He is not here…or is he?

February 26, 2007

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“And [the angel] said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid.”
-Mark 16:6

In this picture I am looking into the Garden Tomb, one suggested site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. While this location is probably not accurate, it definitely beats the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the aesthetic appeal category. The Garden Tomb is much more peaceful and a great place to think, meditate, and even study for your impending Life of Christ test.

While I was at the Garden Tomb on Saturday, many groups came through the Garden Tomb, and you could hear singing in multiple languages. The message of the Risen Lord has gone out to the ends of the earth!

Last night, I was checking out the Drudge Report when a headline saying that James Cameron found Jesus’ tomb caught my eye. I spent the next few moments checking out different websites about this. Basically, a group has claimed that they found Jesus’ ossuary along with his family (including Mary Magdalene and their son, Judah.) A movie explaining their findings will air next Sunday on the Discovery Channel.

So what’s the deal? In short, do not take this claim seriously. No one in Israel is. The archaeologist who led the excavations of the site containing the bone boxes says, “It makes a great story for a TV film, but it’s impossible.”

Our Land and Bible professor talked a little bit about this in class today and pointed us to his blog, where he wrote some thoughts about the subject.

I’ll end this post with a verse from the end of 1 Corinthians 15, which is all about the importance of the resurrection:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

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A Reading Revolution

February 25, 2007

I distinctly remember one year in elementary school when the Student Council organized a wonderful thing called “DEAR” week. At some random point throughout the school day, all the students had to Drop Everything And Read for ten minutes. I liked that week.

When teachers are passionate about something, a little bit of that fervor usually rubs off on the students. Randy Cook, one of the professors here at IBEX, loves reading. He constantly refers to different books he has read or is reading, and I must admit that all this talk of books is a bit inspiring.

Yesterday, I was reminded of a post a friend of mine put up a while back that quoted some thoughts Piper had written about reading. Specifically, it talked about how many books you could read if you simply committed 20 minutes a day to the task.

In light of all this, a few friends and I are decided to bring back DEAR week permanently. For at least ten minutes a day, we are going to set aside all the school books and read something else. The only book I brought to Israel besides schoolbooks and the Bible was Iain H. Murray’s Jonathan Edwards biography. Up until a few days ago, it sat upon my shelf collecting Israeli dust, but now I’m charging my way through the book at a pace of ten minutes a day.

So if you think you don’t have time to read, turn off to TV, log off Facebook, go to bed ten minutes later and Drop Everything And Read.

RESOLVED AUDIO

All of the sermons from last weekend’s Resolved Conference is available online for free. Go, download, listen.

The IBEX schedule for Sunday and Monday of this week said, “FIELD EXCAVATIONS.”

Each semester, IBEX students devote two days to volunteering on some sort of achaeological dig in Israel. This time, we worked in the City of David near the Pool of Siloam.

Archaeologist recently found and began excavating an ancient road that appears to have been built in the late Second Temple period (shortly before the destruction of 70 A.D.) Apparently, the road goes up from the Pool of Siloam all the way to the Temple Mount, where you can also see remains of the road. We assisted this project–mainly by moving lots and lots of dirt.

For most of both days, our group stretched out into a line across the Pool and passed dirt down the line to a truck. That may not sound exciting, but let me offer you a few reasons why it was: 1) Even though you’re passing heavy bags of dirt, you’re doing it with one of the most enjoyable groups of people ever assembled, 2) You’re standing in the POOL OF SILOAM! Ever read John 9? 3) How many people can say they have excavated in Jerusalem?

On the second day, we actually did get to work more inside the tunnel where they are excavating the road–even digging up dirt and uncovering the actual steps. By they way, the edges of the steps are still pretty sharp, so it appears the road was not in use for that long before the destruction of 70 A.D.

However, the highlight of the two days of excavation came on the first day. A few of us went into the tunnel to see the road, and we saw that they had also found another, smaller tunnel under the road that apparently served as some sort of drainage system. So Todd (our Land and Bible prof), Casey, Michelle, Gracie, and I climbed in and crawled up the tunnel. This tunnel extended even farther than the one the diggers were excavating. By the time we reached the end, the air was thin, and it actually got a little warm. At this point, Todd turned around and said, “Guys, we’re under Jerusalem.”

