The Best of Israel: 12 Day Tour
From Thursday, March 10 through Monday, March 21, 29 students, parents, teachers, and staff from Legacy Christian Academy will be traveling to the Holy Land of Israel on an intense, purposeful, and life-changing biblical history trip! During their travels through Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, the Qumran Caves, Masada, Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives, the group will be studying the Bible, not only in its original cultural, historical, and Jewish context, but also on site, walking where Jesus and His disciples walked. As the culture, history, and context of the Bible is unfolded in each location, students and adults alike will grow in their love for God’s Word, their love for Israel and the church, and marvel at the beauty of the unfolding of salvation history throughout the ages.
We invite you to join this team’s daily travels and teachings by visiting this blog page daily for news and pictures. We also ask you to please pray for God’s divine health, protection, and appointments on this trip!
Thank you so much! Shalom.
Each days photo gallery provided by Karen McDermott Photography.
Sunday, March 20
I’m tired. Just flat out tired. But it’s a good kind of tired. It’s the kind of tired that you experience after a hard work out. It’s the kind of tired after you played your heart out in a basketball game. It’s the kind of tired that you experience when you poured your heart, soul, mind, and strength into “sucking the marrow” out of this trip. Your body is exhausted. Your brain is on overload from all the information. You are mentally and physically drained. But your heart and your spirit is alive with the power of God’s Word flowing through you! That is what this trip has been. And it has been worth all the effort and sacrifice.
This is the last blog of the trip and as I’m processing all we’ve done, I’m overwhelmed; I’m in awe at God’s goodness; I’m amazed at how He has faithfully preserved and revealed His Word; I’m thankful for His sovereign protection; and I’m honored to have been surrounded with such amazing students, parents, and staff on this trip!
I want to give a hats off to Mr. Mulvihill for his strategic planning that led to such smooth sailing and safety wherever we went, his countless hours of preparation that led to some of the most excellent and life-changing teachings I’ve experienced in a long time, the sacrifice he and Amy made coming here in leaving behind their children, and attempting to put all of his demanding responsibilities as the secondary principal on hold for two weeks. All of that to say, thank you, Jake, for your integrity, your hard work, your love for God and His Word, and your passion for seeing students encounter and experience the reality and treasure found in Jesus Christ! You and Amy are such an awesome team and family that is making an eternal impact in the Kingdom for His glory!
For our final day, we saved some of the best for last. We ascended to the top of the Temple Mount to observe the columns and steps from the Temple where Jesus taught, where the Levites would offer sacrifices, and where the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year. However, on this Temple Mount today, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine cast a dark shadow on the spiritual and social environment, which is always very tense. As we were off to the side of the Dome of the Rock, a few Jewish people were walking through the Temple Mount and were surrounded by many Israeli security guards, but they were closely followed by a large group of Muslim women shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” in order to intimidate and thwart the Jewish prayers being offered against their faith. Crazy.
From the Temple Mount we visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli National Holocaust Museum. It was an intense and sobering tour that deeply moved all of us. Even our tour guide had been seriously impacted by the genocide as the Nazis moved into his grandfather’s hometown in Belarus. Twenty-five of his relatives were buried alive. Only a few members of his family escaped, one being his grandfather. He was moved to tears as he lamented over the horrors his people experienced in World War II; yet he ended our time at the museum with a promise to the Jewish people from Ezekiel 37 that these dry bones will one day live again in the land.
After processing the agony and horror of the Holocaust, we drove to the Israeli National Museum. We saw many artifacts that proved that Israel was indeed a nation, that King David was actually a king who ruled in Israel, and that the Bible we believe in has profound archaeological evidence that supports its pages and claims as the divinely inspired Word of God.
Our very last stop of the trip was to go “loot” some shops along the David’s Street. It was a great way to decompress after an intense and emotional day. Students sharpened their bartering skills and some came away with great deals! I think there were only a few students who were kicked out of a shop or two for trying to barter too aggressively.
All in all, this has been a phenomenal trip that has made a lifelong impact in all of our lives. The biblical truth we’ve received, the cultural and historical context of the places we’ve visited, the practical application and challenges we’ve wrestled with, and the meaningful relationships we’ve built on this trip are priceless.
It is only fitting to end this trip with the doxology from Romans 11:33-36.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Shalom from the Promised Land,
The Israel Team
Saturday, March 19
There are few things that I enjoy more than worshiping Jesus, traveling to foreign countries, and being around young people. Tonight a spontaneous worship time with about half of our group happened in our Palestinian hotel in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem for about a half an hour! We got permission to sing a few songs from the hotel and it soon erupted into lifting up the name of Jesus! As we were worshiping, the Muslim call to prayer was going on too. Even though we might be outnumbered and even though there is false worship going on all around us, it was awesome to be able to call upon the name of Jesus Christ, the one true God, and make His praise glorious in the Holy Land in a small way!
