I’ve been trying to pinpoint what touched me the most on our trip. Seeing sites that are 2000+ years old is quite impressive. It’s amazing and really too much to wrap my mind around. We spent the first 3 days in the Sea of Galilee region. We had a beautiful place with patios that faced the Sea. To get up early and sit out there with coffee and the Word just soaking in the peace was heaven on earth. Then in the evenings many of us would gather our chairs and talk about the day and pray. It was so peaceful. A peace that’s hard to explain with words but easy to feel in your heart.
In Galilee we saw the ruins of a synagogue in Magdala that we know Jesus taught at. We took a boat ride on the same Sea of Galilee that Jesus walked on. We saw Peter’s home where Jesus stayed. We also had a baptism in the Sea. The Sea of Galilee is one of my favorite places on earth. Just imagining that this is where so much of Jesus’s ministry happened excites my heart. It’s impossible for me to be anywhere there and not have tears of joy in my eyes. We also saw some of the fortresses that King Herod built. To see these ruins and imagine life over 2000 years ago was incredible. We even saw a temple that Abraham had been to. The land is just so rich with history and makes the Bible come alive. The technology of those times was so remarkable. What they built that has survived for over 2000 years is beyond what our technology of today could do. The water systems, massive fortresses, bath houses, carvings, written words on scrolls and stones and a wooden boat are pieces of our story that have been preserved for us. This is where our story as Believers basically started and where it will someday end. It’s a gift to us.
We then traveled to Jerusalem. On the way we saw another palace of Herod’s and Gideon Springs where Gideon narrowed down his army from 32,000 men to 300. It’s a beautiful place where a natural spring still flows. In Jerusalem our moments of peace were only present inside of us. Jerusalem is people hurrying, cars honking at each other, lines and lines of tourist buses in traffic jams, sirens blaring and a huge mixture of cultures, nationalities and religions all in one city.
The Garden of Gethsemane was our first stop and very peaceful. The Garden Tomb was the last place we visited and so full of peace and love. In the middle we saw many sites, were in many traffic jams, was in huge crowds of people pushing and shoving. We saw the Mount of Olives, City of David, Old City, traveled to Masada, Ein Gedi- where David found Saul in a cave, the Dead Sea, Qumran –where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel, sat on the Southern steps of the temple where Jesus came and went to the temple, prayed at the Western wall, followed the Palm Sunday road that Jesus traveled, walked the Via Delarosa- the journey Jesus took to the cross. We went to a modern day market, ate lots of falafel, wonderful buffets and had a wonderful time.
As I’ve reflected on it all I think what affected me the most was the sadness I had for all the people there. The Jewish people love God – the same Father God we love. Our guide, Benny, who is a Jew shared his passionate love for God and talked about Jesus but didn’t talk about the love of Jesus. The Orthodox, Catholic and other religious denominations believe in Jesus and that He died and rose again but the traditions of man have made it an impersonal worship. They are all built on and around works, deeds. The works of praying a certain way at a certain time of day, food dos and don’ts, ways to worship, what to wear. I’m not saying none of them have a personal relationship with Jesus that they can come into His presence and believe they have everything because He is their Savior. But when you see them praying at the wall believing that this is where they have to go to be close to God, reading repetitious prayers that aren’t words from their own hearts, building shrines at places that they think Jesus may have been at or buried at, there is sadness in my heart because I know – we know there is so much more. They have built a huge, ornate church on the place that some believe Jesus was buried. The people will stand in line for 3 or more hours to kiss the place they believe is His tomb. They walk the Stations of the Cross chanting their prayers at each station and almost half of the stations are man-made stations. The crowds along the Via Delarosa are unreal, so crowded, so religious, so pushy and so sad. My heart breaks for these 1000’s of people who are doing their religion not letting Him live through them.
