Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nazareth

After visiting Megiddo, the site of the final battle led by Jesus Himself, we stopped at the town where he spent most of His childhood -- Nazareth. It's a busy city now with a mix of the old and the modern. The city streets were crowded; we saw both mosques and churches.

Our stop was at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation built over the well where many believe the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing that she would be the mother of Jesus.

Lon reminded us that NOTHING is impossible with God and challenged us to think about how we might be limiting Him. Do we fail to pray with boldness and faith? Do we stop praying when a situation looks hopeless -- when that could be the exact time God is waiting to act -- when all human hope is gone?

We were all challenged to pray big, to pray with right motives, to pray without giving up, and to pray with expectation. That was personally challenging to me. I have several people I've spent years praying for. Sometimes I'm tempted to give up. But standing in the holy land and reflecting on the God who continually did the "impossible" I found renewed hope and perseverance to continue. How about you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Megiddo

Our 2nd stop on Day 3 was Megiddo. The Hebrew word "Har" means mountain. Drop the "h" and put the 2 together and we see a more familiar word -- Armegiddo -- or Armageddon. Yes, this is believed to be the site of that future battle when Christ will come again and win victory over the forces of evil. The valley of Armageddon is huge and very strategic. King Solomon kept chariots and horses at Megiddo, and we saw the ancient evidence. We descended 183 steps to see the underground water system that King Ahab built to help withstand enemy attack.

Lon talked about how record numbers of Jewish people are coming to Christ. It is estimated there are 60,000 Jewish believers or Messianic Jews. We can't say for sure how close we are to the battle of Armageddon described in the Bible, but we are seeing signs of things that must first happen. One thing we do know, each day draws us closer to the second coming of Christ.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mount Carmel

Our first stop on Day 3 was Mt. Carmel -- also called "The Place of Fire" -- site of that great battle between God's prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. The entire account is found in 1 Kings 18 and is action packed.

Elijah issued a challenge to the prophets of Baal to see whose God would light the sacrifice -- Baal (who is really no god at all) -- or the God of Israel, the One True God of the Universe!

Of course Baal could not light the sacrifice prepared by his prophets, because he is a man-made god with no real power.

However, Elijah prayed that God would light the sacrifice he had prepared, ". . . so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." God answered in such a dramatic fashion that there was no doubt He is God!

Lon Solomon challenged us to examine our own motives when we pray.
  • Is my main concern that my life be easier?
  • Or is my main motive to bring glory to God?
I wish I could say my motives were always pure. Many times I pray for good things, but with selfish motives. I want my life to be peaceful and my relationships secure.

However, what if I prayed like Elijah? What if the cry of MY heart was ". . . so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Would I see fire from heaven or feel the earth shake? God is still able.

Lord, search my heart and purify my motives. Make the desires of my heart in tune with Yours.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee


Woke up early on Day 3 to this view. Several young men and women from our tour group were already outside waiting for the sun to rise. I heard their voices worshiping God and just could not resist joining in. Praising God is contagious.


And so there we were -- singing praises to God at sunrise on the Sea of Galilee!


You know, the great thing about praising God is we can do that anywhere -- in front of the Sea of Galilee or in front of a computer screen. How about praising Him together right now with this Chris Tomlin song.


The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide
it trembles at his voice, trembles at his voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, How great is our God

Monday, November 16, 2009

The highlight of our first full day in Israel was our baptism in the Jordan River by pastor and tour leader, Lon Solomon (he's in the middle of the photo.) My husband and I had each been baptized when we first believed in Jesus as Savior, as Messiah. This day in the Jordan would serve as a reminder of that commitment to Christ.

We stood in the Jordan -- that same river where Jesus was baptized. Matt 3:16-17 tells us, As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well please."

I hope it's ok to use God's own words and say, I am well pleased with His Son too!

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the Sea of Galilee


I almost can't believe we sailed on the Sea of Galilee -- the same sea where Jesus walked on water. We took the more traditional method of transportation -- a boat!

The Sea of Galilee is really a lake. Our tour guide said something like this: "Israel is such a small country, you might call this a lake, but we call it a sea." The sea is about 15 miles long and 8 miles wide. Not very big at all. You can easily see to the other side. The water was silky smooth the day we sailed. No waves, no wind. But we read about a different night on the sea -- a rough one. Lon Solomon read the account of Peter walking on water from Matthew 14. Lon reminded us that when our circumstances get tough, our focus must be on Christ.

