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Amazing First Day in Actual Jerusalem…

How can I describe the whirlwind we just experienced in this day? I’ll just start with a narrative of how it all happened.

We wanted to get a head start on all the crowds. Of all the trips I’ve taken here with groups this by far has been the busiest. Tons of tour buses everywhere. People of all shapes, colors and languages. Jerusalem really is the most popular city in the world. It draws in every faith because it is a city that is holy. The most popular faiths that honor this sight are Christians, Muslims and people of the Jewish faith. There are two key parts to Jerusalem. You have the Old City of Jerusalem and you have the new city. The closer you live to the Old City the more expensive it is. Its pretty amazing to think that in the Jewish faith, when you are buried you are buried in nearly a sitting position and you are always facing the city of Jerusalem and more specifically the Temple or in this case where the Temple should be rebuilt.

So we got up early and were on the bus by 7:30AM after a great buffet breakfast. We took off to the Old City of Jerusalem where we were going to walk the Via Dolorosa. Via means in Latin, “The Way” and Dolorosa means, “suffering.” The Way of Suffering. It is the path that Jesus took as he carried his own cross to Golgotha to be crucified. It is just under one mile and mostly uphill with many stairs. It has what tradition calls 12 stations. I can’t remember them all right now but some of them are where you pause to commemorate where he was judged by Pontius Pilate. Three of the stations are where Jesus fell while carrying the cross. One is where Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross for Jesus…this station made sense as Simon of Cyrene was asked to carry it just before a long and steep incline. After Jesus’ extreme whipping and beating there is no way he could have carried his cross on his own strength. We were tired just walking up it ourselves. The last three stations are where they strip him, nail him to the cross and then where they buried Him. It is a powerful experience.

A quick note on the cross. It is not likely that Jesus or any criminal to be crucified actually carried the entire cross. They would have just carried the upper “cross” beam. The beam would have been tied and nailed to a tree trunk and Jesus would have only been a few feet off the ground. Contrary to popular opinion and songs…Jesus would not have been crucified, “ON A HILL Far Away.” He would have been hung on a cross just on the roadside…much like a ditch in today’s time. This was so passers by would be warned not to break the law…or else!

One more note about the crucifixion area including what is called Golgotha or Skull hill. Tradition has it in the location we visited today where The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built. There is also a possibility it is in another location that we will visit tomorrow. I like to think its in the location we visit tomorrow. But tradition in Jerusalem is pretty accurate. So…who knows…the exact location doesn’t really matter and the fact that we visit both takes away all doubt. We definitely will have stood on the ground where Jesus was crucified. Pretty Amazing. I didn’t have any pictures of this walk but you can check out facebook, I’m sure many of the others took some photos. The picture I have here is of George, our tour guide sharing with us some great facts about the Via Dolorosa.
After the Via Dolorosa we took a break on a roof top café and had some coffee or other drinks. It was in the shade and it was overlooking much of the old city. Very nice half hour break just relaxing, laughing and enjoying the company of each other. I love our church in that it is full of people who enjoy getting know each other. I pray we never lose that focus and desire.

We then took off towards Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Words can’t describe as we worked our way through 9 phases of the horrific things that Nazi Germany did to groups of people. Most people think that Hitler was just after the Jewish people. 6 Million Jews were murdered by Hitler and Germany but an additional 6 Million people from other nations were also killed. Some of these people groups were from Romania, Soviets, Polish, also homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses and other political or religious opponents. The total number of people murdered by Hitler’s Leadership could be up to 17 Million people. I wonder what Hitler thinks now as he sits in Hell? I’ll bet he wishes he would have lived very differently! The Holocaust museum tells the story of how it all happened in a breath taking way. It started by showing the good life of the Jewish people and then it transitioned to how Hitler began to win the favor of the people . When Hitler came into power…the people of Germany Voted him in by an overwhelming popular vote. People crowded and cheered for him. He was an incredible communicator and a great vision caster and then it all turned ugly. Hitler slowly trained Germans and others to believe that Jews were actually the embodiment of the devil. He taught them that Jews where not even true human and that their very existence will ruin all of mankind. Over one million children were shot, gassed and starved to death. Mother’s were ripped away from their sons and daughters. Humiliation, annihilation and sheer atrocity were performed. I wonder why it took America so long to respond and stand up to such a cruel thing? I hope someday you can spend some time in a Holocaust museum. It all happened not that long ago. There are still survivors alive today. In fact…a Parkway member has a grandmother I met recently who is a survivor of the Holocaust. I spoke with her about a year ago about her experience. It was an honor to speak with her.

