April 2004

We’re home!

by Steve Ray on April 26, 2004

We returned home from Jordan, Israel, and Rome a week ago — exhausted. My brother in law dropped dead unexpectedly while we were gone and it profoundly shocked our whole extended family. I pray that it will bring everyone closer to the Lord.

In the next day or two I will write a report of our time in Rome and our trip back home. I will also try to give a short analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian situation of which I have some very definite opinions. I will also report on our script writing session for King David and Solomon. I am very fortunate to have Ed Peters, Roy Schoeman, Mark Shea, Joe Reynolds, and John McAlpine moving into our house for three days to help with the script. It should be great fun.

I will also update you on the best Bible software program in the world. I spent two days in an intense seminar learning more about the Logos Bible software program which I have been using since 1990. I was in a room with 40 Baptist pastors and missionaries — and they were all great though I kept wanting to jump up and shout “I used to be a Baptist and now I am a Catholic — you wouldn't believe how wonderful it is!!” I did wear my “Roman Catholic 2000 Years of Christian Tradition“ shirt since I can't keep my mouth shut even when I do keep my mouth shut.

I had nice conversations with a few at the conference and as soon as I got home I received a call from an ex-Catholic Baptist on his way to converting to the Catholic Church and after 1.5 hours was overwhelmed with how God was opening his heart and revealing the fullness of the Church. I also spent an evening with 10 teenagers who wanted to me play “Baptist Bob“with them and their Apologetics Club. What fun!

More in a day or two.  Steve Ray  4/25/04

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Smelling Like Fish

by Steve Ray on April 21, 2004

I smell of fish and need a shower, but I'll get to that in a minute.

The moon is still hanging over the the Sea of Galilee and the waves are gently rippling against the dock. The lights of Tiberias are twinkling in the distance and the silhouette of the small fishing boats are visible bobbing in the water. A gaggle of geese are swimming by honking with self-importance while the eastern sky is beginning to lighten. It is about 5:30 AM and I got up at 4:30 to drive around the lake to meet Shemi.

Over a cold Maccabees beer yesterday, my friend Shemi asked me to go out with him fishing last night but I was tired with a long day ahead of me today and thought it best to get some sleep, but I promised to go with him later. Shemi is a Jewish fisherman (you can see him in my Jesus and Peter DVDs) who fishes all night out on the Sea of Galilee just like Peter, Andrew, James and John. He reminds me of Peter.

A couple years ago I spent the night out fishing with Shemi and his partner Udi but I got very seasick with the rocking of the boat. My job was to splash in the water and bang on the side of the boat to scare the fish into the net. Shemi asked me to meet him this morning so I could see his catch of fish and how hight the water had risen here in En Gev since the last time I was here. It is 11 feet deeper now, a few inches below the full capacity of the sea before they open the dams to let some water out.

Yesterday Janet and I spent of day of discovery finding new things and enjoying the familiar. We found the old ruins of Magdala from which Mary Magdelan was named. We got video footage of the site though it is private property and fenced off, even with barbed wire. We found the Springs of the Apostles where Jesus and the apostles certainly rested and slaked their thirst as they traveled through the gorge under Mount Arbel as they traveled back and forth between Capernaum and Nazareth. Several Arab families were there filling jugs of water to take home.

Other new sites we discovered were the stone marker commemorating the place Jesus healed the woman with the “issue of blood” and where the synogugue official Jairus requested healing for his 12 year old daughter (Lk 8:40-56) and the Domus Galileaea which is a beautiful new papal institute overlooking the sea which is almost finished. I is used for seminarians to study the Holy Land and for pilgrims to visit. We also had to see how much difference 11 feet of water made at the Church of the Primacy of Peter just south of Capernaum and to say hello to our African priest friend there who said he had finished my book Upon this Rock and enjoyed it very much. Such a thing always makes an author’s day J

We ate dinner at our favorite restaurant here and talked for three hours with our friend who is the owner of the Aberge Shulamit Restaurant. She is somewhat of an atheist and very intelligent and thoughtful. She also told us the marvelous love story of how she met her husband in the Israeli Airforce in 1962 when she was only 17 years old. He died a few years ago and a picture I took of him still hangs in the entry of the restraurant. Please pray for her after our very delightful and probing discussion. I hope she takes my challenge to discover the mercy of the God who does exist and who loves her enough to have sent her Jewish Messiah 2000 years ago.

