Dear First Pres,

   This last Sunday I preached about our Purpose. I took the passage from the end of Matthew's Gospel that we commonly call the Great Commission. We don't know exactly where Jesus gave them that commission, only that it was in the Galilee. However, I appreciate Dr. Dale Bruner's commentary that argues it could very likely have been on the same hillside where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
   Today, that place is known as the Mount of Beatitudes. It's one of my favorite places in Israel. Of course, there is a beautiful chapel built in 1939 on top of the hill, but there is also plenty of open space that helps in imagining what it would have been like to listen to Jesus teach in that place so many years ago. I visited there in 2004, and ever since then I always picture that hillside in my head as I read the Sermon on the Mount (and as I read the Great Commission). In fact, that trip, in which I visited many biblical sites, changed the way I read the Bible. It brought it to life in a special way. 
   That's one of the reasons I have asked Dr. Brian Schultz to join me as the tour guide for a Biblical Tour of Israel for First Pres in the summer of 2018. Brian, a biblical studies professor at Fresno Pacific Seminary with an emphasis in Old Testament, is one of our favorite Education Hour teachers at FPC. (In fact, Brian is teaching an Ed Hour class in The Corner right now through the end of the month, laying a foundation for what we will be seeing in Israel.) He'll be showing us the major biblical sites throughout Israel, and I'll be helping us connect with the Lord and each other. Here's the bottom line: it's going to be a great trip!
   I know that not everyone will be able to participate in this trip due to costs or timing or health, but I want you to know that you all are invited. It is likely that it won't be the only trip like this I will lead (I love these kinds of adventures), but I can't guarantee that Brian will be available the next time. The trip is scheduled for June 30 - July 12, 2018. And the price, including airfare, lodging (for double occupancy), and most meals is $4494 (EST).  You can click HERE to find more information and to register. I'd love to have you join me.
   Meanwhile, I hope you're going with Gospel intention this week. The Lord has called you to be one of His disciples who makes disciples. 


P.S.  Please join me in prayer for all those suffering the devastating effects of the fires across our state.