After the Holocaust Museum we ate lunch and then took off for The pools of Bethesda. This is the place inside the Old City of Jerusalem where Jesus healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years. The pool area doesn’t have any water in it anymore but it is most definitely the location. You can read about this story in John 5:1 and following. When done with that we visited a little ancient church that has amazing acoustics because of its concrete domes and walls and we sang a couple of songs just to hear the cool bouncing of our voices. It was fun and actually a spiritual experience.

Next we headed off to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the place where Jesus went up the Mountain of Olives and into the Olive Tree Gardens and asked his Apostles to pray for him as he withdrew about a stones throw away to pray. This is the location where Jesus asked His Father to “take this cup of suffering away, but not my will be done.” This is the location where Jesus was so stressed he sweated drops of blood. This is the place where Judas betrayed him. We took a group photo at this sight. I took a picture of one of the Olive Trees in the garden. These trees were carbon dated and they are around 2000 years old! If those trees could speak…what would they tell us about their experience with Jesus in the Garden. Gethsemane means, “Olive Press.” The intense pressure they used to crush olives and squeeze their oil for our consumption is a fitting depiction of what kind of crushing Jesus would receive on our behalf. Here is a picture of one of the great olive trees in the area.

After this we headed off to the area where Jesus went into the upper room and ate his Last Supper with his apostles. It isn’t the exact room but it is a room preserved and it gave us a great image and understanding of what the room would have been like. It is a popular place and the crowds were immense on our way there…see the picture to see the crowds.
Next we went to one of my favorite places on the trip. We visited what is biblically known as Caiaphas’ house. Caiaphas was the High Priest who most likely organized the capture and killing of Jesus. The house of Caiaphas is the place where the Jewish authorities held prisoners. I took a picture of our group in front of the church that is built on top of Caiaphas’ house.
The prison in Caiaphas’ house has a special pit in it that has only one entrance. A carved hole in the top where they tied a rope around the prisoner and lowered him into the pit. There would be no way out except when the guards lowered a rope again and then hoisted you out by it. There is no doubt in my mind that this very pit is where Jesus was kept. Imagine a square pit that is about 20 feet deep and 15 feet wide of pure darkness, cold limestone and Jesus sitting in it all by himself for one night before he was crucified. It would be a dark, lonely and scary night. You can read the prophecy in Psalm 88…it’s a prayer that Jesus would have experienced in this pit. The pictures I took, may be tough to understand but I hope they help you envision it.
After this sight we walked up on a high point that overlooked what is called the Potter’s field. It is the place where Judas committed suicide after he was overcome by guilt for betraying Jesus. Its amazing to see all the growth in the City of Jerusalem. The economy is good here. But…nobody will build on the Potter’s field. It is a cursed place. So it is in nearly original condition and you can imagine Judas hanging himself and the Bible says his bowels ripped open and they came out.

And our final group stop was just outside Caiaphas’ house where there is a small set of Limestone steps called the Steps to Zion. These ancient steps are no doubt the very steps that Jesus was forced to climb as he was betrayed, captured, and then pushed off to be put in the pit I talked about earlier. See Pic.

And to the end night…the rest of the group hung out around the hotel, had a great dinner, some when out and walked around Jerusalem on this Sabbath night and I went and played basketball with our tour guide and some of his freinds. I had to wear my running shoes because I didn’t bring my basketball shoes or ankle braces. I did sprain my ankle very lightly but its okay. Just a little sore. It was fun to play hoops with a group of guys who I couldn’t understand one word they were yelling. There is no doubt that Israeli’s argue calls more than Americans. After every play they argued. I just watched and laughed. I played well and represented America and Parkway well! That a nice way of saying…I kicked butt! It was fun.
Tomorrow is another amazing day. Stay tuned. Our trip is almost over.
Wish you were here!
Trent


Headed to Jerusalem!

