Four Oaks Israel Trip 2017, Part 1
By Paul Gilbert
I am bound to my hotel room this afternoon on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There’s worse places to be stranded for sure, as it’s a beautiful setting, but I would much rather be with the Four Oaks group. They are now, even at this moment, walking the paths that Jesus walked in Cana and Nazareth. I am here trying to warm up instant coffee in a plastic pot and waiting on our lost luggage.
It’s a story worthy of a very long and very entertaining sermon illustration at some point in the very near future, but here is the condensed version…
I looked at my watch last night at 3 AM as we pulled into the hotel, realizing that we had left Tallahassee over 30 hours ago and had accumulated exactly 1.75 hours of sleep along the way. Heathrow airport, British Airways, and the distant relatives of my assistant, Jo LeBlanc, all conspired to delay our trip at every point along the way. And, they also thought it would be fun to send me to bed wearing the same clothes I put on two days ago.
Of course, the way I am describing our Around the World in 40 Hours trip feels (and is) pretty fleshly and worldly: Why did this happen? Who is to blame? Why isn’t someone else from the group stuck at the hotel instead of me? Where are my socks and phone charger?
What’s eerily providential about all of this is that on the way over, I am in the middle of studying a passage about bread and grumbling. The people in John 6 are growing increasingly hostile to Jesus, even after he has miraculously provided them enough food to feed 20,000. It seems that they were mainly interested in Him doing more stuff for them. Jesus was mainly interested in doing more soul work in their hearts. So, instead of giving them more bread, Jesus wanted them to see that HE was Bread – He was what they needed most.
The people didn’t see it this way, so John 6: 41 tells us that they grumbled. The word in the Greek literally means, “they had a smoldering discontent.” Something that had begun in their hearts as a small complaint had slowly grown into a cesspool of toxicity. They weren’t getting what they wanted.
It was at this point in my study that I wanted to quickly stow my bible away and watch “War for the Planet of the Apes”, as this passage was striking a little too close to home. I was wanting my bread, but God wanted to give me His Bread - Himself. So, God had to “ground” me in order to get me to look at the root of my grumbling, which was an idolatrous drive to have everything go like I wanted it to. I’m still kind of wrestling with this, to be honest.
So, I want my main prayer and desire to be not for luggage to be found or strength to be restored or tours to begin anew. Instead, I pray that God would give me spiritual eyes to see and a heart of faith to receive the Bread of Jesus Christ.
Stay tuned for more updates as the Four Oaks group makes its way around the Sea of Galilee in the next few days, visiting many of the places we have been studying about in the book of John.
Praying for you as you are praying for us,