It is now an hour later and after helping Shemi unload, I smell like fish and I'm going to drive back to the Kubbitz for a shower!

More later.  Steve Ray,  4/14/04

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Good Friday was really quite awful! It was good for us but bad for Jesus. We relived the Passion today as we followed the Via Dolorosa – the Way of Sorrows – through the crowded streets of Jerusalem from the site of Pilate’s Praetorium to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over Golgotha.

But Jesus did not view the cross as a horror to shun as I would have. Rather he viewed it as a weapon to fight evil and to win eternal life for his fallen and sinful creation. While teaching at the Kadina Airforce Base in Okinawa a few weeks ago I told the pilots and Airforce personnel that to Jesus the cross was like an F-16 fighter jet – it was the weapon to defeat the enemy and secure freedom and liberty.

Remember in the movie “The Passion” when Jesus clutches the cross and the bad thief says, “You fool, why do you embrace your cross?” Later Jesus says to his mother as he falls to the limestone pavement “See, I make all things new!” The cross was not an enemy but the weapon to defeat sin, Satan and death. Jesus embraced it willingly and suffered in the short term to bring about salvation and freedom and joy for eternity. Now we must take up our cross (ouch!) and follow him – OR we are not worthy of him,as he said “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father in heaven” (ouch again!).

Today the streets and the Holy Sepulchre were packed with pilgrims from every conceivable corner of the earth. As we prayed at each Station along the way we talked with others also adoring the Lord. How truly marvelous is our universal Catholic Church. Actually that is a redundancy because Catholic means “universal”. It is made up of every tribe, color, nation, and tongue in the world. As the book of Revelation (7:9) says,

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”

We met Greeks, Russians, Serbs, Brits, French, Americans, Filipinos, Egyptians, Armenians, Ethiopians, Nigerians and many other nations of Africa, Palestinians, Christian Jews, Canadians, Mexicans, Irish, Indians, Koreans, and many others. What a beautiful thing to pray along with them all “We adore you O Lord and bless you, for by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

Hebrews – Jews – were the first to hear the Gospel and the first to believe in the Messiah. What a joy for Janet and I to celebrate the Good Friday service with a Hebrew congregation with the service said in Hebrew with Hebrew Catholics. How can you go up and kiss the cross in Jerusalem with Hebrew Catholics on Good Friday and not be overwhelmed with joy, gratitude, a sense of history, a love for the Jews and for their God. I can never understand anti-Jewish sentiment. It always reminds me of the little ditty that goes:

“How odd of God to choose the Jew, but odder still are those who love the Jewish God and hate the Jew.”

Again I am remember my great love and debt to the Jewish people and see they still have a great part to play in the story of salvation.

Happy Easter everyone! From Jerusalem, Steve Ray, 4/9/04

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My Right Foot is Clean; Holy Thursday in Jerusalem

April 9, 2004

My right foot is clean, but first the beginning of the story. We had a bomb scare at the border between Jordan and Israel but after a 1/2 hour wait it turned out to be a false alarm. Kinda exciting though! It took four hours to get from Amman to Jerusalem which included the hell [...]

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Discoveries in Jordan

April 9, 2004

Jordan is a wonderful country to explore. I love it because of the friendly people and the many biblical sites. Since we had already explored the south and middle of Jordan, we spent two days in the northern area. While our daughter Emily was in a Jordanian school with her friends, Janet and I took [...]

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Our Arrival and a Bit about Jordan

April 7, 2004

We arrived safely in Amman Jordan but we missed Palm Sunday! We left Saturday afternoon and landed in Amman early Monday morning. Sunday disappeared. We cannot sleep on planes so it is always grueling getting to the Middle East. Our first two days in Jordan have been very productive and exhausting so I will write [...]

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Easter in Jerusalem

April 3, 2004

Tomorrow we leave for Jordan and Israel. We will research sites related to Elijah in Jordan and sites related to David/Solomon in Israel. People ask us if we are worried, even asking “Do you have your bullet proof vests?“ We say, "No, we are not concerned." First, we trust in the providence of God — [...]

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