I didn’t fully proof read all the material below…be patient if there are typos or etc…
We had an early wake up call this morning because we wanted to be the first to arrive at MASADA! The wake up call was early enough for us to be able to see the sunrise over the Dead Sea. In the past the Dead Sea has been called the Sea of Two Moons. Because the Dead Sea is such a salty and oily water it makes for a great reflection when the moon is shining at night or the sun by day. Take a look at one of the Sunrise pictures I was able to take from my balcony.
We ate a great breakfast and loaded the bus and headed for Jerusalem. We stopped just 10 minutes from taking off at one of my favorite non-biblical sites called Masada. Masada, means Fortress, and is a retreat that King Herod the Great built 2000 years ago. Herod the Great is the King who had all babies 2 and under killed after he found out from the Magi that a child was born and this child would be a great King. Herod the Great could most easily be understood as a paranoid architect who was very paranoid about losing his power and position. In his paranoid attacks he would retreat down to Masada. Masada is a giant plateau very close to the Dead Sea. Herod had storehouses built, water cisterns, bathhouses, a synagogue and relaxation living quarters built on top of this massive plateau. This plateau is nearly 1500 feet high with only one way to the top.
) It had enough food and water storage to take care of 1000 people for 3 years. Masada is the number one Israeli tourist sight because of it tragic story. Here’s a brief synopsis. In the year 68 AD Rome was fighting Jewish rebels from the area of Jerusalem. When the rebels got so out of control in the Jerusalem, Rome ordered that the Temple be built and as many Jews killed as they could. Just under 1000 of these Jewish rebels escaped and headed to the fortress called Masada. Its an hours drive south of Jerusalem. Much longer to walk, especially with women and children. When they arrived they at first enjoyed the freedom and privacy that Masada provided. However, Rome soon found out where these rebel runaways were and sent nearly 15,000 troops to pursue and capture these rebels. When this vast army was seen approaching the rebels, well secured in Masada, began to make sure that Rome would not succeed in their demise. The Roman army began to lay siege to this fortress. To lay siege means to build camps around the fortress and nothing in our out. No food or water was allowed in or out. However the Roman soldiers were not aware that Masada had such vast stores of food and water. As time passed and the Romans soldiers, led by Josephus Flavius, realized that they were going to die of thirst and starvation before the Rebels on top of Masada were going to, they began to built a giant rock and dirt ramp on the side of Masada. The ramp would take nearly 3 years to build and it purpose was to get a battering ram up top to break through the walls. As the dirt ramp was nearing completion the Jewish Rebels knew they were not going to be able to stop them. If the Roman Soldiers broke through they Jewish Rebels knew their wives would be raped and their children turned into slaves and the men would die horrible deaths. So the leader of the Jewish Rebels named Eleazer gathered the leaders and they made a decision together. If you want to read the short speech that Eleazer gave you can Google “Masada” and read about it. Basically after Eleazer’s speech it was decided that the 1000 Jews would prefer to take each others lives than to be humiliated, raped and made slaves by the Romans. So Eleazer with his leaders chose 10 men to complete this mass death. The 10 leaders names were written on 10 clay pieces and the names were drawn as to who would kill who. But first…the story goes that each husband and wife amongst the 1000 rebels on Masada gathered their own children and embraced them and drove a dagger into the hearts of their children to execute them with a mercy killing. These mothers and fathers were driven by the knowledge of what would happen if the Romans got their hands on these children and thus chose to take their kids lives. After their children were killed…can you imagine, the pain of a mother and father doing this…the husband embraced his wife and they said their goodbyes and the husband drove his dagger from her back into her heart and held her unto her death. After all the men had done this they gathered together and the 10 men who had their names written on the clay shards, began to do an “honor” killing of all the men until there were just the 10 left. Then, Number 9 killed number 10. Number 8 killed number 9 until there was just number 2 and number 1 left. Person number 1 killed number two and then had to do the unthinkable. Kill himself.

When the Roman Soldiers pushed a battering ram up the Ramp(ruins of the ramp are still visible look at the picture from Masada looking down at the Ramp)
and finally broke through the wall to conquer and show their power and might to the Jewish Rebels…they found nothing but families of death. There is no such thing, to this day, recorded in Roman history about Masada. However…Israel every year has their graduating Military cadets gather on top of Masada to remember the story. Israel’s military mantra today is, “Masada shall never fall again!”