This morning, we began our day on the Mount of Olives starting at the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “olive press.” It was here in the Garden of the “Olive Press” that Jesus’ agony began. It was interesting learning the historical, cultural, and religious context of what was going on in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ passion. Simply put, what could’ve been hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Jewish people from across Israel were all gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This feast symbolized their freedom from Egypt’s oppression, and it was no small ordeal for Jesus to ride in on a donkey as the Jewish people were welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem waving their national symbol of freedom, the palm/date tree branches. The Jews expected their Messiah to come on Passover; however, Jesus did not fulfill their political expectations to overthrow Rome and soon began to shout, “Crucify Him!”
Also, we were taught about the symbolism involved in the Last Supper or Passover meal that Jesus had with His disciples. Ask your teenager to explain the symbolism of how Jesus fulfilled Passover. Mr. Mulvihill helped us notice the symbolic connections between Jesus feeding the 5,000, the 4,000, and the Passover meal. In each of these events, Jesus 1) gave thanks, 2) broke the bread, 3) gave the food to the disciples, and 4) the disciples gave the food away. However, in the Last Supper, the giving the food away was the Great Commission.
Our amazing teaching continued with insight into Jesus’ words to His disciples to “Watch and pray with Me.” During the Passover in Egypt, the Lord kept watch over Israel (Exodus 12:42), so Jews would open up their doors after their Passover meal and wait for Elijah to come. Jesus was, in essence, saying to His disciples, “John the Baptist came as Elijah. Now watch for a new redemption coming forth!” There was so much more incredibly insightful teachings that we received, and there is just simply not time or space to write about all that we’ve been taking in! So parents and friends, please ask us what we’ve learned and what we’re taking away from this trip!
From the Garden of Gethsemane, we ventured to Caiaphas’ House to observe a 1st century road and prison/cistern that is most likely the place where Jesus was tried by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. From there, we overlooked the Hinnom Valley, also called Gehenna, and the Potter’s Field where Judas bought some land and was buried. Then we walked to the Western Wall at the Old City where a citadel/palace was built by Herod and occupied by Pontius Pilate. Soon after, we walked along the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Suffering, and visited “Golgotha,” the hill upon which Jesus was crucified and buried, and now upon which the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built by Queen Helena in 325 AD. We discovered that the area where Jesus was crucified is 100% accurate; however, there is no way of knowing exactly where He was crucified and buried. But at least we have proof of Roman crucifixion crosses found, along with many tombs. More than anything though, we were challenged to ponder the beauty and horror of Jesus’ death and the power of His resurrection and what that means for us today.
After a delightful shawarma, falafel, or pizza lunch, we took a bus ride to Khirbet Midras to see the tomb which many believe to be the burial place of the OT prophet Zechariah. It was on these hills that we were able to worship as a team and individually journal about what we are taking home from this trip. Parents, friends, and teachers, please be intentional about asking us what we’re taking away from this trip! We would love to share with you about all that God has done in our hearts!
At this point in our journey, Mr. Mulvihill challenged us with the question of “Do I treasure Christ above all else?” If Christ isn’t our treasure, then all the things we’ve been learning about and wanting to implement into our lives back home like living intentionally, living in community, being people who devour the Word of God, living by faith, living like Christ and His disciples will mean nothing if we are not treasuring and abiding in Him.
Finally, our last stop was in the Valley of Elah, which is the location of the famous battle between David and Goliath. The challenge to us in this location was to realize that God has equipped us to do what He has called us to do. It’s not that we don’t need to learn, grow, or work hard; but God used David’s tools as a shepherd to defeat Goliath. We were inspired to use what God has gifted us with and bring freedom to our world that desperately needs Christ.
Many of us are sad that the trip is ending but we are so ready to come home and be with our loved ones and families again! We miss you and we can’t wait to see you!!!
The Israel Team
Friday, March 18
Since we’re nearing the beginning of the middle of the end of our time here in Israel, we decided to be adventurous today. We started the day by entering the City of David, on foot I might add, because many of the streets our bus would’ve used to take us around town were blocked off because of the Jerusalem Marathon. Needless to say, we got our exercise today! Everyone was checking their Fit Bits today and saying, “I’m gonna make it to 15,000 steps before lunch!”
After walking a mile and change to our first destination, we began our descent below the surface of Jerusalem through Warren’s Shaft in order to wade through the tunnel King Hezekiah dug in order to prepare for the Assyrian army that was invading the land (2 Kings 20:20). We put our swimming suits on, our water shoes, and our headlamps, and we navigated our way through 1600 feet of this cavernous tunnel in which there is a few feet of rushing water at your feet as it moves from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. Thankfully, we all made it out safely!
