Tara-Leigh Cobble and Dr. Mark Turman discuss Cobble’s testimony, the importance of biblical literacy, reading Scripture in the community, and their deep love for Israel.
Tara-Leigh Cobble begins by sharing her testimony, how she fell in love with the Bible, and how The Bible Recap grew to become one of the most listened to podcasts (2:37). She then shares why reading the Bible in a community is so important and how D-Groups began in her living room (18:27). Dr. Turman and her share their experiences in Israel, their favorite memories, place, and restaurants, and how making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land can bring new light to biblical stories (29:29).
Resources and further reading:
- D-Group, discipleship-based Bible studies
- The Bible Recap website
- Israel: Beauty, Light, and Luxury, Tara-Leigh Cobble
- The Bible Recap, Tara-Leigh Cobble
About the host
Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
About the guest
Tara-Leigh Cobble’s zeal for biblical literacy led her to create and develop an international network of Bible studies called D-Group (Discipleship Group). Every week, over 250 men’s and women’s D-Groups meet weekly in homes and churches around the world to study Scripture. She also writes and hosts a daily radio show called “The God Shot” and a daily podcast called “The Bible Recap,” designed to help listeners read and understand the Bible in a year.
In just over a year, the podcast has been downloaded nearly 20 million times, and more than 20,000 churches around the world have joined their reading plan to know and love God better.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Mark Turman 00:10
Welcome to The Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman. Your host, thank you for joining us for conversations about culture and faith that matter. We’re glad to have you with us. Today our special guest is Tara Lee Kabul, known to many people because of the creation of the Bible recap that we’ll talk with her about in just a moment. But Tara Lee says that her zeal for biblical literacy led her a few years ago to create D group, which stands for discipleship group, which has now become an international network of 300, plus Bible studies that meet every week, in homes, churches, and online. She is also a host of the daily radio show that God shot, as well as the podcast, the Bible recap that that guides listeners through a chronological reading of the Bible over one year, you would probably know or many of you will know that the Bible recap has now reached 200 million downloads, and also achieved the status of being number two on the Apple podcast, top overall charts. Very well known to many of us as believers. She is also the author of the accompanying book, the Bible recap, as well as the Bible study. He’s where the joy is, and is currently releasing a new project called Israel, beauty, light and luxury with has grown out of her ministry of taking groups to Israel over the last number of years. We’re going to talk with her about that. So we look forward to this conversation of having Tara Lee, as a part of our conversation today. All right, Tara Lee, welcome to the podcast. How are you today, I’m
Tara-Leigh Cobble 01:52
thrilled to be here with you. Thanks for having me.
Mark Turman 01:55
Yeah, we appreciate you taking time to be with us. And we’re hopeful for a conversation that God will use in in great ways. As we get started, I just wanted to, as I share with you a moment ago, I did the Bible recap reading plan last year and started over again this year, with a reading plan. But I would just love to get our audience to hear a little bit of your own spiritual journey and life journey to whatever you want to include in that. But just a little bit of the background of, you know, hey, you’re now a person who’s reading the Bible every year and helping many of us to do the same. But what’s the backstory to that? Where did your spiritual journey with Christ begin and some of those other details?
Tara-Leigh Cobble 02:37
Well, I grew up in a Christian home. And so we were the joke that you’ve probably heard other people say I was in church for nine months before I was born, that kind of thing, three times a week. And but it was one of those things where it was a real faith. It was not just Christian in name only it was devotions at the breakfast table at 6am. Very involved in a lot of other church activities. And so I grew up, just thinking that’s what life is like. And this is, this is who we are. And this is what’s true. And I, my parents owned a Christian bookstore. And so I started working in the Christian bookstore when I was about six years old, selling books to people about Jesus and stamping names on Bibles. And so I just kind of grew up where it was just in the water, you know? And like everybody, there came a time when I wrestled with, is this my own faith? Is this, my parents faith. And I kind of came to the conclusion that it was my own faith. And so I started into ministry when I was in college. And as soon as I got out of college, I went into full time ministry. And I was a couple of years into full time ministry, when a friend of mine who was a pastor said clearly, have you ever read the whole Bible? And I was like, Yeah, I’m sure I’ve pieced it together over time, because of everything I just told you about how I had been in church, my whole life. I’ve been selling Bibles, all these things. And, you know, a one is a vacation Bible school. And he said, I would encourage you to start today and read it all. You can read the whole thing in 12 minutes today in a year. And Mark, I didn’t want to, like I was just, I just didn’t want to I had read several parts of the Bible that I found particularly boring. I’d read several parts of the Bible that I found particularly confusing. And I was like, I’m good to just sort of like, just hit the main points. I know the most, the most important part. So let’s just leave that other stuff to the pros. Why don’t we and but I was convicted about why am I in full time ministry. Why am I giving my life to this if I don’t want to read this book? And so I and also full disclosure. I had a crush on that pastor, and so I just thought he was single. He’s married now, but I decided I would do it because he wanted me.