The reason we know this story is because 2 women and 5 children who were on Masada hid themselves and escaped after the Romans left, and they told a man named Josephus and he recorded it. His writing are what tells us the story of Masada. I think it would make a good movie remake. There is a Hollywood movie from the 1960’s or 70 that you could watch. Movies back then were a bit cheesy though. Somebody get Mel Gibson to do a remake!

After Masada we continued our bus ride to Jerusalem but first stopped in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus. We visited what is called the Shepherd’s field and saw an old cave just like the one Jesus would have been born in. When we hear that “There was no room in the Inn,” we think that Joseph and Mary tried to check into a hotel but it was full. Remember that Bethlehem at the time of Mary’s birth had a population of nearly 200. There are no hotels in a town that small! The bible word “cataluma” (spelling?) means place for the animals. In Joseph and Mary’s day people built homes over caves. The Cave back in Jesus’s day would be much like what we call basements. They had several stories built over a cave. The animals stayed in the cataluma. When Joseph and Mary arrived for the census to be taken their family home would have been full and family would have offered the “basement…aka…the cave. Jesus was born in a cave and laid in an animal feeding trough that we call a manger. A manger was not made of wood like we think. The manger that Jesus was laid in was made of limestone! Its true.

After visiting the Shepherd’s field we stopped for a good lunch. Here we are just sitting and relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. After this trip we will all know each other pretty well!
After lunch we went to the Church of the Annunciation. This church is built over the cave where Jesus was born. Tradition and History all agree that this is most definitely the cave where He was born. We stood in line for almost two hours to go down into the cave underneath this church.
After the Church of Annunciation we stopped at a Bethlehem shopping Store that is owned by Christians and supported their families through our consumption of their artifacts, olive wood carvings and some great knick knacks. I saw our group purchase items ranging from 2000 year old artifacts to T-shirts.

After the store, we jumped back on the bus and moved into our hotel in Jerusalem. From our hotel we can see the old city walls of Jerusalem. Tomorrow is going to be a good day in the City of God called Jerusalem.

Enough for now. Tune in tomorrow for more!
Only a few days left. The trip is going so fast.
We were asked today to pray for the peace of Israel.
You and I both know that peace will be impossible until Jesus Returns and settles the score.
Until then…Love God, Love people!
Trent


A day to catch our breath…

Today is the half way mark of our Holy Land Pilgrimage. We have been hitting the sights so frequently and fast over the last couple of days. Today was more laid back. It was a day of traveling out of Galilee and heading more towards the southern part of Israel. We packed up from our Sea of Galilee hotel, got on the bus by 8am and headed towards the Dead Sea. Just outside of Galilee is a place called Beth-shan. This ancient city is referenced in 1 Samuel 31:10. It is where the Philistines after killing King Saul and his 3 sons hung his body on the city gates. Beth-shan is also the largest excavation sight in all of Israel. It has an incredible theatre, amphitheatre, bathhouses, ancient toilet rooms (see pic), temple, and is very well preserved. It is the capital city of the Decapolis Cities. A set of 10 cities that Rome built in Israel. Beth-shan means House of Rest. It was a place for the Romans to rest, play and be entertained. We saw the amphitheater where, no doubt, Christians would have been fed to the lions and where Gladiators would have fought and died. Some of the group climbed the nearly 200 steps to the top of the site where the temple for this City was built. It was a pagan temple. The theatre where performances of singing and dramas would have taken place could seat up to 5000 people. I stepped on the stage and sang a couple of lines of opera and after embarrassing myself enough I had to stop. See pic. Next trip I’ll plan on performing a whole song.

After Beth-shan we headed further south and stopped to see a large sycamore tree. One just like Zacchaeus would have climbed when he wanted to see Jesus.

We then drove to a place called Hebron, which is just outside of Jericho where we stopped for a break and snack and some people purchased the famous Hebron Glass. It’s the only place in the world to buy this glass. They hand blow it into goblets, plates, mugs, vases, etc. The glass is so hard that the owner of the shop smacked two wine glasses together and they didn’t break. Many people bought some of the products and had them shipped home so they didn’t have to carry them on the way home.

We then drove by the ancient ruins of Jericho. “The walls came a tumbling down!” Jericho is known as the oldest city on earth. Excavations have dated it back to nearly 10,000 years ago. The excavations have proven that the walls did really tumble down.