After exiting the tunnel, we came upon the Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed the man born blind from birth in John 9. Then we visited the Archaeological Park along the Temple Mount wall where we marveled at the size and height of the pinnacle of the Temple where Satan took Jesus to tempt Him. Also, we discovered where Pentecost most likely took place: the southern steps of the Temple Mount, not in an upper room away from the crowds.
Then we traveled a short distance to Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus and the home to Herod the Great’s palace and tomb on top of the Herodium. We learned about the connections between how shepherds raised unblemished sheep and sold them to the Jews for their temple sacrifice and how Christ was our perfect, unblemished, spotless sacrificial Lamb. Furthermore, we entered a little cave on a hillside in Bethlehem that might have been similar to what Mary and Joseph stayed in on the night of Jesus’ birth during the festival of tabernacles sometime around September or October. Also, we concisely examined how Christ fulfilled all of the Jewish feasts.
To end the day, we were able to shop (or “loot” as our tour guide likes to put it) at the Bethlehem Olive Wood Factory. Maybe some of you will be getting a gift very soon! It is incredible to think about how much we have seen so far on this trip, and there is still so much more to come! Keep praying for divine appointments and our safety as we travel through Jerusalem tomorrow!
Until the fame of Jesus fills the earth,
The Israel Team
Thursday, March 17
Right now, I am sitting in my hotel room in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem writing you this blog post and it seems so surreal but so very immanent. This is the city that kills the prophets according to Jesus. The city of David. The city where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. The city of worldwide religious controversy. The city where so many biblical promises and prophecies have been and are centered around.
As we were at the Temple Mount and as I was standing at the Western “wailing wall” this afternoon praying for Israel, I was planning on just saying a short prayer for Israel, but I found myself overcome with grief for this city and for the Jewish people. They have bore the rage of Satan for thousands of years as he has tried to snuff out the Seed (Jesus Christ) and the promises God made to Abraham long ago. It is incredible the persecution they have faced, looking back seven decades to the holocaust of World War II and the more immediate and global radical Islamic fervor to wipe Israel off the map.
I was reminded of how Jesus lamented over Jerusalem and said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). I kept praying, “God, make Jerusalem willing. Pour out on her a spirit of grace and prayer so that they would mourn over the One they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). I was reminded of how the Apostle Paul wished that he would have been cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his people, the Jews because theirs has been the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the Levitcal worship, and the patriarchs, and from their race has come the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Romans 9:1-5).
Also, I was reminded of how Paul prayed in Romans 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for [Israel] is that they may be saved,” and how in Romans 11:15, Paul realized that when Israel begins to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah and turn back to their Christ, then the world will experience what he called “life from the dead!” May we stand with Israel, provoke them to jealousy (Romans 11:14) through our love, unity, and prayer, and cry out as Isaiah did in Isaiah 62 when he implored, “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”
We are looking forward to not only learning more of the history of Jerusalem, but also growing in our love for the Jewish people.
Looking back to this morning, we began our day in the wadi of En Gedi on the western shore of the Dead Sea. This is the site where David hid from Saul in a cave and cut off a piece of his robe and where God defeated the enemies of the Israelites through praise and worship led by King Jehoshaphat. The main question that Mr. Mulvihill challenged us with this morning as we sat near the waterfalls of En Gedi is “What are you choosing: life or death?” As we investigated various Scriptures related to this oasis of living water in the desert, we were faced with the question of “When people walk into my life, are they experiencing the Dead Sea or are they experiencing En Gedi and the Living Water that comes from Christ? Are we ourselves drinking from the Spring of Living Water?”
From En Gedi, we traveled west toward Jerusalem, and on our way we stopped at the potential site Jesus was referring to in the parable of “The Good Samaritan” and had a Bedouin style lunch at “Abraham’s Tent” where we were able to ride some camels too!
It has been a great day, and we are looking forward to all that God will be revealing to us tomorrow through His Word!
Thank you for your prayers, not only for us, but for Israel as well!
Until He makes Jerusalem the praise of the earth,
The Israel Team
Wednesday, March 16
Today we had the awesome opportunity of visiting the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century: The Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found! We hiked up to Cave 11 where some of the 981 scrolls were found and learned about just how important this discovery is for our faith in believing that the Bible is God’s Word. From the cliff side of the rocky mountain, Mr. Mulvihill gave a moving story about how intentional his mom lived before she passed with ALS. Mr. Mulvihill has kept all of the letters, CDs, and mementos that his mom had left before she went to be with the Lord and reads those letters frequently. Even though we were in one of the most dry and arid places in Israel, that hillside was covered in our tears as we heard just how profoundly his mother impacted her children and grandchildren. Mr. Mulvihill left us with a humbling and sobering call to be intentional with God’s Word. Just as his mother made the most of her last days, we must live with that same intentionality to read, study, and meditate upon the most profound, insightful, rich, and important Word of all: God’s Word. If we really believed that in Jesus Christ, the Word of God, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, we would pursue Him in His Word passionately and desperately. We ended our time upon the mountainside with a time of crying out to the Lord in worship for more hunger and thirst for Him.