Mark Turman 04:59
I was like, well motivations can be many right motivations.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 05:03
This will impress him. And it also offered to answer my questions along the way, which I think was going to, I knew it’d be helpful in resolving a lot of parts that were confusing to me. And so I started reading and about once a week, I would just I had a lot of questions for him. And he started to help Scripture makes sense for me in a way that it never had before. But when I finished reading through the Bible in a year, for the first time, and I read it chronologically, that was super helpful, not front to back the way it’s laid out. But in the order the story happened. And when I finished reading it the first time, I didn’t like God, I didn’t. I was like, I still believed it was true. I was like, this is still true. I just don’t like him.
Mark Turman 05:48
Well, and so then
Tara-Leigh Cobble 05:49
I was in a real pickle, because I’m in full time ministry, I don’t really have any other skills, what to do. And so that was
Mark Turman 05:56
kind of Yeah, that kind of reminds me what CS Lewis said one time when he said, You know, it’s not that I’m worried that it’s not true. I’m worried that it is true. And this is all there is.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 06:07
Yeah, yeah. Like, what do I do with a God that is real that I don’t like? And I told that pastor friend, I said, you know, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Am I going to become a barista? What do I do? And because he had been, he’d had the opportunity to see the lens through which I was reading scripture, the first time, I brought him on my questions, all my frustration, felt my confusion. He knew how I was reading it. And so he said, I have another challenge for you totally. I want you to read it again. And this time, stop looking for yourself and start looking for God. What does he love? What does he hate what motivates him to do what he does? And so Mark, I was halfway through the Old Testament the second time and I was smitten, I was in not with the pastor, but with the Lord like it just the same book, a totally different lens that changed everything for me. And so I was discovering aspects of God, I’d been reading the Bible, like it was about me, I’ve been reading it like it was a to do list or I’ve been treating it like this pharmacy where I would go when I need some hope. I need some encouragement, like, it was not relational, it was self serving, it was very isolated to just me. And so it just transformed everything. And I really have continued this journey of reading through the Bible, just back to back sometimes once a year, sometimes twice a year, and just still learning new stuff about God along the way, still looking for him on every page in every story and every line and finding his character to be delightful and beautiful. And I just want to help as many people as I can be able to read Scripture that way. Because I know there are a lot of us who have grown up in Christian environments, or who for us, it’s just sort of in the water like that, who haven’t yet been given the lens to see who God really is, and to experience the joy that comes from knowing him like that.
Mark Turman 07:59
I just love the way you express that in. And I saw this in a little bit of your written testimony as well that you move from this place of like taking secondhand knowledge about God, and it became personal to you, and especially evangelical Christians, many of whom are what our audience is made up of, we talk about oftentimes that, hey, it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship. And I honestly, I gotta say, even as recently the last few days, sitting in worship, and in a couple of teaching environments going, Okay, what do we really mean by that? When we say it’s about relationship, not religion. And part of what came to me was, is that okay, relationship can grow out of the routine of religion. It can and set has some of the same parallel structures to it. But that just that whole idea of what you just mentioned, again, read it as if you’re looking for God and what God loves what God hates what God’s all about what God is, like, that’s really getting at this thing. That is your passion, right, which is to read the Bible as a relationship diary, in some ways, right? Yeah, very much.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 09:07
And I think there’s, there’s something beautiful about the fact that God is like, he’s letting us get to know him. He’s telling us who he is. And yet, the first time I read through, I’m not going to discover it all. Like I keep getting I never get bored by who he is. I never get bored by scripture, because there’s always something new to learn. And so when it if it is just a practical thing, if it’s just a box to check, then it’s a one and done. We don’t need it. But because it’s relational, it’s this daily bread. If this keeps coming back, it is not. Okay. We’re married now. I’ll never see you again. It’s I want to talk to you every day. And I just love that I get to keep getting to know him better and better all the time. There’s more joy to be found in it.
Mark Turman 09:59
Right now. What a, what a great, great insight into how you need to read the Bible. I remember as a young Christian, my pastor, I came to faith at 17. And my pastor said early on in my Christian journey, look, when it comes to reading the Bible, it’s, it’s not so important that you get through the Bible as much as you let the Bible get through you, that you let it become this relational experience. And there’s, there’s no, you don’t get points in heaven. Because you said, Well, I read the Bible, or I read the Bible this many times, right? That’s not the way though. That’s religion talking. That’s not relationship talking. But that’s a great, great way to talk about it. And, and like you said, so when it comes, you know, you get into a lot of conversations with people. And that whole idea, have you read the whole Bible? And many people just are taken aback by just even the thought, hey, that’s a really big, hard, old, confusing book. And many people are really surprised to find out that, like you said, 1215 16 minutes a day, you can actually read through the whole Bible in a year. Is that Is that still astounding? People in your Oh, for
Tara-Leigh Cobble 11:12
sure, for sure. And, and I should, I should let people know, if you are a slow reader. Like, let’s, let’s say you read twice as slow as half the pace of somebody else that you that you know, and you feel.
