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As parents, once kid number two, three, and four came into existence, our mantra of speaking settled in quite nicely.  We all have familiar phrases that are drilled into our ever-listening captive audiences – our offspring!!  In this house, the regular phrases that come out of my mouth are “pretty is as pretty does,” “it’s a sign of maturity to eat your vegetables first,” “be a blessing,” “be kind to everyone but share your heart wisely,” “how’s your heart?” and so on. Our children are getting older now, growing up way too fast for this momma and I often wonder if I’ve equipped them to live like Jesus.  An ear full of little sayings won’t produce the kind of heart that loves well . . . only God can take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh.  (from Ezekiel 11:19)

We built a sheltered life, Chad and I, for the babies God gave us.  But, the sheltered life can have a tendency to create a blind life to those around us who are beaten down by this broken world.  We are broken too but all too often we have the means and support to pull ourselves up while casting judgement on those who can’t, or we would argue, won’t do the same.  It’s a fearful and prideful way to parent.  Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you can relate because this is where sanctification comes in the middle of our pride and fear.  God shows Himself shockingly kind, even to us.

I heard this phrase while attending Sunday service at a church in Dallas and it has simply knocked me over!  I knew God was (is) love, He is just, He is faithful, He is our provider, He is ______________ but shockingly kind?  Now that’s a description this heart craves!  For it’s my heart’s desire that our children live to be kind.   At Colin’s high school graduation, held in our living room, I remember reading a verse from Proverbs 19:22, a verse I wanted him to live by, to become.  It read, “What’s desired of a man is kindness.” 

Kindness is a supernatural virtue.  It’s more than just keeping the peace or being cordial.  It embodies Christ and how He interacted with people—fallen, broken, mean, hurting people.  Christ’s response to the woman caught in the very act of adultery was “shocking kindness.” It was well within the Law to stone her for her sin, but Jesus showed her great mercy and a tender kindness. Kindness that brought her life out of the pit and into a real existence, that’s the supernatural nature of kindness. A power that can change the trajectory of a life.  And where were her accusers?  Gone.  One by one, from oldest to youngest, rocks on the ground . . . gone (John 7 & 8).  Can’t you just imagine that in the quiet of her accuser’s hearts, some came to know the real freedom in Christ because they had witnessed His kindness to the lowly, undeserving adulterous women?  I believe God’s character of kindness is powerful enough to change a woman living in a broken lifestyle while at the same time changing the self-righteous rock throwing accusers.  He is just that kind and we are just that valuable to Him! Shocking, isn’t it, but all together wonderful, and I’m so grateful!! Because I’ve been both, the woman living in sin and the self-righteous rock thrower.  We all have.  Can we be shockingly kind so that the world might have a view of the Father’s unimaginable love?   We can, because nothing is impossible with Christ, not even shocking kindness. 

We homeschooled our kids for years but as of last year everyone has joined the public-school ranks!! This has left me home in a very quiet house and I’ve turned to podcast listening.  Ask any of my friends, I’m almost obsessed with listening to Bible teaching pastors on the daily.  I recently listened to a pastor speaking on God’s kindness and he stated, “As Americans, our greatest apologetic is kindness.” WOW! So much truth and power in that statement . . . and I believe it – kindness is supernatural and unexplainable! Kindness is unexpected and can give room for the Gospel.  In all our spheres of influence, the shocking kindness of Christ modeled in our sanctified lives opens opportunity for relationship, compassion, mercy and humility. I want more kindness, but to get this supernatural virtue I need more of Jesus.  Let’s be honest—the very process of sanctification is shockingly kind. 

Who needs your kindness today?  Your family does, future generations of your family will benefit spiritually from the kindness you show those in your home today.  I’ll close with lyrics from a new favorite song called “So Will I” by Hillsong. Listen as these words describe the ultimate shocking kindness of God and let His unforgettable, undeserved kindness create in you a heart like His.   

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride

On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You
ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Posted by Tracy Smith with
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It was both a privilege and an honor to go on a mission trip to the Holy Land. I hope that I can bring the experience to life to you as I write this blog.

Departing from home and until our return, we were gone 15 days—13 of which were fast and furious in country with not a moment of time to waste!  Our guide Tony, a Christian Arab, met us at the airport Saturday morning and we were off and running, walking 8,000 to 15,000 steps a day (3-5 miles) with much of it up and down hills!  There are more than 8 million people in Israel today and only 2% are Christians. Out of that 8 million, half are Jews and half are Arab.

Tony was very good to help us understanding that over the last 2,000 years much has changed, and while many sites have been confirmed, many have not.  So, he gave us a simple code for what we would see: “A” was authentic, almost absolutely by history and science.  “B” was a maybe, close, but had not been authenticated and not enough evidence to confirm.  These sites were “traditional,” meaning since the days of the crusaders back in the 1100 and 1200’s, there was a claim of an event at a site, but over time, the evidence did not support that claim.  “C” sites were most certainly tourist sites with questionable heritage.

