Day 9 in Israel

This was the final day of touring Israel. We had a great trip but I think I can speak for the whole group when I say we are ready to come back home! Tonight we are staying at a new hotel called Neve Ilan. Here are some of the places we visited today:

The Dome of the Rock. I am glad that we took the extra time to go up to the top of the temple area. For a number of reasons the temple area was one of my favorite locations to visit. As non-Muslims we were not able to go into the Dome of the Rock mosque but it was great to walk around it and see it up close.

We went by The Temple Institute. It was not really part of the tour but I found learning about it fascinating. The Temple Institute is doing all they can to get ready for the third temple to be rebuilt. Here is their purpose taken directly from their website, “The Temple Institute’s ultimate goal is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, in accord with the Biblical commandments.” You may wonder why I find that intriguing. So let me tell you. In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 we learn that in the end times the antichrist will set himself up to be god in the new temple. If this new temple were rebuilt it would cause massive political fallout and probably a war because the Islamic Dome of the Rock is in the spot where the third temple would be built. I find all of this super interesting and it increases my desire to search and know the Word of God.

We also saw the Wailing Wall. It is called the Wailing Wall because the Jews are mourning the loss of their temple. Jews come to the wall to pray and for a number of other religious traditions. You can learn more here: https://www.gotquestions.org/Wailing-Wall.html

We also visited The Garden Tomb. This is another spot where they believe Jesus could have been buried. You will see in one of the pictures below that there is a massive rock that looks like a skull. Golgotha is also referred to the place of the skull in Matthew 27:33.

At The Garden Tomb we also stopped to take communion together and worship in song. After a busy week it was nice to visit this garden, take communion, and reflect on all that Christ has done for us. Pastor Jeff Ruggles gave a devotional and I led the time of communion.

We will be leaving the hotel a little after midnight and finally arriving in Sioux Falls on Thursday at about 5:00 pm. It has been a wonderful trip and it has been neat to be able share a little bit of it with you! See you soon!

These are Jews who come to the Wailing Wall to pray. This is as close as they are allowed to the location of where they believe their old temple was located.
If you wore shorts you needed to put on this “skirt” to go near The Dome of the Rock.
Group picture!
The Place of the Skull. The two holes to the right are supposed to be the eyes.
Believe it or not you could buy a yamaka with Trump’s picture on it.
Lunch with the group
Video of the Wailing Wall

Day 8 in Israel

Good afternoon from Israel! We are 8 hours ahead of South Dakota. The day of touring is over, going to make this post, and head down to dinner. Here are the main places we visited/saw today:

1-We spent nearly all day in the old city of Jerusalem. The first place we visited was Bethesda. It was at Bethesda that Jesus healed a paralyzed man in the fifth chapter of John. The timing is great for me to be visiting Israel because I just started a sermon series on the Gospel of John and I think this trip will help me visualize the stories that I will be preaching! At Bethesda we also saw the birthplace of Mary the mother of Jesus.

2-From there it starts to get more intense because we began seeing the sights that led directly to the crucifixion of Jesus.

3-We saw where Jesus was whipped.

4-We walked the Path of Via Dolorosa. This is the final path that Jesus took on the way to the cross.

5-We saw the sight where they believe Jesus was crucified. As you might imagine this is an extremely crowded and busy place.

6-From there we went to Mt Zion. Here we saw the room of the room of the Last Supper.

Observations from today:

The one dominant theme from today is that Jesus came into this world to die in our place so that we might have eternal life. From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry he knew that his mission would lead him to the cross. What do we do with this? How do we redound?

“Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow”

I will respond by living the rest of my days for the only person to know everything about me (the good and the bad) yet he loved me enough to die for me.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21

Beautiful art
work about Mary.
Location they believe Mary was born.
Via Dolorosa
The tomb of Jesus.
The place they believe Jesus was crucified. It is called Golgotha and The Place of the Skull. You can actually stick your hand in the place where they believe the cross went into the ground. Side note-all the gold, silver, and ornaments was distracting for many people in our group. This site looks nothing like what you would imagine from the biblical narrative. One example of this is the basic fact that this site Is inside The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The location where Peter denied Jesus three times.
Where Jesus was held as a prisoner before he was executed.
Art work of Jesus being bound.
Israeli police giving someone a
ticket.
When in Jerusalem you do as they do.