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This pic is a bit blurry, but you can see Todd and Michelle and this ancient drainage tunnel. Above Todd’s head, you can see the bottom of one of the paving stones of the road. Things were pretty intense down there. We could hear the sounds of the digging and see a little bit of dust fall from the ceiling. Todd also said, “You know, this whole thing could fall, and we could all die.” But overall, that was just an exciting part of two great days of field excavations.

What’s next?

Herro Herodium

February 17, 2007

When we left Bethlehem on our last field trip, we headed out into the Judean Wilderness until we were met by this large hill.

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This hill is called “Herodium” and was built by Herod the Great over 2000 years ago. He built it as a monument to a military victory, a fortress of refuge, a plush palace, and a burial plot. Every Herodian structure we have seen has been uber-impressive, and the Herodium is no exception. On the top of the hill you can find remains of the fortress that commanded quite a view, but at the bottom you see remains of what looked like a pretty sweet palace. One cool feature is a pool that apparently had an island in it. Can you pick it out in the picture below?

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Our teacher, Todd, used the view to teach us about biblical events that had occured in the area, but when he was done, he set us loose on the ruins of the Herodium. So we set off exploring and taking sweet pictures.

These are the remains off the main tower off Herodium. Pretty impressive…

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Here are some girls acting crazy on the ruins.

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Some of us guys formed a band called “Rambam” and we used this opportunity to shoot some album artwork. This is the cover of our debut album–“13 Principles Going on 30.”

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One our way out of the Herodium, we exited through large Herodian cisterns and tunnels that we used in the days of the Jewish revolts in the 1st and 2nd century. Here’s a sweet picture of Todd emerging into daylight at the end of the tunnel.

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Let me just say that being able to run through and explore ruins of ancient fortresses is straight up cool.

Catch ya later.

After an experience like last Wednesday’s field trip, you wake up on field trip days with a sense of expectation. You do not know exactly what is going to happen, but you do know that you are about to have one of the best days of your life.

In many ways, our semester of field trips centers around Jerusalem. We start with three field trips there and then begin to branch out before taking long trips to the Negev and Galilee near the end of the semester. This week’s field trip was called “Jerusalem Approaches.”

We loaded up the bus early in the morning and headed for the Mount of Olives. Let me just say that it is a good thing they weren’t serving McGriddles for breakfast on the moshav. After we arrived at the Mount of Olives, we traced the route Jesus would have taken as he travelled to and from Jerusalem and Bethany during the last week of his life. We stopped at a few churches along the way. The “Pater Noster” church has the Lord’s Prayer in over 100 languages, but none of us found English. The church called “Dominus Flevit” commemorates Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem, and the Church of All Nations sits at the bottom of the mount right next to the Garden of Gethsemane. You have a pretty stellar view of the Old City from the Mount of Olives, so I took advantage of this picture from inside Dominus Flevit. In the background you can pick out both the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the two gray domes just to the right of the Dome of the Rock.)

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We loaded back onto the bus and headed for the not-so-little-town of Bethlehem. Todd warned us to not expect too much, and he had a point. The main attraction here is the Church of the Nativity. You feel a bit disappointed that the scene of Jesus’ birth is now crowded by shops and a large “bells-and-smells” church, but at the same time you enjoy being able to ponder that good news of great joy that a Savior has been born in the place where he was actually born! Here is a pic of me next to a star that “marks the spot” where he was born. Odds that this is the actual spot…not so much.

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As we explored the church, we came across a room that was once Jerome’s study. He translated the Latin Vulgate (an early translation of the Bible.) There we sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” I enjoyed singing a familiar song that expressed adoration for Christ in such a different setting.

Near the city of Bethlehem, a large, man-made hill rises above the land. This is Herodium, a fortress/palace built by Herod the Great. Everything I have seen so far that was built by Herod has been impressive. I think I’ll put up a whole post about this spot.

