I’m sitting with tears in my eyes, because tonight is our last night in the Galilee. There’s just something special about this place, and I wish each of you could see what I’m seeing and feel what I’m feeling. The door to our balcony is open, with a light breeze billowing the sheer curtains into the room, and I can hear the waves lapping against the shore, and cheerful music coming from the restaurant outside, and occasional squeals from happy children below. The sky is a darkening deep blue – almost navy, tinted with streaks of azure, with one tiny cloud floating in the middle. It’s nearly dark, and lights on the opposite shoreline are winking cheerfully. I don’t even want to try to take a picture, because a picture wouldn’t do it justice.
Jesus lived here and walked here; loved, hugged, healed, and laughed here. He saw the very same moon and sky I’m seeing now, heard many of the same sounds I’m hearing right now, and sat on the shoreline of the same Sea that I’m enjoying. Being here is helping me to try even harder to see things through His eyes and with His heart. This afternoon we sat on rocks near the shoreline of Capernaum and Gary talked to us about Jesus. He said that “getting close to Jesus isn’t enough – our aim and goal must be to become like Him…to live like He lived, to adopt His habits, and to do what He did.” He said we needed to do two things. They’re obvious things that most of us have heard all of our lives, things that we probably say we all do regularly, but if we are honest with ourselves, we’d say that we are far too lacking in these areas: prayer, and spending time in the word.
Matthew 14 gives the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand, and walking on the water, and healing the sick, but verse 23 says that “he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Luke 5:16 says that “he would withdraw to desolate places to pray.” And Mark 1 also says that “he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
Luke 4 gives the account I wrote about yesterday – the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth. Gary mentioned four words found in verse 16: “as was his custom…” He knew His Father’s word, because it was His custom to spend time meditating upon it. “Frequently, repeatedly, habitually,” as Gary put it. He also said “there are a lot of people who go to church three times a week for years on end who don’t know the scriptures.” I would add to this – there are regular church-goers who simply never grow. Maybe that sounds like an unfair heart judgment on my part – and maybe it is. But I know it was true of me for a time. Spiritual growth must be a constant effort on our part – seeking to conform our hearts, lives, actions, and attitudes to Him, not just content to stay the way we’ve always been.
Afterwards, we sang the song “Take it to the Lord in Prayer” and one phrase in particular caught in my throat and kept me from singing: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh what needless pain we bear!” Not taking everything to Him in prayer – regularly, solitarily, deeply, thoughtfully, carefully – robs us of peace and burdens us needlessly with pain. I know this because I’ve experienced it. Prayer softens our hearts, leading to repentance and transformation, making us more like Him.I don’t want to just be near Him…I want to be like Him.
I wrote those words two nights ago. A lot has happened since then! I could not get any pictures to load to my blog last night, so I sent them to Facebook (if you want to check that update there.) Today is Sunday, the Lord’s day, and it has been a good day.
This morning while we worshipped together, we sang “Come Share the Lord”. These words were so appropriate, for many reasons: “No one is a stranger here; everyone belongs! Finding our forgiveness here, we in turn forgive all wrongs. He joins us here; He breaks the bread. The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead! The one we love the most is now our gracious host! Come take the bread, come drink the cup, come share the Lord. We are now a family of which the Lord is Head. Though unseen He meets us here in the breaking of the bread…” I couldn’t help looking around the room at people I’d known for only six days, and thought how grateful I was for the bond that we share in Christ. We are truly a family.
Jim Hays gave a fantastic lesson about an event that happened not far from where we sat. Have you ever noticed Genesis 19:16? The angels had warned Lot repeatedly to get his family out – “but he lingered.” The angels had to forcefully take them by the hand and drag them out of the disgusting city – “the Lord being merciful to him.” Jim said that instead of obedience, Lot showed resistance. And though God is merciful and patient, His justice will come.
We packed up and left the Dead Sea for Masada – a fascinating place full of Jewish history. David likely hid from Saul here on Masada. We read from Psalm 18: “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” Gary told us the story of this mountain fortress, both biblically and historically, Romans besieged Masada, full of a community of Jews
Then we stopped at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found- arguably the most important Biblical archaeological discovery of the 20th century. Within these scrolls (among many others) was found a nearly complete copy of the book of Isaiah that dated far earlier than the time of Christ – but contained the prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ. Like Masada, it is just “across the street” from the Dead Sea, but Qumran is much further north.
It was HOT at both of these sites! My feet are roasting!
Quick stop at Jericho, then on to Jerusalem. There’s something about this city, too, but in a different way. My first time to see the city was so exciting – a city I’d heard about and read about and knew that so many important things had happened here. But I find that I’m more and more sad as we come into the city, because I know what happens to Him here. Betrayal, mistreatment, abuse, murder. John, through tears, read from Psalm 122:
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for[a] Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
for the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.”
Then Tsvi handed John a piece of paper with a Hebrew blessing. John read it in English first, then Tsvi read it in Hebrew: “We give thanks to you, Oh Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach the moment of joy.” It was very touching!
Our hotel is near the old city, in a fun, busy, vibrant neighborhood not far from the Jaffa gate. The restaurant is on the rooftop, with a spectacular view of almost the whole old city. GETTING to the hotel, however, was a challenge. Trump’s arrival is causing all kinds of issues, including roadblocks and a lot of different site closures. (PLUS, the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem is going on this week, with accompanying hordes of celebrating people!) We had to take detour after detour, with Michael having to turn the big bus around (and the people here just zip their cars around the bus, not waiting their turn…) We took back roads through an orthodox Jewish neighborhood and came to the final street to the hotel – and it was blocked. But as Lindy told us two years ago – “Tsvi: he can get you into and out of any situation you may find yourself in!” And he certainly has – he hopped out of the bus and talked to the policeman guarding it, and before long, he was moving the roadblock himself.
I tried to finish this blog last night and was falling asleep with my fingers on the keyboard. So we’ve had a restful night and now I’m watching John trying to figure out how to operate the Nespresso machine. 🙂
This morning we will head to Bethlehem, and then the Herodium, and to the valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath. I’ve had a couple of people say they miss my daily blogs but I just don’t have the mental energy (or ability to stay awake) 😉 at the end of the day – plus the internet upload speeds haven’t been good until here in Jerusalem – to always do it. Please continue praying for us!