Day 7 in Israel

We have moved and now we are staying at the Olive Hotel in Jerusalem. So far the hotel seems very nice. Here are the places we visited today:

1-Cana. This was the very first place where Jesus performed a miracle. Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding. We took time to have a devotional and read from John 2:1-12. The miracle is specifically called a “sign” because the purpose of the miracle was to affirm the deity of Jesus Christ.

2-Bet Shean. This is a city that is in the Jordan Valley. The site is famous partly due to the fact that there are so many archeological remains of the city. In this city was located, for a period of time, the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were responsible for putting on the trial that led to Jesus’ death.

3-Me Casa Pizza. We stopped for lunch and had Israeli pizza. It was quite good but I did wish that they would throw some meat on it. BTW: neither Muslims or Jews eat pork. Eating pork is forbidden in the Quran.

4-Mt Olives. By far this was my favorite site. Mt Olives is in Jerusalem and it is also right by the location of the Jewish temple. Consider this, Jesus taught about the end times in Matthew 24-25 on Mt Olives (Olivet Discourse), Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on Mt Olives, Jesus ascended into heaven on Mt Olives, in Zechariah 14:4 there is a prophecy that at the Second Coming Jesus will return to Mt Olives. On top of that, as I mentioned, the temple grounds are right next to Mt Olives. The biblical history of this location is absolutely amazing! Today there are approximately 100,000 people living on Mt Olives and most of them are Palestinian.

Observations:

Just a sense of amazement when it comes to the biblical history on Mt Olives and Jerusalem. As I mentioned above, everywhere you look in this area you are reminded of the life of Christ. Favorite location so far.

The battle for this geography has been intense. In fact, many have said that there have been more wars here than any other place in the world. Why? Christians, Jews, and Muslims all see this area (temple in Jerusalem) as one of their most holy sites. It is deeply disturbing that so many lives have been lost in the name of religion.

Zechariah 14:4 tells us this, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” What does this mean? In my opinion it is telling us that one day Jesus will return for a second time to Mt Olives! For those who know Christ this will be a glorious day. For those who don’t know Jesus it is a time of utter despair. It was fascinating to stand on Mt Olives and reflect on the idea that Jesus is coming to that very spot.

I continue to think how sad it is that many people seem to make an idol out of these holy places. I think it is a great idea to come here and think about the life of Christ. It is so unfortunate that others are acting like these locations and artifacts are supernatural in themselves. You see people kissing things like the rock where Jesus prayed while in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Dome of the Rock is a Muslim mosque and it is on the location of the two temples in the Old Testament. You can’t go into this mosque unless you are a Muslim. Here is a link if you want to learn more about the Dome of the Rock Temple: https://www.gotquestions.org/Dome-of-the-Rock.html
Me
Some say this is the rock that Jesus prayed on while in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is inside a church called “Church of All Nations.” You can see from the picture people bowing down, touching the rock and praying.
Having some tasty pizza at Me Casa Pizza restaurant.
This is in the lobby of the Olive Hotel. It is critical that hotels here are kosher or else Jewish people will not stay there. Things you rarely think about in America.
Ice coffee. It was meh.
I dazzled people with my ability to play the shofar. I’m thinking I will use the shofar to add musical depth to the New Life worship team.
This is a road in Ben Shean. Amazing how much of the city is still here to look at.
Garden of Gethsemane
Pastor Jeff leading the group in a discussion of God’s Word. Jeff is doing a great job leading us.
The church that is located in Cana near the spot where Jesus performed his first miracle.
The Islamic call to prayer coming from the Dome on the Rock Temple

Day 6 in Israel

It’s hard to believe that day 6 in the Holy Lands is coming to a close. Here is a summary of our day:

1) We started by going to a private location right by the Sea of Galilee for a worship service just for our group. This might have been my favorite part of the day. Pastor Jeff and I shared the story of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. Many people in our group have had their fair share of trials over the past couple years and it was super comforting to focus on the fact that we never need to be fearful because Christ is with us. “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” -Matthew 14:27

2-Next we went to Tel Dan. Dan is right by Lebanon and in this city are the remains of the high places that King Jeroboam set up. High places were places that the Jews would go and worship false gods. Jeroboam set these high places up because he did not want the Jews to head south to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. If they traveled to Jerusalem they might stay there and he would lose his kingdom (kingdom was divided at this time).

3-Then we went to Caesarea Philippi. This was another city that Herod the Great had constructed. To say that Herod was ambitious would be a huge understatement. It was a city filled with false gods and idolatry. It was in this city that Jesus told Peter he would build his church and the gates of hell would not overcome it.

