Spiritual Growth Journey in the Holy Lands – Day 9

4/24/2012 10:51:00 AM / Posted by Mike Landry / comments (0)

            This is our last day in Israel.  We depart about midnight tonight from Tel Aviv.  I can’t believe we’ve been gone 9 days already. 

            We got up early this morning and quickly departed from the hotel to see a few more significant sites before heading back.  These sites were emotionally charged and everyone was moved.

            We started by going to the Upper Room where Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples.  Just thinking about this intimate setting was enough to prompt us all to quietly seek Him with all our hearts.  Unbelievably, the room was empty and it gave us time to talk about what God had been teaching us this week, spend some time praying, and then sing together.  Of all the times I’ve been here, I’ve never seen an opportunity like this.  The Upper Room was also the place where the disciples gathered while waiting on and finally receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  It seemed so appropriate to sit and wait for a fresh anointing of His Spirit on us before we left.  He definitely did that.

            Before leaving the area we were able to walk to King David’s tomb. This, too, was an unexpected treat.  The guys and gals had separate entry into the Tomb and after taking a few pictures we were off to the location where Peter denied Christ and the torture began for Jesus – Caiaphas’ House.

            It was a short walk to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest.  It was here the soldiers brought Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemene.  Jesus was slandered, lied about, condemned for blasphemy (He was convicted for claiming to be God) and tortured here.  Beneath Caiaphas’ house was a prison.  Jesus would have been lowered into the prison by rope while waiting His time to see Pontius Pilate.  Caiaphas’ guards would have whipped him first before lowering Him there.  We were able to stay a while in the prison while I read Psalm 88.  There was not a dry eye as we thought about our Lord and all He went through for us that day.

            We left Caiaphas’ house and rode the bus to the Garden Tomb.  After a brief introduction by one of the British guides we were shown Golgotha and the Tomb where Jesus was buried.  He spent some time going over the evidence that identified this location as the spot where Jesus was crucified and buried.  This was a sobering moment.  Each person was able to enter the tomb and look within.  Everyone came out and testified that it was empty.  He has risen from the dead!

            We then proceeded to a private spot in the garden where we could partake of the Lord’s Supper.  While I was talking about the bread that symbolizes the broken body of Christ a dove flew into the room, circled the room a few times and then left.  We were all convinced that God had chosen to remind us of His presence with this special visit by the dove.  Following the communion time we sang a few songs and then spent the next 30 minutes just walking around the Garden area and revisiting the tomb.

            Lunch was at Nissan’s shop.  The shop owner provided pizza for everyone while people were given a final opportunity to do some souvenir shopping.

            After a brief lunch, it was back in the bus to visit two more sites.  We first went to the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath.  We were able to go to the brook where David picked up his 5 stones and picked a few of our own.  J

            Then on the way back to Jerusalem, we travelled to Emmaeus.  You’ll recall that after the crucifixion, two people were walking back to Emmaeus when Jesus appeared to them.  They had no idea that it was Jesus until at the end of the day when He broke the bread and offered thanks.  We walked on the road they walked on and spent some time talking about Jesus there too.

            It was also on the road to Emmaeus that Cindy and I got a very special phone call from the States.  Our son called to tell us his wife’s water had broken and that our grand-daughter was on the way.  So, when we return to the states tomorrow, we will be heading to Jacksonville to see this special gift from God.

            It won’t be long before we’re headed home.  We eat dinner in a few hours from now and then head to Tel Aviv to catch our plane.  Looking forward to seeing you soon.  Everybody is doing well and can’t wait to tell you all about their adventures.  Don’t forget to keep on praying.  One more thing.  I thought you'd like to see the sign that's posted inside the empty tomb.  It's a message worth passing on!

Spiritual Growth Journey in the Holy Lands – Day 8

4/23/2012 04:02:00 PM / Posted by Mike Landry / comments (1)

            Today’s journey started off a little late because the hotel had some problem with the wake up calls.  But it didn’t matter because God’s has His perfect timing.  Everyone was so flexible and we finally hopped on our bus and headed down, down, down, from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.  In about an hour we arrived at Masada.

            Masada is the Israel’s equivalent of our Alamo.  After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD they proceeded to Masada to capture or kill the Jewish survivors who had holed up in Masada.  The Romans went to extreme measures to siege this place and finally after 8 months it looked inevitable to the Jews that they would be overcome and their wives and children would be ravaged and made slaves.  Instead of waiting for this to happen to the entire community of 960, they chose to take their own lives instead.  A very sad ending to the brave Jews who held off the Roman soldiers for so long.