After Jericho we traveled further south and checked into our hotel. Along the way the hotel called and told us they were overbooked and we thought we were in for some bad news. What happened though, made everybody’s day. The travel company we booked this whole trip with upgraded us to the Crown Plaza!!! What an amazing place. So we checked into our upgraded hotel and everybody quickly changed so they could exit out the back of the hotel and experience floating in the Dead Sea. I can’t even describe the sensation. The Dead Sea water is so full of salt that you are buoyant when you get in it. You cannot drown in the Dead Sea. The salt content of the Ocean is about 3%….In the Dead Sea…30%. The water has the consistency of Baby Oil. You literally let your feet come up and out in front of you and without moving a muscle you float. You could lay back and read the newspaper in 100 feet deep Dead Sea Water and without moving a muscle just float! See Pic. The Picture is of Colleen (sorry if I didn’t spell your name right, Colleen) The Dead Sea is literally the Lowest place on earth….it is nearly 1500 feet below sea level. Some of the people in the group purchased the famous Dead Sea Mud and rubbed it all over themselves out on the beach, let it dry and if you ask them they say it took off 10 years of age!! There is no doubt that after swimming in the Dead Sea it leaves your skin incredibly soft. Just don’t tell the guys I said that!

That’s it for today. It was mostly a travel and recovery day. Tomorrow we hit it hard again as we will visit Masada, Bethlehem and more locations I’ll blog about later and then check into our hotel rooms in JERUSALEM!

Again…I wish you were here with us. It has been an amazing trip. And it gets better tomorrow.

That all for now. Tune in tomorrow.
Trent


Tuesday’s Holy Land Excursion!

Did you know that Tuesday is the favorite day for people of the Jewish Faith to get married? Its because Tuesday is the 3rd day of the week and on the 3rd day of creation God said, “It is Good,” twice.

This great day started out with a beautiful sunrise upon the Sea of Galilee. The picture from our balcony says it all.Sea of Galilee Sunrise

We got ready for our day by having a great breakfast together and loaded up the bus by 7:30 AM to go for an hour boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. As we got on the boat, the men from Galilee raised the American Flag and played the national anthem just as we were taking off. Kinda cool! Everybody was in awe of the beauty of the lake. Kelli and I took the opportunity for a photo op. Trent and Kelli Sea of Galilee
While on the boat I asked the boat drivers to turn off the engine of the boat and allow us to come to a stop in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. We sat there in silence and listened to the waves sloshing against the boat. I imagined Peter and John and some of the others sitting in that very spot fishing. After some quiet on the Sea we opened our Bibles and talked about the stories that took place on this location. Jesus and Peter walking on water. Jesus sleeping in the bottom of the boat to be awakened and He got up and told the wind and waves to be still. They obeyed!! The story about Peter jumping out of the boat and swimming in to meet Jesus on the shore after He had risen from the dead. While out on the lake we pointed out the places on shore where Jesus fed the 5000 & 4000. The location where Jesus healed the demon possessed man and the demons were sent into the herd of pigs and the pigs jumped off a cliff into the sea. The place where Jesus pointed to “The city on a hill” and how we would never put a lamp under a bushel. The hill where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. The places where Jesus told Peter he would become a “fisher of men.” What a boat ride!

As we docked the boat and unloaded we immediately went into a museum right off the Sea of Galilee that found and preserved the remains of a boat dated back to Jesus’ era. It helped us understand what kind of boat Jesus traveled in and the Apostles fished from. Pretty cool.

We then loaded up the bus and drove to a location I have not been to even though this is my 3rd time to Israel. The place is called Dan. It took us an hour to drive to the far North of Israel (Isreal is the size of New Jersey) where the Lebanon/Israel borders meet. Dan is fortress that Jeroboam moved a group of Israelites to and urged them to worship false Gods. He built an altar where children were sacrificed to these false gods, made a golden calf that they prayed to. Jeroboam was an evil king of Israel and you can read about him and the place we visited in 1 Kings 12:25-33. The sight we visited was in very good condition even though the time of Jeroboam was nearly 1000 B.C.!