4-Then we headed back south towards our hotel in Tiberias. On the way to Tiberias we traveled through the Golan Heights. Golan Heights was captured by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. We also had terrific views of Syria, Lebanon and of course Israel.

Observations:

I wish I could live here for a year or two. Seriously. I would love to really immerse myself in this culture to learn what makes it tick. There is so much history, culture, political intrigue and I would love to learn all about it. Maybe New Life will arrange for a year long sabbatical for Marcie and me in Israel. 😉

Everything points to Jesus. All the history, all the cities, all the archeology points to the fact that the Son of God left heaven and moved into this Middle Eastern neighborhood. This place screams “Jesus” yet so many here don’t know him personally. Would you join me in praying that all the people here would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

The life blood of Israel, the Jordan River. The Jordan River starts from the snow on Mt Hermon and flows south all the way into the Dead Sea. In this River John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
This massive rock is in Caesarea Philippi. It might have been the reason Jesus made the reference to Peter being the rock the church would be built upon.
This is a picture of Syria from Mt Hermon.
I found a place to get a bigger cup of coffee. Thank you for praying for me!
Notes from our worship service this morning by the Sea of Galilee.
An Israeli tank being transported while we were traveling on the bus.
Here is a directional sign that shows how far it is from Mt Hermon to Washington DC…kinda weird.
This was the place by the Sea of Galilee where we had our worship service.

Day 5 in Israel

Day 5 is coming to a close. Here are the places we visited and some of my observations.

1-Capernaum. This was the place where Jesus spent most of time once he turned 30. It is a beautiful location right on the Sea of Galilee. Here we saw the location where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.

2-We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. So many stories are tied to the Sea of Galilee which means it was pretty special to be out there on a boat.

3-We visited the site of the feeding of the 5000. Luke 9:10-17.

4-Magdala. This was the hometown of Mary (Magdalene). The more you reflect on the life of Mary Magdalene the more you are amazed by her love and devotion of Jesus. Jesus exorcised 7 demons out of Mary and the result was a woman who was willing to follow him wherever he went. She was there at his crucifixion and his resurrection.

Observations:

The archeology and all the discoveries strongly affirm the validity of God’s Word! I mean this has to be a huge takeaway from visiting all of these sites. No doubt about it these sites increase our faith in the trustworthiness of God’s Word.

It is neat to think about Jesus walking all over Galilee loving people and setting them free from all kinds of bondage. Luke 4:18 seems like a perfect verse to describe what I am thinking, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Taking the last observation one step further. Jesus loves sinners. The misfits. The people who live out of the spotlight. The whole trip is really a reminder of God’s unwarranted grace, mercy and compassion for people like me.

Church on Mount of Beatitudes
View from our boat on the Sea of Galilee
Flag of Israel on our boat. The cross is a reminder of what it’s all about.
In one of the gift shops
The home of Peter
Synagogue in Capernaum (right next to Peter’s home)
Synagogue in Magdala. Hometown of Mary Magdalene. I would like to have a cup of coffee with Mary one day and listen to her testimony!
Statue of Mary Magdalene giving Jesus a piece of bread
Please pray for me as I deal with this ongoing tribulation.

Day 4 in Israel

We have had a full day and have also moved to a new hotel, Leonardo Hotel right on the Sea of Galilee. How cool is that!

Here are the sites we visited today:

1-Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea. Here we saw the other palace of Herod the Great. Visiting here you realize the tremendous influence that Herod had on this region of the world during the days of Jesus. Herod was responsible for the development of multiple cities and was a brilliant man. Yes, he was a man of influence but he was also very evil.

2-Mt. Carmel. This is the location where Elijah called down fire and God burned up the altar in a competition with the false gods of Baal and Asherah.

3-Megiddo. This is the place that many people believe the great battle of Armageddon will take place in the future. See below for more thoughts about the end times…

Revelation 16:12-16 describes the battle of Armageddon, “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. . . . Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” I personally believe this will be a battle that takes place near the end of the tribulation.

4-Nazareth. This is the hometown of Jesus Christ. Today there are about 85,000 people living in Nazareth. It is fascinating to think about Jesus living every day life in this remote out of way place. I do look forward to seeing him one day!

Herod’s amphitheater in Caesarea.
Mediterranean Sea.
Herod’s aqueduct. Amazing engineering!
View from Mt Carmel.
Statue of Elijah on Mt Carmel
Abraham was our tour guide. He is a Palestinian Christian.
The Leonardo Hotel right on the Sea of Galilee. This is the second hotel we have stayed at.
Group picture from The Precipice in Nazareth.