Mark Turman 11:29
I am, I am on record by being tested as
Tara-Leigh Cobble 11:34
well. What I love about that is because we live in the most scripture, saturated technology, advanced, technologically advanced society in the history of the world, we have access to people who can read it to us. And that is not cheating. People who are listening to this podcast, you’re people who like to take things in auditorially. And you might be an auditory learner. And so it is not cheating to have the Bible app, read it to you. You can choose different versions, you could choose different accents. If you want read to you by a British man, it can happen for you, you know, like there are ways that you can engage with Scripture with your ears. And yeah, and
Mark Turman 12:14
I remember, and I remember people, that’s the way most people over 1000s of years actually got access. Yes, sure. Yeah, like, and this, this whole idea of having not just a Bible, but multiple Bibles, you know, on your bookshelf is a really recent experience.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 12:29
I mean, before Gutenberg invented the printing press before people could afford Bibles before people could read. So Paul wrote one letter, and it was sent to a church and one person read it to everybody else. And they just people heard it with their ears. And so that’s not cheating. And it might be the way that you learn best. And so that’s how I like that 12 minutes a day is the average pace of the reading on the Bible app for a one year plan. And so it is totally within reach. That is for most of us commercial breaks on your favorite show. You can do it while you’re in the shower, you can do it while you’re taking, you know, commuting to work or taking the kids to school or whatever. It’s not cheating to listen.
Mark Turman 13:14
Right? And then, you know, yeah, I love the idea. And we’d love for you to talk a little bit more about the idea of reading the Bible chronologically. And this idea that you’re reading, you’re reading the grandest love story of all is way some people would say it, I think it’s a great way to say it, you’re reading the grandest love story of all. I’ve encouraged people at my church when I was pastoring. And also through this podcast, I, I came up with a framework after listening to various people. But you know, I just put it down to about six or seven words that all begin with the same letter that helps me remember that, that the the framework of this story is creation, followed very soon by a catastrophe. That then becomes a series of covenant that God makes with Israel, leading up to him pointing to the most pivotal part of the story, which is Christ. And we could dig in that with a lot of different words, but just the whole story of Christ in what we see in the gospels, which then leads to the time of the church and is leading us to the time of the kingdom in the new creation. So just to try to frame the story, those, you know, five or six words helped me to think about, okay, this is a story with really big chapters. But how did how did you come to decide to read the Bible chronologically, and why is that important?
Tara-Leigh Cobble 14:36
So for me, one of the things that I expressed to that pastor was that I just there were parts that I didn’t understand. I’m like, Who are these people? And like, I read this, like, why are they Why do these people keep trying to kill the Israelites over and over and over again? And like, why did the Israelites keep messing up over and over and over again, and I found that they did that just like we do. But some of what was happening was I was reading the same story from a different person through a different lens. And so I was like, I thought This already happened. I’m so confused. And that’s because I would read from book to book like I, whenever I was reading it, I didn’t know that the Bible was laid out more like a library in these sections and not in chronological order. So he said, if you read it chronologically, you’re gonna get the flow of the storyline. And, to me, Mark, there are a couple reasons that’s important. We’re people have story, we love story, we’re compelled by story. And so we don’t treat anything else in our lives that we’re trying to engage with in the way that we treat the Bible a lot of times, like, I don’t show up at a movie theater halfway through the movie and drop down for five minutes and expect to understand the plot. And I certainly don’t expect to fall in love with the main character, you know. So I realized that consuming it beginning to end in the way that it actually happened, helped me understand God’s motivations behind a lot of things. It helped me understand that if he if I am reading a part of the Scripture, where he’s like, coming in and wiping some people out, and I’m just opening up my Bible, and that’s what I happen to open to that day. And I’m like, Okay, God, direct my eyes to what you want me to read, and I just dropped down on that, I have no context for what he’s doing there. And context is so important, because it tells us a little bit about the why. It’s not just telling us what’s happening, but it’s telling us why it’s happening. And so if I see that God tells his people don’t do this thing, if you do this thing, here’s what I’m gonna have to do. And I don’t want to do that thing. So please don’t do this thing. And then they do it. And he’s patient, and they do it. And he’s patient, and they do it. He’s patient. And finally, he’s like, oh, man, I’ve told you so many times, please don’t do this, here’s what I’m gonna have to do, then we see that he has extended patients to them. But he’s also delivered on what he said he was going to do. And so we we see more of what’s happening. It gives us more context for God’s character. And I think also, one thing that’s really beautiful, that’s just a fun bonus for me is, I never really had a true appreciation for the Psalms until I read them in light of what they were written in response to. So when you read about the atrocities that David committed against Uriah and Bathsheba, and then you go and read the psalm of repentance that he wrote, or when you see he’s, he’s like, living in the wilderness while Saul is pursuing him. And he is praising God in the midst of all this, despite the fact that it feels like his life is hanging by a thread. To see those things in the context of what’s actually happening in his reality. It’s just, it gives so much more life to the Psalms, in my opinion. It’s
Mark Turman 17:43
like, it’s like putting the like every good movie like, right, we’re recording this right after the Oscars. You know, they give out Oscar awards for soundtracks for movies, right? And just reading the Bible with the Psalms as the poetic soundtrack. Makes perfect sense. Right? Every great story has a soundtrack that backs it up. And that carries you forward. Right? Yeah. And is a great way to think about it. So so how does all of that become what we now know, as the Bible recap as the group out? How do we get from you just learning to engage the Bible in this relational way? How does it turn into this next thing, right?