Just around the corner of Dan we visited what is considered the Canaanite Gate. Before Israel even existed the Canaanites ruled. This gate entry we saw is referenced in Genesis 14:14. Abraham’s name was still Abram. This gate is where Abram came to rescue Lot. Yes…the Lot of Sodom and Gomorrah. We took a group picture here. This gate is ancient. We’re talking around 4000 years old. Again…Genesis 14! Wow. See Pic. Caananite Gate

After that amazing site we stopped for lunch. Falafels again! I could eat that for lunch every day.

The next sites we hit were all sites that we spent about 15 minutes at each location. So much to see…so little time! We went to Caesarea Philippi where there was 3 cult temples built, one of them worshiping the false god “Pan.” Pan was part goat, part man…played a flute. It was at this site where Jesus asked the Apostles who they thought Jesus was. Peter replied… “You are the son of God!” Jesus rewarded his faith by telling him the keys of heaven were given to him. This site also is where they considered the “gates of Hades” to exist and that’s why Jesus said on this spot… The Church will prevail and the gates of hades will not!” There was a large cave that looked like it descended into darkness thus got nicknamed the gates of hell. I didn’t get pics of it, but if you check out facebook, lots of people on our trip took pictures.

Right after this visit we shot off again and this time  to the Mount of Beatitudes where we stood on the ground where Jesus taught about how to be blessed. “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit. Blessed are those who…read the whole Beatitudes section found Matthew 6:17 and following.  It says that Jesus climbed up a hillside and sat down and taught.  Our group stood and look down a hillside where there were many chair sized rocks that Jesus could have sat and taught from.  You can’t imagine how powerful it is to stand on the ground where Jesus actually stood!

We then went to the location where Peter was asked by Jesus, “Do you Love me,” 3 times. We were able to walk down to the water front and see and smell and feel the beach where Jesus spent much of His time right off the Sea of Galilee.

We then went to Capernaum. This is the location where Jesus healed the paralyzed man that some men lowered through the roof. We visited Peter’s Mother in Law’s home where Jesus would have slept on occasion. It was in this home that Jesus healed Peter’s Mother in Law and she got up and made them dinner.  We know this is the spot of Peter’s home because of the engraving they found from the 1st Century.  We visited the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus would have spent time teaching the people. Capernaum is a place that doesn’t have any life in it today. Jesus cursed it because of the people’s unbelief. Matthew 11:21. It was also in this town where Jesus said, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Again…an amazing historical sight. It was inspiring to walk around in the place.

After Capernaum we had one final spot to get to before the day would be over. The Jordan river where we had some people on our trip who wanted to be Baptized where Jesus was baptized. So we had to rent white robes and towels and we got into the cold waters of the Jordan and I baptized around 10 people. The place was packed.  There were people from all over the world. You could hear all the different languages and see all the different skin colors. Jesus is pretty amazing. He can unite and He can divide. He said He is the Alpha and the Omega. All the different types of people at this one location gave us all a glimpse of what Heaven might look like. All those baptized gasped as they came up out of the cold water.  Some cheered, some cried.  What a cool moment.  I will never forget it.

What was really cool about this final spot was what happened after I baptized the last Parkway people. I had two people ask me to baptize them. They were total strangers who had traveled without a tour guide all the way from Moscow Russia and just happened to be at the Jordan River seeing me baptizing people and they asked me to baptize them.   It was an honor. I believe the couple was a mother and son. The son was in his 20’s. The mother could not speak English so her son translated for her. I got his email address from him and will send the pictures to them when we get back to the States. The last thing I said to this couple before we left was, “If I never see you again here on earth I look forward to seeing you again in Heaven!”

Wow! What a trip and we haven’t even been to Jerusalem yet.
I hope your Tuesday went well. Mine was magnificent. I’m exhausted. If you are worried about your family or friends who are with Kelli and I on this trip. Stop worrying. They are all eating together, laughing and getting to know each other very well. They will come back united with one another having experienced a life altering trip to the Holy Lands.

I’ll blog more tomorrow.
As the people of Jewish faith say, “Shalom.”

What a day!

I’m off to bed.


What a day!