I love that Lon chose Matt 14 for his teaching lesson. You see, I would speak at a women's retreat for Shelter Rock Church on Long Island when I returned from Israel. The retreat theme was BOTH FEET IN, and I would teach from the life of Peter and this exact story. God allowed me the privilege of sailing where Jesus once walked and then teaching the truths of that ancient account.

Do you ever have days that are almost too good to be true?
This day was one. But it was about to get even better!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Icing on the Cake

I returned yesterday from a weekend retreat on Long Island for the women of Shelter Rock Church. What a treasured memory I have! I spoke to them, but they ministered to my heart. What faith, what honesty, what transparency! These women opened their lives to me and to each other, and God showed up in a BIG way! I am not the same.

I told the women that my trip to Israel in October was such an incredible spiritual experience -- kind of like the CAKE. Sharing at their retreat was another spiritual high for me -- kind of like the ICING ON THE CAKE.

God renewed and refreshed my heart just when I needed it most. I am thankful.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

retreat on Long Island

Off to speak at a women's retreat on Long Island. Hmmmm. I'm so glad God goes with us wherever life takes us. You don't have to stand in the Holy Land to be on Holy Ground. I'm praying God transforms a NY hotel into Holy Ground because of His Presence. I've prepared the message, know what I plan to say, but still know God can surprise and astound me. Don't you just love that about our God.

Mount of Beatitudes


After Capernaum we drove the short distance to the beautiful Mount of Beatitudes. It was here that Jesus gave the famous message to the crowds. Jesus would have stood near the shore of the Sea of Galilee so the wind off the lake could carried His voice to the people on the hillside.

"Blessed are the . . ."

Jesus closed the sermon with the story of the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his house on sand. Both men heard the words of Jesus; they did not need more knowledge. They needed to obey. Yet the foolish man failed to put Jesus' words into practice.

On that famous mount, Lon challenged us to live lives of obedience -- to set the bar at nothing less than complete obedience to God's Word. We bowed our heads and asked God to examine our lives to reveal changes we needed to make in how we live, who we see, what we say . . .

And finally we sang the simple children's song "The wise man built his house upon the rock" complete with hand motions! Grown ups singing a children's song.

Life gets complicated and obedience becomes hard. Can I keep it simple -- obey -- build my house upon the rock of Jesus Christ? When I hear that song in the future, I'll picture myself on the Mount of Beatitudes looking down to the Sea of Galilee, imaging my Savior speaking to my heart. A simple message -- a powerful truth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Olive Press at Capernaum

I took this photo at Capernaum. See the olive (or oil) press -- the tall white stone to the right? That heavy stone would have been used to press the olives to extract the valuable oil.

Gethsemane means "oil press."

Can you see the link between Capernaum and Gethsemane? Jesus earthly ministry was based in Capernaum, but would end in Jerusalem where He would agonize at the Garden of Gethsemane. There the heavy weight of the world would be upon His shoulders as He cried out to the Father.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Is 53:5

We will visit Gethsemane while in Jerusalem, and I'll remember this olive press in Capernaum. The Bible is coming alive.

Day 2 Capernaum


How do I describe Capernaum? I loved it. I loved being where Jesus based His earthly ministry. I stood in the synagogue where Jesus taught -- the exact place. We know because the black stones at the base of the building date from the time of Christ.

Luke 7 tells the story of Jesus healing the Centurion's servant. The Centurion understood the power and authority of Jesus like no one else. Do I? Do I really understand who God is?

The size of my faith will grow as the size of my God grows. Of course you know that God does not grow, but my understanding of Him does. Lord, give me a greater understanding of who you are. Open my eyes, astound me, amaze me!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 2 Begins


Day 2 began with an unexpected visit to a site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee -- The Church of St. Peter's Primacy. This is the location where Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection as told in John 21. Jesus asks Peter 3 times, "Do you love me?" Then Jesus instructs him to "feed my sheep." I love that Jesus asks Peter 3 times. Remember that Peter had denied Jesus 3 times on the night of His arrest. It's like Jesus gave him a "do-over" and Peter is able to declare his love for his Savior as many times as he had denied even knowing Him.

By asking Peter to care for His sheep, Jesus let Peter know he is still of service in the kingdom of God. He did not blow it beyond repair. He did not out-sin the power of God to forgive. He did not flee so far away that God could not reach him.

Lon's message here was powerful. God's love in unconditional. His love is more healing that any pill, therapist or scalpel. And God always initiates. He sought Peter out where He'd first found him -- fishing on the Sea of Galilee. God always seeks us. Aren't you glad?

On that ancient shore we contemplated such love and sang . . .

Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh, how He loves you and me.
He gave His life, what more could He give;

Oh, how He loves you, Oh, how He loves me,

Oh, how He loves you and me.