Tara-Leigh Cobble 18:27
So whenever I first started reading the Bible, I created a thing called D group, I was finding all these things that I wanted to dive deeper into, because I make a distinction between Bible reading and Bible study. And so I was reading through the Bible, but I was finding places like I want to, I want to learn more about the Trinity. I want to learn more about this one particular book, or things like that, like things I wanted to deep dive. And so I started the single day group discipleship group, and it was just me and nine college girls in a living room. And that’s what I thought it would always be. I never expected it to grow beyond that. Never had aspirations beyond that. But we would just spend 12 weeks deep diving on a topic or a book. And it was so enriching. And all along, I’m telling all these girls, like, Hey, I’m reading through the Bible every year can read the Bible with me, like I know we study it here, but let’s read it together. And people would start but they would kind of taper off and you know, Exodus numbers like a lot of us do, every year. I like Leviticus for sure. I chose that I was a Genesis scholar, because I’ve read Genesis so many times, but nothing beyond that. And because I’ve certainly tried and failed many times before that Pastor challenged me to read the Bible, and which is one reason why I didn’t want to try again. But a few years into having tried that, there was a friend of mine who’s like, I really want to redo the Bible. Like I really want to do it and I’ve tried and failed and I said, you know, we go on walks all the time. Like what if, once a week we download what you’ve Read and you asked me questions. And we sort of talked through it while we’re on one of our walks. And that’s what the pastor had done for me. And she was the first person who ever, ever walked through the bible with whoever successfully read through it. After all those years of me being like, let’s do this people. And so I had this D group member who was studying the Bible with me, who then read through the Bible with me. And when she was approaching the the New Testament, which is about nine months into the reading plan, of a year long reading plan, she said, I cannot believe I’m about to finish the Old Testament, this is unbelievable, I never would have been able to do it, if you hadn’t walked me through it. And something clicked in my brain. That’s the only reason I was able to finish it. That’s the only reason she was able to finish it. It’s, it was more like a comprehension gap. It wasn’t time it wasn’t necessarily desire, because desire can be ignited by that comprehension. And so I thought, how can I do this for the rest of the people in the group? How can I do something that all these because at that point, the group was I think about 200, groups on like, six continents, and it just kept growing, which praise God that people wanted to study the Bible. But I wanted to help those people read the Bible, too. So I decided to make a podcast to help walk D group members through the Bible. And my prayer was that 300 people would read through the Bible with me. And I anticipated that most of those people would be digard members. And I had no idea that it would reach such a broad audience, and appeal to so many different people and help. Just loads of people read through the Bible not just once, but hopefully every year for the rest of their lives. And so that’s sort of the origin story of how the Bible recap came to exist. And we still I still have both of those. Those ministries are still thriving, the group continues to grow where we studied the Bible, and the Bible recap continues to grow where we read the Bible.
Mark Turman 21:47
Yeah, well, fantastic. So just the power of community and some loving, gentle accountability to try to, you know, people, people, you know, we know that that’s always what comes to us at the first year when it comes to exercise programs, right, find somebody to do it. Well, Italy. Yeah. And, and, you know, people probably have heard others, you know, pastors like me say, you know, the difference between Bible reading and Bible study is that when you come to Bible study, you come with questions, and you come with a pen to write down some answers and some more questions. But you know, who, what, when, where, why all those basic questions that we learned in English class when we were in high school? Yeah. Those are the kinds of questions you want to come to Bible study with? Can you give us just a little bit of an insight more into the D group about how does the D group work? And, you know, what, what’s the general format if there is such a thing? And and if they, if somebody was listening to this, and they wanted to get into that, as well as reading the Bible along with you, where would they go? How would they do that?
Tara-Leigh Cobble 22:50
So we have a website, my D group.org. And there’s no dash in the D group, just my D group.org. And the D stands for discipleship. I don’t know if I said that yet or not. But we have a few different ways people can connect with the groups, we love to partner with churches. So a lot of churches have sort of a community group aspect, like people want to get together do life on life. Or maybe they want to talk about the Sunday sermon. But a lot of churches are unable to staff the number of people it takes to facilitate a big deep study. And so we love to say like, let us be one of the options for your home groups, we’d love to connect with your church and serve your church in that way. And it’s free to the church. Or people can join an online D group. So we have lots of people who do that. But then we also have D groups that just meet in homes. And they’re made up of people sometimes from various different churches. And we have gender specific D groups at this point. But we’re also working to expand to co Ed married D groups within our church partnerships. But it’s a two hour format every week. It’s a 12 week study. And so within that 12 week study, we we take on a couple different challenges that are I just I think that there are things that I want to do as a Christian that I’m never going to do on my own without that accountability that you mentioned. So like, I want to memorize scripture. But if I don’t have to say it out loud to someone else, I’m probably not going to keep up with it. Like I want to, I want to put into practice the things I’m learning in the Word. But sometimes it’s hard to isolate, like how to respond to a specific thing that we’ve studied. And I want to do some of these spiritual disciplines like daily Bible reading and things like that. And so, you know, for even for people who don’t do the Bible recap, we still want them to be in the Bible daily. So with D group, we add those things into the study. So we memorize a chunk of Scripture every section, and like we memorize cumulatively, and so and you have to say it to somebody out loud every week. And we also have prayer partners. So every every week, you’re meeting with the same prayer partner for half of the study. You meet with the same person for six weeks, and you confess sin and and you pray for them. And for some people, that’s terrifying. They’ve never prayed out loud. But when you’re praying out loud to in front of just one person, who just confess their sin to You, it really helps like, lower the bar of your nervousness quite a bit. And so we’re helping people grow in the spiritual disciplines. And so every week we’re doing these things. We have daily Bible reading, we have prayer time, we have scripture memorization. And we have our like, where we go over the study. And then we have our practical response to what we learned that week, we call it the weekly challenge. So there are all these elements of spiritual discipline folded in here, and we do them within the context of community. And I have found so much rich, the richest relationships of my life have been built in these spaces, with people who are are totally different from me sometimes, like totally different lives. They’re not the people that I would choose to hang out with on a Friday night sometimes. But man, they know me to my core, they pray for me, they fight for me, they challenge me. And it’s just, it’s just incredible.