Everybody was on the bus this morning 5 minutes early. There was eagerness in the air. We woke this morning to the Mediterranean Sea waves gently rolling onto the beach outside our hotel window. (Really suffering for Jesus!) We got a great nights rest and the Jet Lag had dissipated. Everybody was ready to get into the history of their Christian roots. We got on the bus. Its a tour bus like you see in the states. Air Conditioned. Travel is first rate on the Parkway Holy Land Tours. We headed north from Tel Aviv to the Galilee area. Much of north Israel reminds me of the areas of California and some of the Phoenix and Flagstaff area. There is a mix of palm trees, pine trees, and Oak. There are rolling hills everywhere with lush shrubbery. We saw banana trees, crops of every kind. It is a fact that America sends scientists to Israel to study how to do an advanced drip system for irrigation.

Our first stop was to the historic sight of Megiddo. Megiddo is referenced throughout the Old Testament and also in the book of Revelation. If you take the Revelation passage literally then the Valley of Megiddo is where the last battle will be fought where Lucifer is defeated by the King of Kings and His angelic Army. We call this place the Valley of Armageddon. Megiddo is a city that dates back up to 5000 years ago. Archaeological digs have found 25 different civilizations built on the sight. When one civilization was established and a king and his army came in and defeated it…they would level the current city, fill in the gaps with dirt and build right on top of the now destroyed city with their own culture and architecture. Imagine this happening 25 times. It literally is a man made mountain. On this sight they discovered an ancient Altar that is approximately 30 feet wide. The altar is a giant circle made from unhewn stones just like God directed the Israelites to build for sacrifices. There is no doubt that Solomon would have participated in animal sacrifices on this very altar. The Battles fought around this site where fought by many of the great “celebrities” of the Bible. Debra, Solomon, Ahab, Jezebel, Gideon and more! As we walked into the site we walked up steps that Solomon would have walked on. If those steps and walls could only speak. How many incredible stories would they share? We journeyed through a long tunnel dug by King Ahab to provide water to the city. Very cool place.

After about an hour or so we departed to Mount Carmel. This is the site where Elijah did the competition with the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18) It is a high mountain where you can see for miles throughout Northern Galilee. Just at the base of this mountain Elijah had all 800 false prophets slaughtered. It is fascinating to stand on the ground where this all happened and try to imagine it actually taking place.

Right after Carmel we had lunch at a local place where the group got is first taste of Falafals. Google it and you’ll see what it is. What the Cheese Burger is to America…Falafels are to Israel. It is fried Chickpeas, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes and humus…all stuffed in a Pita. I love them. As I type this I crave another one already!

After lunch we drove to Nazareth. Jesus’ home town. While there we did an hour tour of what is called Nazareth Village. You could check out its website. nazarethvillage.com. It is a re-creation of Nazareth 2000 years ago. The pictures you see with this blog are from this tour. You see a sheepfold where a shepherd keeps his sheep at night. Read John 10 and take a look at the photo. You’ll recognize that there is no gate on a sheepfold. The shepherd IS the gate. Jesus said…”I am the gate!”

From this site you will also see a photo of a “gate” or door. There are two doors in one. One large door and and a smaller one built into the large one. Jesus’ teachings come to life when you think about him saying…”enter through the narrow gate.” He also taught, “its easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich person to enter heaven.” The small opening in the photo is also called the eye of the needle. Nearly impossible for a camel to get through.

When we were finished at Nazareth Village we headed to Mount Precipice. This is the traditional location where Jesus’ “friends” and some family tried to kill him by throwing him off the cliff. You can read the story in Luke 4:14-30. It is amazing to think that so many people had the Messiah right there in their presence and they rejected Him and tried to kill him. I thought often today about which crowd I might have been in if I were alive when Jesus lived on earth. Would you have taken Him at his word or would you have been in the crowd that didn’t believe. I’d like to think I would have believed. What would you have thought if one of your neighbors or your cousin while at a community gathering stepped up and said…”I am the Son of God, the Messiah.” Would you believe or would you try to throw them off a cliff?

We ended the day by driving to our hotel which is built on the literal shore of the Sea of Galilee. Some in our group walked out onto the patio and leaned on the rail and looked out on the waters of the Sea and tried to imagine Jesus walking on that very water.

What a trip so far. Most of the sites we started with aren’t really personal…they are more historical. Tomorrow we start the day with a boat ride on the sea. Visit Capernaum and the location where Jesus fed the 5000. The sites we start seeing tomorrow start getting personal and emotional. What a trip. I hope to bring you here in the future!

Stay tuned! The locations are getting better everyday!
I’m off to bed. I hope your Monday goes as good as mine did. I do wish you were here with me.