            We toured the entire archaeological site and were amazed at the ingenuity of the Jews and the impressiveness of this fortress built for Herod the Great as one of his get-away homes.

            Of course, we had to eat lunch at a restaurant at Masada that best represented the meal of such champions…MacDonalds.  It was delicious and also provided an amazing view of the Dead Sea from Masada’s elevated view while we ate.

            After Masada we headed to En Gedi.  As you may recall, this was the site where David hid from King Saul who was pursuing him.  David and his men hid in a cave that Saul entered.  Saul was unaware of their presence and actually went to sleep there.  David refused to kill Saul but cut a piece of his robe and kept it until Saul left.  David used this moment to point out to Saul that he had no desire to harm Saul – that he was the Lord’s annointed.  Saul’s response was a surprise admission that David would soon be King after him.  What a great example of godly restraint, self-control, and a healthy view of God’s Sovereignty.  We could learn much from David’s example.  It is the perfect example of Jesus’ call to “take up your cross” and die to self daily.

            En Gedi is an oasis with a pure water source that dates back at least 3000 years to King David.  We visited the lower Falls and encountered many badgers.  These are cute little creatures that look like a beaver and are mentioned numerous times in the scripture.  We also came across a family of Nubien Ibex.  These look like miniature antelope with straight horns that curve toward their back.  

            After En Gedi we took a break and went down to the Dead Sea for a swim…or perhaps I should say “a float.”  You can’t swim in the Dead Sea because of buoyancy problems.  The minerals and salt in the water are so dense that you couldn’t swim under the water if you wanted too.  Your legs just keep wanting to pop out of the water.  It’s amazing.  The picture shows our crew demonstrating the ease of floating side by side.

            Many health products are also produced from the minerals of the Dead Sea.  Some people actually come to the Sea and cover themselves with the mud from the Sea’s edge and use it as an anti-aging and skin-cleansing agent.  One of our ladies, Marcia Bowery, decided to try it out; as you can see.  In fact, our tour guide commented that he was having a difficult time recognizing the passengers on the bus who had gone for a swim because they now looked so much younger.  J

            Once we showered and dried off it was time to visit Qumran; where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found about 60 years ago.  This presentation was very interesting and also a powerful demonstration of how God is able to preserve evidence of His timeless Word.  As I’ve said before, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was probably the most important historical discovery of the 20th century.

            On the way back to Jerusalem we made a brief stop in Jericho.  After driving by the archeological ruins of the old city of Jerusalem (the oldest city in the world) and seeing a Sycamore Tree that may very well have been the one Zacheaus climbed to see Jesus, we stopped at a gift shop that specialized in Hebron glass and Palestinian dishware.  This shop was run by Palestinian Christians and we were glad to be able to purchase items from them.

            Following Jericho, we returned to Jerusalem and our Hotel for supper.  Now we’re digesting and getting ready for bed.  Looking forward to seeing the Upper Room, Caiaphas’ House, the Garden Tomb and Golgotha, and Elah (where David slew Goliath) tomorrow.  Then we will, later in the day, hop on a plane in Tel Aviv and return to Sarasota.  Don’t stop praying.  God is working on us and answering your prayers.

Spiritual Growth Journey in the Holy Lands – Day 7

4/22/2012 03:39:00 PM / Posted by Mike Landry / comments (1)

            The journey continues with a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  This is the site where the Jewish Temple was located before it was destroyed by Rome in 70 AD.  It currently has a Muslem gold-domed shrine on top called the Dome of the Rock.  We waited in line for about an hour to get there and it was well worth the visit.  Many scholars believe the old Temple was not where the mosque was but rather a little further north.  We spent some time at the site that many believe marks the former Holy of Holies location and would be the location of the future predicted Temple. 

            Later in the day we saw the golden menorah that has already be prepared for the new Temple and is displayed in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem.

            After visiting the Temple Mount, it was off to St. Stephen’s Gate (or often referred to as the Sheep Gate).  This was the gate Jesus entered on Palm Sunday.  It’s interesting that the “Lamb” of God would enter the Sheep Gate knowing that He was about to lay down His life as a sacrificial lamb.  Jesus was always taking the time to do whatever best illustrated who He is and what He was on earth for.

            Just inside the gate we visited the pool of Bethesda that is mentioned in John 5.  This was the spot where Jesus healed the crippled man on the Sabbath.  Jesus used this occasion to not only heal a suffering man but also to use this miracle to point to His deity.

           Following the pool of Bethesda, we visited a Byzantine Church called St. Anne’s Church.  The architecture of the building was perfect for acoustics and Bob and Tina Earnest led us in a time of singing.  It proved to be a wonderful time of worshipping the Lord Jesus.