Mark Turman 26:05
Well, so yeah, fantastic. So couple more clarifying questions, just so make sure people understand. So they went to your website, my D group.org. And they were looking to get in, there’s already going to be like a facilitator leader. And I’m assuming that person has had some training. Yeah. Oh, yeah, kind of,
Tara-Leigh Cobble 26:25
we do. We do leader training for our leaders. And we have, if there’s an area that somebody wants to be in an in person, D group, and there’s not one existing in their area, and they they can train to be a leader, and they do not have to have primarily their facilitators. We hand them everything that they need. They don’t have to know the whole Bible, they don’t have to have all the answers. And so we will happily train them and hand them everything they need every week to do that.
Mark Turman 26:53
Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t want somebody to have the idea of go online sign up. And oh, by the way, thanks for signing up, you get this next group.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 27:01
We’ll ask you nicely, if you would do that. We won’t tell you to. We like we’d love for you to be here. So
Mark Turman 27:06
yeah, might ask you, but we’ll definitely help you be successful as a leader if you decide you want to be act, right. Yeah. And then and then I thought I heard you say each each session is 12 weeks long. And then you take a break and start another session is that kind of the way it might go
Tara-Leigh Cobble 27:20
study is 12 weeks long. Within each study there to six week sessions. The reason that we do that, and we don’t take a break in between, we just keep plowing right on through. And we don’t take a break in the summer. So we have a lot of people who join us in the summer when their churches take breaks for the summer. But we the reason that we have that break every six weeks is because we asked people to commit to D group for six weeks, we ask them to stay in it for that long. And if somebody wanted to join, like say somebody wanted jumped on the website right now and was like I want to join, but we were in the middle of a 12 week study, we were two weeks in and have to wait almost three months to join. We did not want that. So we we made these little six week breaks, and so six week commitment. And if you jump in halfway through the study, you can either catch up or you can just start fresh and learn from there moving forward.
Mark Turman 28:14
Yeah, awesome. Great. And each study has a title. Is there like a theme? Yes. 12 weeks?
Tara-Leigh Cobble 28:21
Yes, we are about to start a study of don’t get too excited. Deuteronomy.
Mark Turman 28:28
I would be excited because I know something about that. Yeah.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 28:30
And we, we try to alternate a book of the Bible with a topic. So by topic, I don’t mean, like how to become a woman of grace. I mean, like the Trinity, or the apostles creed, or something, something along those lines. And so it is not a fluffy study, per se, but the rest of the year is Deuteronomy, disciplines of grapes, and Hebrews, that’s what is happening in the rest of 2023. And then in 2024, our plan is to be doing for the whole year, the Gospels. So we’ll have 12 weeks of Matthew 12 weeks Mark 12 weeks ago, 12 weeks of John, and take a look at the four primary lenses that the Gospels give us on who Jesus is. So Jesus as King, Jesus as servant, Jesus as man, Jesus as God, and I’m so excited about about that.
