Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monastery of St. George

We stopped at a beautiful 5th century monastery on the steep slopes of Wadi Kelt. A wadi is a dry river bed, and the monastery seems to hang on the slopes as if carved into the rock -- I can't adequately describe the natural beauty of this secluded spot. It was a tough walk down and a tougher walk back up, but so worth the effort. There were some friendly donkeys available for anyone too tired to make it back to the tour bus. They just added to the charm of this awesome site. The monastery is located along the old Roman route between Jericho and Jerusalem, a dangerous journey because of wild animals, including the most dangerous threat -- man. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan farther up the route closer to Jerusalem.

Our next stop is the holy city -- Jerusalem. It is sure to be an incredible experience. The anticipation builds -- we can hardly wait.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Traditional Site of Jesus' Baptism

We made a brief stop at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus. There is a small area for people to be baptized today, but the river here is quite small and muddy. There is an alternative baptism site more popular with tourists farther north near the Sea of Galilee. That's where we were baptized in the Jordan on our last trip to Israel -- an experience I'll never forget.

This site is near the city of Jericho and also a few miles away from where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. It is in a stark, dry area in what we would call a demilitarized zone. There are fences keeping people from straying into an area with land mines. We did not stray! Directly across the Jordan River is the country of Jordan. You could throw a stone across the river and hit another country. But I wouldn't advise it -- there was a Jordanian guard on the other side who might not be so happy.

The Jordan River feeds the Sea of Galilee from the north, and then the river continues south to the Dead Sea.  The Sea of Galilee is used as the major source of drinking water for all of Israel, as well as for irrigation. As we noted when we visited the ruins of Bethsaida in the north, the Sea of Galilee has receded from its old banks. As a result, the Jordan River to the south of the Sea of Galilee is not as mighty as it used to be.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bethsaida

This was a new archaeological site in northern Israel discovered in the 1990's. Not much work has been done here yet, but it will be interesting to watch the progress in the years to come. The name Bethsaida means house of fishing. The Sea of Galilee has been receding over the years, so the ruins of the town are not on the water's edge today. Peter, Andrew and Philip were from Bethsaida. Jesus performed many miracles there, including healing a blind man and feeding the 5000.

According to Matt 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."

The people of Bethsaida saw so many miracles of Jesus that they trivialized God. It's easy to condemn them, but what about us? We see God do incredible things in our lives and in our churches. Do we triviliaize God? Do we trivialize sin? 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Belvoir

Belvoir means beautiful view. It's the name of a crusader fort built in the 12th century. Belvoir is perched on a high hill overlooking the Jordan River valley. Its strategic location allowed the defenders of the fort to see any enemy approach. It also allowed us spectacular views on a sunny day in the Galilee region of Israel. Can you see the fertile land in the valley that uses water from the Jordan for irrigation?


The crusaders behaved brutally in the name of Christ. The damage from the crusades can still be felt today. The crusaders started with a noble cause, but had terrible behavior. The lesson for us today is that we can damage the reputation of Christ by our behavior even if we have a noble purpose. We need a noble purpose AND noble behavior. The 2nd chapter of 1 Peter has a lot to say about our behavior. Verse 12 says to "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." That's great wisdom for today.

Joke: Why do the people in the Holy Land sleep at night? Because
 of the Israelites.

I know, I know, that was a terrible joke.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gideon's Spring

This is the site where God had Gideon thin out his army before going into battle. Judges 7 contains the account. God did not let Gideon take his entire army or they would boast that their own strength saved them. God separated the men by the way they drank water from this spring. The Lord left Gideon with only 300 men to defeat the enemy. God used a few ordinary men to accomplish an extraordinary feat.

God still uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways today. He delights in using the unlikely to do what seems impossible. That's God's way. Otherwise we would be prone to boast in ourselves, when God alone deserves the glory and honor and praise. God alone.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nain

Still Day 1. We visited the small town of Nain, with a population of about 3000 today. This is where Jesus raised the widow's son from the dead. We were reminded that Jesus knows us by name and sees everything we face. Luke put it this way in his gospel -- "When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her..." (Lk 7:13). Not only does Jesus care for us, but He also has the power to help us in our time of need. What a wonderful reminder for all of us.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mount Tabor

Day 1 in Israel. We start out at the top -- the top of Mount Tabor -- the traditional site of the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt 17:1-13). We know this is the site because of Queen Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. Both were Christians, so when Helena wanted to visit the Holy Land, Constantine supplied her with a legion of Roman soldiers. On her visit, Helena located significant sites from the life of Jesus and left Roman soldiers there to build a church. Because of her efforts, we know where many of the Biblical accounts took place. Helena built over 80 churches in the Holy Land. The church in the picture is built over the foundation of one of Helena's churches.


Mount Tabor is the site where Jesus peeled back His humanity so Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of His glory. His glory was seen as brilliant,white light.

I come away knowing I haven't a clue of the wonder, and the brilliance of God's glory. But, one day . . . I will know . . . when I see Him face to face.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Israel 2013

We had the privilege of participating in Lon Solomon's Advanced Israel Tour. This was my third trip to Israel. Each trip has been unique, and this one did not disappoint.

The flight is long -- over 10 hours from New York to Tel Aviv and then a few hours bus ride to our hotel in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee. But the long hours are worth it. Here's a view of the Sea of Galilee from our hotel room.

Watching the wooden boats sail by, you can almost imagine Jesus sailing the same waters with his disciples, several of whom were fishermen. Galilee is beautiful. I love that Jesus was a "country" boy, who walked and sailed all over the area. His footsteps are everywhere, and I had the privilege of walking in them.

The Bible comes alive when you visit the Holy Land. Place names have significance like never before. Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethsaida aren't just names anymore -- they are places I've visited -- in the footsteps of Jesus.


The land is diverse. I hope to show you some of it through pictures on this blog. But I'd encourage you to save if you can and visit the Holy Land yourself one day. The experience will change your life.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Church

Here's a great quote on the church from Bill Hybel's book Courageous Leadership.

"There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. 
Its beauty is indescribable. 
Its power is breathtaking. 
Its potential is unlimited. 
It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. 
It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. 
It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. 
It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. 
Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness."

Wow! I know that no church is perfect. But, how is something like this even possible? It's possible because the church is the body of Christ and with Him, all things are possible (Matt 19:26). I'm glad I'm part of the church.