Our next stop was at the “Pools of Solomon.” The pools actually have nothing to do with Solomon, but they were a part of a monumental aqueduct system that brought water to Jerusalem in the time of Christ. Three pools, each bigger than the next, now sit unused in the middle of a forest, but these things a massive. Here is a picture of one, and if you look carefully, you can pic out someone walking through the ginormous pool. Look really carefully.

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At this point, Todd pulled out an unexpected stop. We headed up North to the biblical site of Shiloh. The tabernacle rested here for about 300 years! This is the setting for the stories of Samuel and Eli. In some ways, the site is unimpressive–just a few remains dot an otherwise deserted hillside–but in many ways, this was one of my favorite spots that we have seen. Shiloh is untarnished. It is not surrounded by a huge city or covered by a church. In many ways, the surrounding region is much like it was 3000 years ago when the tabernacle was there.

We spent a little bit of time here and even reenacted a biblical story from Judges 21:16-24. That was a little weird, but overall it was a very enjoyable spot. This is a picture of me sitting upon a hill where the tabernacle most likely stood and watching a beautiful sunset of another awesome IBEX day.

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Check It Out

February 11, 2007

Here is a video of us pushing the bus through the mud. To check out a couple more IBEX/mud videos, go to YouTube and search “kyleruggs”

What a Day, pt. 2

February 10, 2007

By noon of our Wednesday field trip, we had already had quite a day, but little did we know how much lay ahead of us.

When we got on our new bus, we headed across the Aijalon Valley to the Beth Horon Ridge Route, which has been a major route of transportation from antiquity to today. We headed up this route to a place called Newe Samuel. According to tradition, (probably incorrect tradition) this is the ancient burial site of the prophet/judge Samuel. On the top of this hill stands a large mosque, and from the roof of this mosque, you command quite a view of the Central Benjamin Plateau. You can see Jerusalem/the Mount of Olives, Gibeah, Ramah, Gibeon, Mizpah, and Bethel. By this time, the weather had cleared up, so we could see forever–it made for a great educational experience. Here’s me, David, and PC on top of Newe Samuel.

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After Newe Samuel, we made our way down towards the Jordan Rift Valley on a seriously sketchy road. I don’t know if it classified as a two-lane road because our bus drive had to lay on the horn every time we went around a curve. At the bottom of this road, we came to the city of Jericho, where we stopped at Tel es-Sultan, which everybody agrees is the ruins of ancient Jerico. In this picture you can see Todd lecturing in front of the revetment/retaining wall. At the bottom of this wall, they found evidences of a wall that had “fallen down flat.”

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Nothing beats reading a biblical story in the location where it actually occured. When you read the account of the Israelites marching around Jericho while you are sitting upon the ruins of that city, it is so easy to imagine what happened. You can see the hills of Moab in the distance, and you can see the hills the Israelites would have to climb to get to the rest of the Promised Land.

In Jericho we made a few other short stops. One was at a sycamore tree and the other was at the ruins of a Herodian Palace that looked like it was pretty sweet back in the day. Then we headed back up towards Jerusalem and home via the Ascent of Adummim. Along the way, we stopped at the Wadi Qilt, which is this rather large canyon that runs from near Jerusalem all the way to the Jordan. As we were there, the sun was setting, we could here the sound of running water below, we could see a sweet monastery built into the side of the canyon, we could enjoy our friends, and we could rest at the end of a long day. And what a day it was.

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What a Day

February 7, 2007

Remember how I said in my last post that every day is exciting at IBEX?

I was not lying.

Today we went on our first non-Jerusalem field trip. We set out to see the Central Benjamin Plateau and all the roads leading to and from this central region in Biblical history.

Our first stop was the ancient site of Gezer, which guarded key roads leading up into the hills. Solomon thought this was a strategic spot and built extra defenses here, including a gate of which you can still see remains. After we examined this site to our teacher’s satisfaction, we headed back to the bus.