Mark Turman 29:29
Yeah, that’s yeah, that’s gonna be fabulous. So the other thing we wanted to make sure we spent some time with is talking about your love for Israel and your involvement with Israel. So this kind of seems to have a three step plan here, which is read the Bible to get to know and love God, get in a group to get to know even more about him with and through others, and then go and be where Jesus actually was and where God did so much of his work and is still at work today, I’ve had the privilege of being in Israel a few times, including twice in the last six months, which is kind of blowing my mind. But the first time I was there, which was about 10 years ago, I had the impression that little kid song, he’s got the whole world in His hands. But his index finger is on this little place called Israel. I like that. The way it felt to me is like, hey, God’s fingerprints are everywhere. But his index finger is right here on this little country that continues to defy all of us in terms of understanding sometimes, really, so I noticed in some of your background material that you you kind of became aware and fell in love with Israel through your Dad, tell us that part. And, and, and anything else, you want to kind of set the context for what Israel means to you. Yeah,
Tara-Leigh Cobble 30:54
so my dad, my dad is still alive. He used to lead tours of Israel before I was born. And I never got to go with him. But he just it hardly a day would pass without him mentioning something about Israel. And so I just kind of grew up with that being in the water as well. And so in 2012, my church at the time, did their decided to do their first trip to Israel. And Mark, I was, I was on the worship team. So I was there for run through in the morning, when they ran through the announcements. And I didn’t, I hadn’t heard anything about it. And so I’m seeing the announcements, the announcement during run through, and I leave the service or the at least the auditorium during run through and go to the lobby, because that’s where the computers were that you could sign up. I was I like vaulted out of my out of my position to go. I’m calling my parents, but like I just signed up for Israel. And I was so excited. And even with all the stories that my dad told, I was so blown away when I got there, because every image that I had of Israel in my mind, and and everything that I had heard my dad talk about, I pictured Israel as sepia toned, I pictured it as Justice Brown, its ruins its sand. And I was blown away. I was like, I got there. And I’m like, it’s it’s on the Mediterranean. Like, it’s, it’s, it’s got the same climate as Italy and Greece, and it’s green and lush and vibrant. And the food’s amazing. And it was beautiful. I was there in early May. And so it was not the heat of summer. Everything’s in bloom. And I just fell in love with it. And I remember everybody kept saying, like, the brochures that they gave us said once in a lifetime trip. And I I remember coming home and looking at that brochure and being like, God, if I only get to go there, once in a lifetime, I need you to kill me now. Like I can not go the rest of my life and not go back there. And so my dad, I told him about that. And he was like, you know, I can sort of help you figure out how to lead trips. And if you go and you go take a few trips to learn. And so I went on to pilgrimage trips to learn and then to geopolitical trips to learn. So I wanted to learn not only the biblical history, but I wanted to learn the political climate as well. And because that was very, I knew nothing about that. And there’s still so much to learn. Yeah, so I took those four trips to sort of learn about Israel and did things like volunteered in hospitals and things like that got to know a lot of the locals and just I just I think that I leave in a few weeks to go back again and I think it will be my 19th trip and I What’s your favorite place there mark like I love it so much but I want to hear what your favorite places
Mark Turman 33:49
well my my favorite my wife’s favorite place is the setting for the Sermon on the Mount at the north end of the Sea of Galilee right there Capernaum she she just loves to sit there and just envision what it might have been like to hear Jesus talking. We both love just writing out on the Sea of Galilee but possibly one of my favorite places this last trip we went to Cora zine for the first time I’d ever been to Cora zine and Cora zine is unique. There’s old the remnants of synagogues all over Israel, you know, this amazing little country that’s the size of New Jersey basically that as you said, I was astounded by the climate I thought I’m gonna go wander around in a in a desert most of the time right with with this really amazing city called Jerusalem in the middle of it, but you know, it’s coastal. It’s it’s Mediterranean Sea, as you said, and then just, you know, a short drive, you’re up in this almost rain forest kind of feeling up in the north. And, you know, yes, I was standing on the border with Syria and my guide told me Hey, walk a couple of hundreds, you know, feet out their yards out into the deal, you’d probably get arrested if not shot. Walk out there, right? And then, you know, a couple of hours drive to the south. And yes, you’re in a desert, you’re at the lowest place on earth at the Dead Sea, which is amazing and beautiful and astounding, all at its own really in this. In all of this happens it was but anyway, it korzy north of the Sea of Galilee. There is this dark basalt, stone synagogue. And this is one of those places, when you’re in Israel. A lot of times when you’re in Israel, you’re like, well, we don’t know if it happened here. We just know somebody built something to commemorate an event, right? In the Bible or in history. There’s other places where we’re like, well, it was close to here. But we don’t know exactly where it might have been, you know, a mile this way or a mile that way, but it was somewhere very close. And then there are these places where like this is this is where this happened, you know, up in the north, right? There’s this place where, Hey, there’s this thing called the layup gate, Abraham walked through this gate, okay. And then at cuisine, you’re standing there, and you’re like Jesus was in this room. Not in a room like this not in a room near this. Jesus was in this room. And that is just so powerful to think that you’re standing on stones walking on steps, that Jesus and the apostles actually were they’re truly, I mean, there’s so you know, what I tell people about Israel is, is you could turn over any rock, and there’s amazing history of some kind, most of it biblical right there. Right. And so they have to be selective about what they do. So much there. So it’s between it’s really for me, it’s between Cora zine and the recently discovered either the city of Magdala, the home of Mary Mack was just about to ask me what I was. Yeah. Yeah. And, and the place that they have just announced that they’re going to restore, which is the the Pool of Siloam, where the blind man of John nine gets healed at the pool of Siloam. And God just kind of stuck that story in my brain about six or eight months ago, and it’s still there. And right now, if you go there, the Pool of Siloam is basically a little more than a drainage ditch. But they’re going to restore what was in its day, an acre sized bathing pool. And it just, it just amazes me just astounds me, though, so it’s hard for me to choose what my favorite place right now. Now, the question is turned on you Tara Lee, what’s your favorite place?