We immediately headed to an “A” site, Caesarea Maritima, built by Herod the Great and home of Cornelius, a Gentile who asked Peter to come.  From there we went to Mt. Carmel where Elijah called down fire on the prophets of Baal, and then to Migdal to see the base of a 1st century synagogue in the hometown of Mary Magdalene. We spent the first two nights in a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee where we learned a new way of eating!

On Sunday we drove 2 hours up far north to the border of Lebanon, then over to the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights where we took in Tel Dan, Banias/Caesarea Phillippi and went to the observation deck at Mt Bental to see Mt. Herman, the tallest peak in Israel. Glen spoke to a couple of United Nations peacekeepers from Australia at the lookout post on the Syrian border.

    

We started Monday off with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, in a boat that was a replica of one like the disciples were in when Jesus walked on the Sea to calm the waters. While in the Galilee region we visited the Primacy of Peter, reported to be where Peter established his first church. From there we went to the second home of Jesus, Capernaum, then to Mount Beatitudes where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  After lunch on “St. Peter’s Fish,” we visited the Nazareth Village, a recreation of a Galilean Jewish village in Jesus’ time.  While in Nazareth we looked out over Mt. Precipice, viewing what Jesus could have seen looking out over the valley below.  We ended our day at the Church of the Annunciation where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son and call him Jesus.  The church is the largest Christian church in the country. 

We spent the next four nights and three days at the Baptist Village (BV) where the men worked hard putting up a fence around the property and the ladies cleaned cabins and cooked the meals.  We did have some excitement one afternoon—there was a fire in the national park adjacent to the BV, and we were evacuated by the police and park authorities.  We moved a few miles away and watched fire trucks arrive, then several aircraft, flying in low, then pulling up high after dropping what we assumed to be fire retardant.  Hours later we were able to safely return to the village, but the smell of smoke permeated the house.  We were glad to be able to make a difference for the BV and help them out.

On Friday, day 7, we restarted our touring and went to Megiddo, known in the book of Revelation as Armageddon, the most important archeological site in the country! Fought over, captured, then lost, and destroyed 26 times, it provides a view of the Jezreel valley and controls access into the country from the north east.   We then visited Gideon Springs and the largest city in the 1st century Israel, Beit Shean. It overlooks the Jordan Valley and controls the country’s north entrance.  Today 55,000 Jewish people live in this modern city. 

Driving down to the Jordan Valley we drove through the Gilboa Mountains where Saul was killed by the Philistines before being hung with three of his sons at Beit Shean.  We then entered the West Bank, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, where 78% are Arabs and 21% are Jews.  We visited Jericho where Joshua entered and God caused the “walls to come tumbling down.”  It is a town in the middle of the desert with three springs.  We got back to our hotel early enough to get to enjoy some time floating in the Dead Sea!  The Dead Sea is only 50 miles long and 10 miles wide.

Early Saturday we visited a site not mentioned in the Bible, but deep in Israeli history, Masada. Sitting on a tall plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, it was also built as a royal fortress by Herod.   Up the road is Ein Gedi, where David hid from King Saul, and not far was Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

On Sunday we got an unplanned visit to the Jordan River area where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, right on border of Jordan.  This was one of my personal top favorite stops!  We then went to the Shepherds field where the angels told them about the birth of the Savior, and then we saw the Nativity Church in Bethlehem with the site where Jesus was born!

We drove into Jerusalem and went to the Mount of Olives on Monday morning.  Jerusalem is 1/3 Orthodox Jews, 1/3 secular Jews and 1/3 Muslim.   We visited an “A” site where Jesus wept over Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, just above the Garden of Gethsemane. This was another personal favorite—it was breath-taking!  We drove by Gehenna Valley on our way to Mt. Zion where we saw Caiaphas’ house where Christ was taken before being sent to Pilate.

  

Our highlight on Tuesday was going to the Western Wall. It is divided into two sections, one for the women and one for the men, but everyone must cover their head.  The Temple Mount, sitting on Mount Moriah, sits just above and behind the Wall, and holds two Muslim holy shrines, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The tension between the Jews and the Muslims over those few acres is almost palpable as we went through yet another security scanner to get to the Mount.

On Wednesday we went to the Pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed a paralytic and to Antonia Fortress where Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, and then walked down Via Dolorosa through the crowded market streets of the Old City.  Next we went to the Holy Sepulcher Church, which is the “A” site of the crucifixion and His tomb.  Man was that a very moving experience! Not far away, we finished our day by visiting the Garden Tomb which was discovered in the mid 1850’s.  We shared the Lord’s Supper there, a very touching and meaningful experience.

Thursday was more touring at the birthplace of John the Baptist, then the Israel Museum, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.  We finished our day at the Jerusalem Prayer Center which is managed by an American couple. After that, we went to the Jewish Market to spend any shekels we had left.

We left on Friday morning at 8am for our 11:55am flight home.  But, we all brought back with us a deeper appreciation for what Christ did for us on that cross over 2,000 years ago.  Words alone cannot convey what we saw and experienced.  I strongly urge any one of you, if given the opportunity to go on any future trips to the Holy Land to GO!  You won’t be sorry. 

Shalom.

 

Posted by Diane Locklear with

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