           Walking a little further down the Muslim Corridor, we came to Antonio’s Fortress.  This was where Jesus had been tortured prior to His crucifixion.  This was also the location where Pontius Pilate met with Jesus and said he could find nothing wrong with Jesus.  Rick Shepherd shared a devotional about the significance of what happened here and all of us took a few minutes to reflect on how the suffering of Jesus should affect us.

          We then continued down the Via Delarosa to the Damascus Gate where we caught our bus.  It transported us to the Joffa Gate where we hung out at the old city market place.  While walking through the narrow corridors we got separated from a few of our group.  But it didn’t take but a few minutes before we were able to backtrack a little and catch up with them.  Nothing like a little unexpected event to produce a little excitement.

           Then it was off to lunch on a restaurant roof where we had an incredible panoramic view of the whole city.  It was a lunch with Schnitzels, Falafels, and hamburgers.  Best part was resting our tired feet.  We had walked around Jerusalem for 5 hours and needed a break.

            After lunch we visited the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem and saw Hezekiah’s wall.  It was also close to the wall that we saw the Gold Menorah.  Then we went to check out the archaeological park on the southside of the Temple Mount walls where we learned a lot about the process involved in the Jewish offering of sacrifices at the Temple.  We also came to appreciate the expertise and innovation of Herod the Great as he was responsible for rebuilding the Temple as well as so many other projects throughout the Jerusalem region.

            Finally we spent some time at the Western Wall, also known as the “Wailing Wall,” and took some time to explore and pray.  It was amazing seeing so many who came to pray at the Wall.  Hundreds of Israeli soldiers were also there rehearsing for the special ceremonies associated with the anniversary of Israel’s independence.

            After visiting the Wall we went through the “Rabbi’s Tunnel” which enabled us to travel north in a tunnel all along the Temple Mount Wall that was still underground.  We all felt like Indiana Jones as we explored this unique opportunity to go back in time.  The old remains of the city from Jesus’ time were so well preserved and informative.

            As you can see it was a busy day.  Tomorrow we head for Masada, Qumran, En Gedi, and the Dead Sea.  Still wish you could be with us.

Spiritual Growth Journey in the Holy Lands – Day 6

4/21/2012 03:16:00 PM / Posted by Mike Landry / comments (0)

            Jerusalem!  That’s where we are…and loving it.  We’ve got a lot of happy campers as you can see in our picture at the top of the Mount of Olives.  It’s hard to believe we’re actually here.  After reading so much in the Scriptures about Jerusalem, when you finally see it, it really gets to you.  A number of our folks said that when we arrived here and saw it for the first time tears were shed.  It was a very moving moment.

            After a quick camel ride or two at the top of Mt. Olives we started down the road that Jesus took on Palm Sunday – His triumphal entry into the city.  To imagine we were part of the processional on that day gave us a whole new appreciation of the event.

            As we walked down the mountain we entered the Garden of Gethsemene.  We saw an olive tree that dates back to the time of Jesus and then were permitted to enter a private garden covered with olive trees.  We spent about 20 minutes there getting alone with God and taking some time to hear from Him.  I kept hearing Him say, “Not My will, but Yours.”  His message to me was to adopt the same attitude, “Not my will but Yours.”  Before leaving this “holy ground” experience, Bob and Tina Earnest led us in singing that favorite hymn, “In the Garden.”

            Next we visited the largest miniature reproduction of the city of Jerusalem during the life of Jesus.   It was so precisely done and helped all of us see where everything happened and the proximity of each event.  It tied all the pieces together that we had been learning.  It was also here that we were able to see the Dead Sea Scrolls on display.  This was the most significant discovery of the 20th century and added so much archeological evidence to the veracity and accuracy of the Scriptures.

            Since we had been going strong for 6 hours without a break we next drove to Bethlehem and had lunch.  Shwarmas and falafels were distributed along with baklava and sodas.  As you can see from the pictures we loved it.

            After lunch we went to the church of the Nativity to see the birthplace of Jesus.  It’s still amazing to me whenever I think about God becoming man.  What a miraculous manner of entry into the world!  He is truly Almighty God.

             After this visit, we stopped to do a little shopping at a local Bethlehem shop and then headed back to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and some rest.  As you can see, some of our folks decided to start their meals with desert, just in case Jesus were to return before they had a chance to get to it.  J

            Tomorrow we’ve planned a trip to the Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall, the old city, and many other sites.  Keep praying…God is speaking to us and we’re listening.