Tara-Leigh Cobble 37:53
Yeah, um, so like you I have, I have a favorite place. And so the, for the listeners who haven’t been to Israel, the Pool of Siloam is in Jerusalem. And so Mark is listed a place near the Sea of Galilee and a place in Jerusalem. And so a place that’s a rural countryside and a place that’s the city and I have, I have favorites in both of those spots as well. And my favorite place in the countryside in the Galilee region, is very close to mount beatitudes and Capernaum where your your wife’s favorite site is. And it’s a little area that is called Mensa Christi, which means the table of Christ. And it’s on the shoreline of Sea of Galilee. And they say that the sea the shoreline has not changed in 2000 years. And that that area is the only natural port harbor area in that region in that part of the Northwest Sea of Galilee area. And so that would have been where fishermen would have dug to their boats. And so that would have been where Jesus called His disciples and where he met them on the shoreline after his resurrection. And I just love it. It’s it’s not there are not souvenir tents set up there. It’s just this, this little rocky beach line, and you can walk them into the water and there’s a little chapel there. And the chapel is built around this big, wide, flat rock that they believe may have been the table of Christ, meaning the space where when he met the disciples after His resurrection, and they had been out fishing all night, and they hadn’t caught anything and they come to shore after he’s told him how to catch some fish. He’s it says that he already had some fish laid out for them for breakfast. And so they’re like, Hey, we don’t know for sure. But maybe maybe this big wide flat rock is where he would have laid out those fish because I don’t know if you have been camping or not mark but when I go camping and I’m looking for places to sit out my provisions, I’m looking for like a stump or a rock or something to put things out. So this big, wide, flat rock kind of serves as A table there on the on the shoreline. So I love that little spot in the Galilee. And in Jerusalem I love I love the Garden Tomb, I just think it is such a peaceful place. And I know it’s contests like there are different theories on where Jesus died and was resurrected and buried. There are different theories on that based on based on often what faith tradition you you belong to. But there’s three, there’s one that typically that Protestants believe is the right spot and one that typically the Catholics believe is the right spot. And but the regardless of what you believe, check out the Garden Tomb. There’s a Catholic priest who believes it’s not the Garden Tomb. And he says, if it’s not the garden team, if that’s not the place where Jesus died, it should be because it the way that the peace that it communicates in their space is just, it’s hard to find that in a bustling city. And they’re just on the outskirts of Jerusalem, just outside the city gates. Is this beautiful little garden? And an empty tomb?
Mark Turman 41:07
Yeah. And is is that one? Is that your favorite memory from like your first trip? Or is there another favorite memory for that still stays with you? Because that’s what Israel does it. It stays with you in a way I have. So one of the people that help us facilitate our trips, Dr. Mike Fanning, he did a PhD in biblical archaeology, lived in Jerusalem for at least two years while he was studying. He said recently, he said, You know, I can tell within five minutes of a preacher sermon if he’s ever been to Israel, Oh, wow. He’s like, I can, I can just tell in five minutes, because it’s just it’s so deeply a part of who Mike is at this point, if
Tara-Leigh Cobble 41:49
that makes sense. You know,
Mark Turman 41:52
is there a is there an early story or something that just is really stayed with you in terms of formation,
Tara-Leigh Cobble 41:59
you know, I think, from my first trip, the garden team was really a memorable spot for me. And it continues to embed itself deeper into my my soul and my being, the more times I go, and I have a book about Israel that’s coming out next month. It’s a it’s like a luxury coffee table book with these beautiful, glossy photos. And it’s just, it’s stunning. But the way we were able to make that book happen. We were able to get in my photographer and I went for five weeks, in May of 2021, when the country was still close to tourists, we get on work visas. And I think there was a very limited number of people who could get in on work visas, and we managed to get in. And what that meant was all the sites that I have seen flooded with tourists, every time I go, were empty. And some of them we had to meet special people to let us in because it hadn’t been open to the app to anyone yet. But the Garden Tomb was open the whole time that we were there. And but just nobody was visiting it. And so we went in, and it was just this quiet, birds chirping, no other people in the whole place. And I get to go in and sit and have my quiet time in the Garden Tomb and journal in the tomb. And I was like this is i i cannot imagine that this is happening right now. i This is inconceivable to me because I’m so used to being in that tomb with six or seven other people who were there at a time. And so the Lord just, it just keeps getting deeper into who I am, like Israel is, feels like my second home now. And I just love it so much. I love to watch other people fall in love with it. Like for them to be astonished at how beautiful it is and how great the food is now great the people are. I love that.
Mark Turman 43:47
It’s just, it’s, it is like I tell people, it’s not a vacation, you could approach it as a vacation. You could approach it as a student or as a tourist. But the best way to approach it is as a pilgrim certainly at the beginning. Yeah. And what’s what’s funny about what you just said is a little bit of the game, when you’re doing a tour in Israel is your tour guide will try to outmaneuver the other group, so that you can get into a place early, you know, or so that you can get ahead of the crowd and spend a little extra time. You know, I remember the first time my wife and I were there about 10 years ago, the tour guide said okay, we’re leaving the hotel 20 minutes early, because we’re going to be on the Mount of Olives. Number one when the sun comes up and before everybody else gets there.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 44:34
That is the kind of tour guide I love and hate because I like to make power early. But that is that is the best. That’s such a great, you gotta you gotta make stuff happen.