Then there were all the pagan cultures we saw especially King Herod’s cities that were terribly evil. I understand when I hear people say to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The religion is so powerful there that there is no peace unless you know Jesus as your peace. God’s name is Jehovah Shalom which means peace. He is the God of peace but they don’t see the true God of love. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. “Jesus said to him, “I am the only Way to God and the real Truth and the real Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6 Amplified
“Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father except through union with me. To know me is to know my Father too.” John 14:6 TPT
Our heavenly Father knew the mess the people were in. He could see there was no hope. No way, no peace, no love. That is why He sent His Son to be our sacrifice once and for all. We no longer have to sacrifice with works and laws. The Christians believe Jesus came and they worship the road He walked on, the place He died, the places He was. They don’t worship Him as their Savior and Lord once and for all. They focus on the externals not on the Lamb of God Who came and gave His life for us. The place has become a business, full of materialism and religious nonsense. Our team was mobbed by merchants selling their goods and one even hit me with one of their items because I told the team to keep moving and not to buy anything. “And Jesus said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13 (KJV). What’s happening there has been happening there for thousands of years. There is nothing new under the sun. The enemy has people’s eyes blinded and their hearts deceived. This isn’t just in Israel or Jerusalem, it’s our whole world. Israel - Jerusalem is a place of great attack because of its history but more because it’s where Jesus began His life on earth, where He ministered, where He died, where He rose from the dead and where He will return. Of course the enemy will focus his deceptions on this place. The devil knows the power of the Word and he doesn’t give up on blinding those who will let him lie to them.
I heard the Lord tell me to not take for granted what we have in Him. When you have a close relationship where you can come into His presence and know He is in you and with you always, guiding directing and loving you with His everlasting love – don’t take this relationship lightly. We get so involved and caught up in our own dos and don’ts about grace and that His love covers it all so it doesn’t matter how I really live. In my heart I feel this is no different than those working for their love. We get where we make up our own man-made conditions for grace so we can still believe and live as we please. We avoid TOTAL surrender because we still want some things our way. We still want to control some areas because we don’t really trust what He will do with our lives if we surrender to Him. We really don’t believe He is a Good God until we are ready to give it all to Him. Jesus gave it ALL for us. We saw where He walked, where He taught, where He lived. The place was a mess back then and there was no way for true relationship without the ultimate sacrifice – Jesus. God knew this and Jesus sacrificed His life for you and me. The place probably hasn’t changed much – it’s just different evils. They still don’t see Jesus as their only way to the Father. They can’t have all He died to give them because people don’t want to give up their traditions and own beliefs. All He did right there in front of their eyes and they still are blinded. The world is still blinded by His Truths and His love. How will they ever see the Truth if we don’t be a Light to the world? It’s a hurting world and the world needs a Savior. We have the Savior but do we let the world see how great He is in us? Do we still get caught up in our own selfish desires? Can the world see us living the life of heaven on earth as we know that we have? Do our lives look just like everyone else’s and our light is hidden under a bushel?
This trip opened my eyes to just how lost the world really is. My heart was saddened by all these people believing they are doing the right thing to please God. Actually, many of them have sacrificed their lives but sacrificed it to the laws and works that they think will eventually get them to that intimate place and it never will. I know the world is lost and lots of evil everywhere but to see the religious working so hard for their God that they can’t have a heart for Jesus. I felt the peace of Jesus in Galilee but not in Jerusalem as much. But even when Jesus was there in the physical they didn’t acknowledge Him, did they? Something to ponder.
Continue to pray for Jerusalem and the people of Israel. Pray for people everywhere. Pray for your neighbor who can be just as caught up in deceptions as the people half way around the world. Search your heart and see what can be holding you back from being a light to this broken and sad world. Surrender whatever is keeping you from being as intimate as you desire. I’ve been doing that myself. I want to shine for Him so that others can come out of the darkness they are trapped in. I love being in the presence of the Lord. He walked with me along the Galilee, He was sitting with me in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb. He talked to me on the Southern steps of the temple and let me know He was with me. This is my heart for everyone – to know Him personally and have eternal life.
“Eternal life means to know and experience you as the only true God, and to know and experience Jesus Christ, as the Son whom you have sent.” John 17:3