Monday, November 19, 2012

The Temple Mount {Jerusalem}

The most significant, sobering, and profound place we went during our visit to Israel was The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is the center of all things religious, the center of all things between Jews and Muslims, the center of all things past, present, and future for us as Christians as well.

While we were there, our group was standing in front of the Western Wall taking pictures, smiling, talking, carrying on. And I just couldn’t.

I stood in the back almost paralyzed considering this place. It was just too heavy for me, too dark, too upsetting. It was the place I longed to see the most during our 10 day tour, and the place that left me most devastated.

What is it about this place?
The reason this land is so significant for both Jews and Muslims goes all the way back to Abraham. Abraham had 2 sons. One born between Abraham and Hagar (an offspring of the flesh/not trusting in God) named Ishmael. The other born between Abraham and Sarah (his wife, whom the LORD chose and blessed) named Isaac. Muslims believe that Ishmael is the true chosen son of God . . . the first born. Jews believe that Isaac is the true chosen son of God . . . Can you see why there is animosity? War? Division?

The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount is built on top of Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham took Isaac (Isaac, his son, his only son whom he loved, to be sacrificed). The peak of the mountain was a Holy Place. It is the place where Solomon built the first temple, so that the people of Israel would have a place to worship and offer sacrifices. It was destroyed in 586 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar. It was reconstructed by King Herod, adding walls/roads to make it more of a flat place rather than mountain top, and was destroyed again by Romans in 70 A.D. After Romans destroyed the temple a 2nd time, Jews were expelled all over the world and Romans changed the land from Judea to Palestina to remind them of their enemies the Philistines. The fighting over the land in Israel still goes on to this day.

The Dome of the Rock
This is the location where Christians believe the temple will be rebuilt again. The temple must be rebuilt before Christ’s second coming. Even though Muslims (Sons of Ishmael) don’t believe in Christ as Messiah, they have sealed up the gate to which the Messiah is prophesied to return with stone and defiled it by making a cemetery out front. They have also built this giant Mosque on top of the Temple Mount to show the “new power of the new religion” (Islam).

This was the darkest, heaviest place for me the whole trip. Our tour guide could not speak about anything other than Islam. We were not allowed to bring bibles here, men were arrested for praying with their Jewish prayer shawls, children were marching around chanting to Allah. Dark. Heavy. Unreal. True oppression here.

Western Wall
On the other side of the Dome of the Rock is the Western Wall. I had heard of this place. A place where devout Jews come to pray. They touch the wall because it the closest place Jews have to the Holy of Holies (where they still believe God’s presence resides).

It was here that I just couldn’t take it anymore. Here we are, idiot American Christians laughing, being loud, taking pictures with smiles in front of the Western Wall and I felt like I was standing in the center of a religious war zone.

There was nothing joyful or happy about being here. On one side, I saw children being trained to worship a false God. On another side I saw devout Jews praying for mercy on the nation of Israel, when Mercy has already come and they rejected Him.

I have stared at this picture often. In the middle of this picture there are 2 young women from the Israeli army.

They are bold, courageous, and devout defending their country with both guns and prayer. Would you be willing to defend God like this? I sat back and realized we know the ONE TRUE LIVING GOD and don’t even worship like this! We barely get in bible reading and prayer, and even then it’s only out of guilt. We slap God on to our lives by going to a Sunday service or saying a quick prayer before a meal. And here there are people devoted to false gods and false religions . . . the point of living and walking in fear and even death for some. We know the One True God and don't even realize the gift we have been given.

I just couldn’t bring myself to smile here. It was too heavy. It’s the weirdest thing, but it’s like I left part of my heart here. I ache for both Jews and Muslims to come to know the True God, the God Most High, to see Christ as the fulfillment of all prophecy. This place broke my heart, opened my eyes, and yet I long to go back.

We have been given too much with ease in our country. We have 10 bibles in our home, and never pick them up to read. We don't have to fight for anything, others do it for us. As women, we have freedom to choose whatever profession, political party, religion we want to follow . . . the young girls growing up under Palestinian control have no choice.

It was here that I learned we are a part of a much bigger story. We are grafted into the nation of Israel and get to share in their inheritance. We have forgotten that God is not a part of our lives. He is our life. This is HIS story. We get to be a part of it. We ought to worship, study, pray, love, and live in gratitude because of it.

Friday, November 16, 2012


{Lessons from Psalms and Paul}

I have had some wonderful conversations about prayer recently.

What does prayer look like?
How do you make time for prayer?
How do you balance prayer for yourself vs. prayer for others?
How do you pray?

To which my glamorous answer is “I could write a book on prayer! It’d be 3 words: JUST.DO.IT.”

It’s that simple, carve out time to pray and just do it.

If it’s that simple, then why is it SO HARD??
Really why is my prayer place the hardest place to find?
If God has given me enough time in the day to spend with Him, why can’t I ever find time to pray??

I constantly feel like my prayer time is lacking, not enough, I didn’t ask the right thing, etc. I probably confess prayerlessness more often than any other sin.

And that’s when I remember the simplicity of prayer . . . it’s simply talking to God. It’s a gift from the Father to communicate with Him, lay our burdens down, petition Him, thank Him, delight in Him, and grow in Him.

When I read through the Psalms, I see David’s prayers. They didn’t always start out with “adoration, then confession, then thanksgiving, etc”. They were honest, heartfelt, and genuine. Sometimes begging the LORD for His presence, sometimes pleading for deliverance from His enemies, and sometimes praise for who God is!
So I learned from David and the psalmists that prayer can be honest, authentic, real, full of fear or full of hope, full of petitions and full of praise.

I have often wondered why my prayer life feels like I was asking Santa for my Christmas wish list rather than asking the Most High God for His will to be done in my life. Then I remember Paul’s chapter 1 prayers in most of his letters.

He would pray for things like this:
“9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

“9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:9-12)

Paul prayed for people to be filled with knowledge and wisdom, to bear the fruit of righteousness, strength, thanksgiving, etc.

I wonder what would happen if our prayers started to sound like this? What if instead of asking for things to be added/removed in our life, we started praying like Paul did . . . asking for knowledge, for our love to grow, wisdom, discernment, to bear good fruit? What if we were more intentional about our time with the LORD and honest in our prayers like the psalmists?

Prayer can be so much more than asking God for stuff. It can be a place we go to God to give praise, thanksgiving, confess, and be strengthened. It’s a place we can lay our burdens down and surrender our fear in exchange for hope.

This week, I’ll work hard to get to my prayer place. I’ll use the Psalms and Paul’s Chapter 1 prayers as my guide. Will you?