Mark Turman 44:46
Yeah, so you know, and seems like every time I go, there’s some kind of an experience that just really becomes formative. First time I was there going up the steps on the south side where worshipers would come into the tent Bull area and they would be reciting the Psalms of Ascent that the Bible talks about in Psalm 120. And following and just imagining them, the steps are designed to make you slow down and reflect as you come to worship. And then this last time, I was in a conversation with our founder, Jim Dennison, who’s been many, many times and we were standing in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he said, I want you to look at the east gate that’s now been stoned up by other groups who don’t want the Prophet promises of God to come through. He said, Jesus would have heard the soldiers and Judas coming down through that gate and watched them with their torches making their way through the olive grove and into Gethsemane, he had plenty of time to leave, plenty of time to leave. And he lit he stood here listened watched, you should never question whether or not God loves you, He could have run away easily. And if he instead he stood there,
Tara-Leigh Cobble 46:03
and surely for those of you haven’t been to Israel, the proximity of those things, when you’re standing in the garden of Yosemite, and you’re looking to the Eastern Gate, it’s just, it’s just across the valley. And you, he could have just turned and run the opposite direction, and then fled into the Judean wilderness, and they never would have found him. And yet he stayed. And when you are able to go there and see the proximity of these spaces, and it’s, it changes things, and I never want, it’s always hard mark, because I don’t know about you, but I struggle, because I want to convey how incredible it is to go there. But I never want to make somebody who hasn’t been there or is unable to go there think that they have a lesser, lesser faith or lesser relationship with the Lord or that there’s some level that they can’t attain to without going there. And so I always just kind of describe it like, so I’m a single person, I’m unmarried, never married. But if I were to meet someone and fall in love with him, great, that’s, that’s what we all hope for. But then when if I get to go meet his family, it doesn’t necessarily make me love him more. But it sure helps me make a lot of connections that are really helpful and understanding and knowing Him. And so you get, and you get there and you’re like, Oh, this is, this is where that saying comes from. And this is what that means. And now I understand a little bit better. And it it just adds a new dimension to things. But it doesn’t mean that anybody who who can’t go for whatever reason or who hasn’t been, it doesn’t mean that they have a lesser relationship with the Lord.
Mark Turman 47:34
right in to carry your ID a little bit further, if if that were to be a case, you were starting a romantic relationship like that. And that person’s family wasn’t accessible because of geography or because of Deadites, then you would say, show me a picture a picture of your dad and your family, which is why your book and other resources like that are so, so powerful. And many things about Israel and the holy land are accessible online through through YouTube. And that when we were there this last time, there’s like, an entire video of what the temple complex was like in Jesus’s day, you know, 3d, high quality developed imagery, you could you could actually look on your computer and and envision actually being in places that you you can’t even experience it when you’re in Israel, because it doesn’t exist. Yeah, right, totally. And so. So technology has enabled so much of this to be recreated. And, you know, I’m sure that your book is going to be outstanding, and like said, to be able to not only see it visually, but to have some of your own Gleanings and experiences in the in the commentary as well, for those who have never been a little bit. Sorry. Yeah, for people that you’ve met people that have never been or can’t go, yeah,
Tara-Leigh Cobble 48:53
the pictures will not only give you the visual, but we’ve also tucked 30 devotionals in there that are adjacent to the sites that we go to on our trips. So there’s a little bit of like, it’s sort of like a mini tour of Israel within this beautiful coffee table photo book.
Mark Turman 49:10
Well, I’m not going to keep you any longer. Thank you so much. But I do have one last question and that is okay. Favorite restaurant in Israel? I have an answer to this. So I’m just wondering which one you’re going.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 49:20
Okay. I have I have two answers to this. I have one in Jerusalem and one in me and I would like to have one until v two, one in Jerusalem and one in the Galilee in the Galilee. I like Magdalena which is right. Yes. Is that your answer?
Mark Turman 49:36
I have the cookbook. Yes. This last time. I bought two copies of the cookbook. One for my wife one for my daughter. Magdalena is unbelievably good. I never knew cauliflower could be that good.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 49:49
That’s fair. That’s fair. And in Jerusalem, I love City View, which is just you know it. I love to sit outside there. And there’s just a beautiful view. of Jerusalem. The whole city.
Mark Turman 50:02
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s Yeah. And some of the food is just absolutely astounding. And never have I felt so safe in a major city. I got out and walked at night, you know, 910 11 o’clock at night. And I felt safer then there than any city I’ve been in, in any part of the world, any part of the United States and yes, parts of Dallas at times. Yeah. But I mean, I was walking. Yeah, I was walking at, you know, 10 o’clock at night and felt totally safe.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 50:34
Yeah, I have been out by myself at one I am in Jerusalem and fell time.
Mark Turman 50:38
Yeah, it’s a fabulous, fabulous place. Look forward to seeing your book is going to be Thank you wonderful tool, I’m sure. But thank you for this conversation. It’s been fascinating to get to know you and your work and we are grateful, grateful for you to be a part of what you’re doing. Thank you for the Bible reading plan for the D groups for Israel for all of that we are grateful and people are obviously being touched and impacted and drawn closer to God because of it. Walking with.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 51:07
Thank you so much, Mark. I’m grateful for what you guys do here and and for all you listeners out there. I hope I get to read through the Bible with you.
Mark Turman 51:15
Absolutely. want to just thank our audience for listening in today. And obviously if today’s conversation has been helpful to you, please rate review us recommend us, send us to your friends. And check out Tara Lee’s work at the Bible recap and at my D group.ca.org. My de groot.org and you can find out all about her at her personal website as well. Tara Lee Kabul. Thank you Tara Lee. God bless you.
Tara-Leigh Cobble 51:41
Thank you, Mark. God bless you.