the Orontes and Seleucia

We started out day in Antioch on the Orontes (also known as Syrian Antioch). What an incredible experience to be in this city, so rich in Christian history. Antioch was the hub of Paul's missionary activities, his journeys usually started and ended here, his commissioning church was here, he confronted Peter here (Galatians 2), he took rest here between trips, the letter with the result of the Jerusalem council was addressed to the people here, many believe Matthew wrote his gospel from here, Paul likely wrote his letter to the Galatians from here, and it was the first place the word "Christian" was ever used.

P.S. You'll be glad to know our bags finally arrived this morning.

The city of Antioch looks much different today than it did in Paul's time.

The Orontes River flows through the center of Antioch as it did in Paul's day.

We spent some time studying artifacts at the museum in Antioch.

We then made our way about 25 miles Southwest to Seleucia. Seleucia is the port city where Paul and Barnabas set sail for Cyprus on their first missionary journey.

The two inlets into the sea are all that remains of this ancient seaport.

As we walked along the ancient seaport I looked out to sea thinking about Paul and Barnabas doing the very same thing some 2000 years ago, wondering what God had in store for them on their journey.

This is the inscription of the Emperor when Titus' tunnel was completed in 72 AD.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Greetings From Istanbul!!!

We finally made it here… Well kind of. Emily and I and all our classmates made it but our bags didn’t. Last I heard all of our bags (yes all 40 from our entire group) were somewhere between London and Adana, Turkey. Although we’ve been wearing the same clothes now for over 48 hours, our spirits are sky high as we prepare to study firsthand the journeys of the Apostle Paul.

We spent the today (the 30th) in Istanbul. It was freezing cold but we saw several amazing sites in the only city in the world that spans two continents.

The Blue Mosque (named for the tiles on the inside and not the outward appearance) was a bit of a let down. I had heard so much about it but when we were actually there it seemed to be more for tourists than a Muslim place of worship. Interestingly enough myself and a fellow student, Onsi, both felt a significant lack of a feeling of demonic oppression than we had felt at other mosques before.

We then visited the Hagia Sophia (the center of the Eastern Church for a thousand years). It was sad to see how much destruction of the church had taken place when it was converted into a Mosque in 1432 (it is now a museum). However the history of this building is amazing. Of the 7 Ecumenical councils, numbers 5 and 6 took place here. It was also the first basilica to have a single domed roof.

The Ecumenical Councils took place right here

The mosaics on the walls (many of which were covered up by plaster when the basilica was converted to a mosque) are absolutely stunning. This picture is made up of thousands of single colored pieces of glass.

We caught a late flight and headed 350 miles south to Adana, the 4th largest city in Turkey. Tomorrow we’ll see Antioch (Paul’s base of operations and the first place the word “Christian” was used) and Seleucia (the port Paul and Barnabas sailed to Cyprus on their first journey).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What is Chanukah?

The celebration of the Jewish festival of Chanukah (sometimes written as Hanukkah) remains a mystery to many Bible believers. It begins this year on Friday, December 15, at sundown. Its beginning is on the Jewish Shabat this year. The date is Kislev 25 on the Jewish calendar. It continues for eight days in commemorating the tradition that the oil for the light in the Second Temple (the one built in the time of Haggai and Zechariah – completed in 516 BCE) was sustained so that the Maccabees could finished [sic] their victory over Antiochus Epiphanes and the Seleucid domination of the Holy Land. The Temple was then cleansed from its pagan defilement.

Jewish People give gifts to one another on each day of this celebration, usually beginning with a small item that does not cost a great deal. Each day the gifts increase in value.

The prominent symbol of the celebration of Chanukah is a Menorah with nine branches instead of the seven used for the Temple Menorah (lampstand). The four branches on each side of a central candle (total of eight) represent the eight days that tradition says the light of the Temple was sustained miraculously by the oil. The arguments among Jewish scholars over the significance of the central candle continue to this day, but the prevalent view of rabbinical tradition is that the central candle refers to the light of the Messiah Himself!

That seems to match what we read in the Gospel of John. In John 10:22 we read that our Lord Yeshua was present at this “feast of dedication” in Jerusalem, and it was “winter.” In John 7:2 we know that the events of that chapter were clearly at the time of the “feast of Tabernacles” which comes in the fall in the month of Tishrei (Tishrei 15-22), which is the seventh month o the Jewish calendar. The following month is Cheshvan, and immediately following is the month of Kislev when Chanukah is celebrated. So, the period of time between the events of John 7 and John 10 is approximately 63 days. Some Biblical scholars believe that there is a slight “time gap” between John 7 and John 8, the story of the women taken in adultery. In John 8:12 Yeshua said: “I am the LIGHT of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Similar words were spoken by our Lord in John 12:35-36, 46.

In John 8:20 we learn that the words of our Lord Yeshua about being the “LIGHT of the world” were spoken in the “treasury” as He “taught in the temple.” If the occasion was connected with the celebration of Chanukah, then we know that giant candelabras were lit in that area of the Temple during the festival; and all the way from Amman, Jordan, it looked like Jerusalem was on fire (remark in the writings of Flavius Josephus)! It appears from the closing words of John 8, that Yeshua escaped an attempt to stone Him. John 9 is the story of the man born blind who was healed by our Lord. It is possible that the words of John 10 about the Shepherd and His sheep should be connected with the story of John 9. In any case, by John 10:22 we are now at the “feast of dedication (Chanukah).”

This celebration is known as the “festival of lights,” and many scholars believe that all the “lights” associated with the celebration of Christmas actually have their roots in the Jewish festival of Chanukah.

Reprinted from Hope for Today Newletter Volume XI Number 12 - “What is Chanukah” by David Hocking

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson

After my experience in Eastern Europe last September I realized I didn't know as much about spiritual warfare as I should. So I picked up several books dealing with the topic. I just finished one of them entitled The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson.

Anderson divides the book into three parts. The first part examines a Christian's identity in Christ while the second part looks deeper into Satan's tactics to defeat us. I thought these two sections were good but he could have condensed it considerably.

However it's the third section, "Steps to Freedom" that I found most helpful. Based on the premise that "...people are not in bondage because of past traumas - they are in bondage to the lies they believed as a result of past traumas" Anderson puts forth a seven step process to teach Christians God's truths and help them overcome the enemy.

Don't be fooled, Anderson clearly rejects that there is anything magical about the words or process used. Helping Christians to discern and reject lies about them from Satan and learning to see themselves as God sees them, will set them free from bondage. Anderson then gives a step by step process to help Christians discover Satan's footholds in their lives and how they can remove these footholds through prayer and confession.

For the most part I think this book is fantastic and I recommend every Christian buy it. I also very highly recommend every Christian to go on a half-day personal retreat to complete chapter 13's Steps to Freedom in Christ.

You can buy the book by clicking here The Bondage Breaker®