This is where our day got really interesting.

No paved roads go all the way to Gezer, so you have to hike through the mud or drive through the mud to get there. Our bus driver decided to drive. This was fine on the way there, but the way back was uphill, and our bus did not make it up.

After failing a few times at getting up the hill, we all piled out of the bus and started covering the road with rocks and branches. The bus still could not make it, so we all got back in and tried another road. We cruised for a while until we came to a dead stop. We got off the bus and found that the back right tire was half-way deep in the mud.

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This time we tried a new method: brute strength. All of the guys got out of the bus and started pushing.

Let me just say that words cannot quite describe the exhiliration you feel when you put all of your weight (which is not much in my case) into the back of a stuck-in-the-mud bus and it begins to move forward.

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After patting ourselves on the back, we got back on the bus and started to drive until we got stuck…again. This time we ended up pushing the bus quite a ways until it was clear that we would never make it to the paved road. At this point, we decided it was time to leave the bus behind, so we gathered up our stuff and hiked about a half-a-mile through the mud to the nearest paved road until another bus came. Then we were able to get on with the rest of our field trip.

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I think the other bus is still there in the mud.

To be continued…

UPDATE: At 9PM local time, our bus was pulled the rest of the way through the mud by a tractor. I do not envy whoever had to wash that thing.

Plan B

February 6, 2007

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Last Sunday, we were supposed to take a hike through the Wadi Quilt, but the hike was cancelled because of rain.

So we quickly devised Plan B. A bunch of us hopped on the bus and went to the mall in nearby Nevessaret. It took 5 minutes for us to realize that it was a lot like an American mall, just smaller and more expensive.

The part we enjoyed the most was the food court–we just can’t get enough greasy American fast food. I hit up the McDonald’s for some chicken sandwiches and french fries.

Even though the mall was disappointing, Plan B still turned out to be a blast. We got to check out a foreign mall, eat greasy food, and enjoy the experience of cramming 25 of us into a small bus stop to stay out of the rain.

At dinner, a group of my friends and I started talking about heaven. We all agreed that heaven will be awesome, but we do not even really know what “awesome” is yet. We have no idea how great a world without sin is going to be. We do not know how sweet perfect fellowship will be. We cannot dream of how amazingly beautiful it is going to be.

Tomorrow, our group heads out on our first non-Jerusalem field trip, so we’re all pretty excited about that. Each day is exciting at IBEX.

Two Weeks In

February 4, 2007

Two weeks ago, a group of about 40 TMC students landed at Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

That already seems like a long time ago.

As I have said before, I really have no regrets about coming to IBEX at all. I still miss my friends and family back home, but I am having the time of my life here in Israel. I am loving the places we get to go, the classes we have, and the people I’m with.

As a class we have already made three great field trips into Jerusalem. We get to go into the city every Saturday for church and hanging out in the Old City, and anytime we feel like taking a 30-minute bus ride to Jerusalem, we can. I’m sure that I’ll get to the end of the semester and feel like there is more I could have done and seen in Jerusalem. This week we start our field trips to other regions of Israel. Todd Bolen, our Land and Bible teacher, is telling us that the fun is only beginning.

I am especially intrigued by the classes I get to take here at IBEX. I am taking The Land and the Bible, Jewish Thought & Culture, The History of the Modern State of Israel, and The Life of Christ. I come to most of these classes very little familiarity with the subject matter. For example, I feel like I’ve been learning the same things about history since Junior High, but with Modern State of Israel, I’m learning all sorts of things about history that I never knew before, and I’m learning in the land where it all happened and is still happening.

The IBEX experience is also proving to be educational in ways that have nothing to do with classes, textbooks, or foreign countries. The group I am with is full of awesome, fun-loving, Christ-centered people, and I feel like I am learning so much from hanging out around them, whether it involves late-night pizza in the Old City, a guys Bible Study, or just playing mafia in the miklat.

In my journal, I’m keeping track of each day at IBEX. Today is Day 14. That leaves 90 more to go. That gets me psyched out of my mind.