Observations? I would say that is a sobering moment to walk around a place where you believe there will be such a horrific battle (Armageddon). As Christians we have much work to do before Jesus returns but of course it is a terrific comfort to know that King Jesus wins.

I would also say that the fact that our tour guide is Palestinian is messing with our heads quite a bit. He is a Christian but his Palestinian opinions come out frequently. In some ways I think this is good for our group. It will force us to consider other views when it comes to the history of the Middle East. I want to be open to having my world view expanded from my time in Israel.

Day 3 in Israel

Day 3 here in Israel is winding down. We went to:

King Herod’s castle-Learned all about King Herod and we were able to walk through the remains of his castle. His castle is on the West Bank just a little south of Jerusalem.

The Shepherd’s Field-This is the place where the angels told the shepherds the good news of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Church of the Nativity-This is a church and inside the church you can go see the location of Jesus’s birth.

Observations:

1-What a great group of people I am traveling with! Everyone has a good attitude and they are eager about getting out and exploring the Holy Lands.

2-Our tour guide is a Palestinian Christian and so we are hearing everything from a Palestinian perspective. In some ways this is good because it is really forcing us to think about Israel/Palestine relations in a new way.

3-It is amazing to think that so many people are still traveling to Israel because of this one man, Jesus Christ. There is no doubt about the impact Christ has had upon all mankind. People are flocking here to see the place where Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected.

Breakfast with the crew
The living quarters of King Herod
The site where Jesus was born
Church of the Nativity (built on the location of Jesus’ birthplace)
The size of their coffee 😢
A painting for sale for $6000.00
The West Bank (right outside of Herod’s castle)

Going to dinner soon. Looking forward to traveling to Galilee tomorrow morning.

Day 2 in Israel

Day 2 is about to wrap up here in Israel. Here are some of the places we visited today:

Jordan River where they believe Jesus was baptized. I had the honor of baptizing Jamie!

Dead Sea. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah took place near the Dead Sea. Many of us got in the water and we can confirm that it is indeed very salty.

Qumran. This is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.

Jericho. The oldest inhabited city in the world.

Couple observations:

1-We are staying in the Angel Hotel in Bethlehem for the first three days. At about 5:30 am this morning we could hear the Islamic call to prayer going out over the city. For me personally it was a reminder of the intense spiritual battle that is still taking place in these holy lands and around the world.

2-God works in small out of the way places (and people)! When you travel around these cities you can’t help but wonder why God chose this land to start the Christian movement. Perhaps Deuteronomy 7:7-9 gives us the answer, “The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” I guess it is a good reminder that works in and through people and places that you and I might never expect. I would think part of it has to doo with God getting the glory and not us.

$5.00 for a camel ride
Mediterranean food. I really like it.
Jamie getting baptized in the Jordan River
Qumran. This is the cave where most of the scrolls were found.
Qumran. Explaining the discovery of the scrolls.

Tomorrow we will spend time visiting the cave where Jesus was born, the Shepherd’s field where angels proclaimed the good news of Jesus’ birth, and a few other places.

Day 1 in Israel!

As I type this I am getting ready to go to bed at Angel Hotel in Bethlehem. It has been a long day of travel.

Sioux Falls to Chicago

Chicago to Frankfurt

Frankfurt to Tel Aviv

All the travel plans worked out nicely and we all arrived safely.

Found out today that the gentleman (Abraham is his name) who is our tour guide is a Palestinian Christian. He takes his job seriously and we are anticipating an excellent tour of the Holy Lands with him.

Abraham told us that over 70% of the Jews in Israel are secular. This of course makes us sad because we would love for all people to know how amazing Jesus is.

I am so tired and looking forward to getting some rest. I will post every day that we are here in Israel.

I’m headed to Israel

Monday I am getting on a plane and flying to Israel! I am going with about 20 people from my church and a few others as well. Life has been crazy busy so it was not until this week that I had the time to really begin to get excited about the trip.

I will be gone Oct 17-27.

Monday-fly to Israel

Tuesday-Arrive in Tel Aviv

Wednesday-Jericho and Qumran

Thursday-Herodian and Bethlehem

Friday-Caesarea, Mount Carmel and Tel Megiddo

Saturday-The Galilee

Sunday-Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights and Bethsaida

Monday-Cana, Nazareth, Samaria and Jacob’s Well

Tuesday-Jerusalem

Wednesday-Jerusalem again

Thursday-return home

I will definitely be sharing photos, videos, insights and ways that God used it my life and the lives of others.

Sea of Galilee