Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Caesarea and Home Sweet Home

Well, friends, my recap of Israel is coming to a close. It’s bittersweet to be going through the pictures from our final day of the trip, but the experience, the memories, and the relationships formed have changed me in ways that will last far beyond the 10 day pilgrimage. Our last day was spent at the harbor town of Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast. It was perhaps the most refreshing and beautiful day of the trip because we had time to go at a slower pace and it reminded me so very much of home.

Ruins from King Herod the Great's Harbor Town 

This view was refreshing and gorgeous!

There was a wedding reception in progress to the left as we walked up.

A view of a fisherman from the restaurant where several of us had lunch.

Some of our lunch meals

Warm, moist, delicious Gluten-free chocolate cake...Casarea was after my heart, y'all! And yes, I ate the whole piece.

No Speedos allowed inside the building!

The shoreline was covered in beautiful seashells

 We had so much fun climbing the rocks along the shore and searching for interesting shells.

Just before leaving Caesarea, we stopped off at a Gelato and Sorbet shop where I had the best berry sorbet I have ever eaten.

We saw this little cutie right before heading out to the airport...we were glad to be on our way home to our own little was such a long time to be away from Cole and Chloe...and the rest of our family too!

Over the course of the trip I was reminded of how blessed we are in America and how blessed we are who have placed our trust in Jesus. We have so much freedom and it should be celebrated every day, especially on the 4th of July. Sing patriotic songs, enjoy the company of family and friends, eat something All-American, savor an ice cream cone, watch the fireworks and whatever you do, offer thanks to God for all the blessings He has showered upon us.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jerusalem and The Way of the Cross

The Temple Mount is the original site of the great Temple of Jerusalem and played a big role in the ministry of Jesus. This is where Jesus was dedicated as a baby:
Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.”- Luke 2:22-23

Where as a boy he impressed the Jewish teachers with his knowledge:

Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. - Luke 2:46-47
Where he was tempted by Satan:

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ – Luke 4:9-12

Where he cleansed the temple:
Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said. – Luke 19:45-48

Currently, the Temple Mount is occupied by the Supreme Muslim Religious Council, hence the Dome of the Rock visible in the picture below. There are very strict rules regarding modest dress and all religious activities are prohibited. We observed large groups of children being taught by the women under shade trees, children playing in the courtyard area, and Muslim people entering the gold-domed mosque.

Just down the mount, we visited the Western Wall, or the “Wailing Wall”.

The wall was built as a retaining wall to enclose the western part of the Temple Mount. After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 AD, the remaining part of the wall became a place for Jews to lament the destruction of the Temple and serves today as a place of prayer. A dividing screen separates the women’s section from the men’s. 
The Women's section: 

The Men's section:

We walked the Via Dolorosa, “The Way of the Cross”, which travels through the streets of Old Jerusalem,

marking out 14 Stations of the Cross where Jesus passed as he carried the horizontal bar of the cross to Calvary. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on the spot believed by many to be where Jesus was crucified and the tomb in which he was buried and rose again.

The stone where they lay his body to prepare for burial...

Light coming in from above the tomb.

There is another site, The Garden Tomb, that some believe could be the site of Jesus’ burial in Jerusalem. The Garden Tomb is located near a site that looks like a skull and the overall appearance of this area conforms to what we would generally anticipate from gospel accounts. This was a cool, quiet, reflective spot. 

Inside the Garden Tomb...

Whether you believe the Holy Sepulchre marks the location of Jesus’ death and resurrection or that it is the Garden Tomb, the most important thing is that wherever it occurred, the tomb is empty, He is risen from the dead and he is Lord.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words. – Luke 24:1-8

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Garden of Gethsemane

I’ve spent the last several days studying God’s word, commentaries and in books about the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus stopped to pray the night of his betrayal. I had so many wonderful revelations and fresh insights to share. But my heart is so heavy right now and my eyes so filled with tears for a matter in which I must only watch and pray for one near and dear to me. I cannot even imagine an ounce of what my Lord felt in that garden as he prayed and asked Father God to take the cup from him, yet submitted not to his own will but to that of the Father. Because he had no corruption in him, Jesus was not so afflicted by his human feelings that he turned from God’s will, but rather he could see clearly what the will of the Father was and he could see the beauty that would come from the agony he would face. And he obeyed.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” - Mark 14:32-42

In this dark time when Jesus was pressed and distressed to the point of sweating drops of blood, He asked the disciples to watch and pray for just one hour, and yet they fell asleep. I am ashamed at how often I fall asleep literally and figuratively when I need keep watch and pray to draw fresh resources of grace and strength from God. My brothers and sisters, too often we “fall asleep” by tuning in to mindless activities and busyness that we lose sight of the importance of connection to God and the power that is released through prayer and communion with God.

for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." – Ephesians 5:14

This is a 50 year old Olive takes quite a while for them to grow and gain size...

This tree is believed to have been in the garden for around 2,000 years...possibly there when Jesus prayed.