After coming down from the mountainside, we went through the Qumran site where the Yahad community attempted to live entirely set apart from the wicked Roman culture of their day and made time and space for studying and copying the Word of God. Excitingly and astonishingly, we found out that there was a recent discovery that fragments from the book of Esther were found as well in the fragments and scrolls from the Yahad community, meaning that fragments and entire scrolls of every single Old Testament book has been found here at Qumran! This is crucially important because these scrolls and fragments predate the coming of Jesus, ensuring that Jesus literally and truthfully fulfilled over 60 of the prophecies regarding the Messiah in the OT Scriptures! We also learned about how the Yahad scribes meticulously copied the OT manuscripts and learned about their ritually pure way of life.
Our next stop led us further south along the Dead Sea to one of Herod the Great’s mountaintop fortresses: Masada. We took a 1400 foot vertical rise cable car ride to the top of Masada where we were treated by our wonderful tour guide, Roman, to the interesting history of the famous zealot stand on top of Masada.
To end our day, we had the incredible opportunity to swim, or should I say float, in the Dead Sea! Make sure you check out more of Karen’s pictures on Facebook!!! Besides getting intensely saline water in our eyes, nose, and mouth, it was exhilarating to feel totally buoyant in the Dead Sea! Furthermore, we coated ourselves in the Dead Sea mud which has amazing minerals and healing properties. Our team needed a little R & R because we have been going, going, going, and this was a much needed “spa day.”
Tomorrow we’ll be climbing in the wadi of En Gedi and then traveling to the infamous city of Jerusalem!
We are so appreciative of your prayers! We are experiencing God’s favor and grace on this trip in amazing ways. May God continue to shine His face and shalom, not only upon us, but upon you as well, as you support us from back home. We can’t wait to see you all!
In the shalom of Christ,
The Israel Team
Tuesday, March 15
(Just a reminder – Click HERE to go to Karen McDermott’s Facebook page site and stay updated with her daily photo uploads.)
First of all, thank you for all your prayers and support! We are experiencing God’s grace to pray, learn, focus, and sleep when we can! Also, our team unity has been phenomenal. This is such an amazing group of students, parents, and staff! Rain was forecast for the entire day today, and it ended up raining quite a bit. Yet whenever we exited the bus, the rain would stop; and whenever the bus would travel, the rain would start. What crazy favor from the Lord we are experiencing! God is so good!
This morning, we packed up our bags and left our hotel on the Sea of Galilee and traveled south to Beth Shean (aka Scythopolis), which is probably the greatest archaeologically uncovered site in Israel. Our tour guide, Roman, gave us incredible insight into the Greco-Roman culture, of which we learned was exceedingly wicked and immoral. We were taught about two ways in which Greco-Roman culture was promoted: through the theater and the bathhouse. First, we discovered the Greek word for actor: hypocrite. These “hypocrites” would be announced with trumpets and wear masks to purport their false identity in the theater realm. The only person to use the word “hypocrite” in the Bible was Jesus. This means that Jesus knew what was going on in the pop culture of His day and compared the immoral Roman theater environment to the Pharisaical parade going on in Judaism at the time. We were challenged to be “in the world” but “not of it.” Secondly, we learned about the bathhouse culture in the Roman world. Needless to say, in the bathhouse, the male body was worshiped and exalted. Again, we were challenged to confront the wicked worship of sexual immorality in our own lives and in our culture with truth and grace. Despite the debauchery of the Roman culture, we were encouraged with the fact that the Gospel message revolutionized the world, and twelve men empowered by the Holy Spirit turned the entire world upside down! Now, we have this same opportunity to change the culture and cities around us with the power of the Good News!
Next we traveled further south to the Jordan River Valley and visited the banks of the Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus and near the spot where the children of Israel miraculously crossed the Jordan. We witnessed many believers getting baptized in the Jordan and we were able to stick our feet in the cold water as well. The message to us at the Jordan River centered around how the river didn’t part for Joshua and the priests carrying the ark of the covenant until they stepped into the water. Just as the priests and Joshua had to take a step of faith before the water parted, so we must take the next steps of faith that God has commanded and directed us toward. Lastly, just as the Israelites put up a sign altar of twelve stones commemorating their journey across the river which would serve as a message to future generations of the faithfulness of God, how are we putting up standing stones in our lives so that others know of God’s love, truth, and goodness?
To end the day, we visited the ruins of one of the most ancient cities in the world: Jericho. Sadly, there wasn’t much to see at this site as the trench method of excavating this site had ruined much of the remains. Despite the flaws in the excavation, it was still remarkable to witness the multi-layered foundation stones and the burn marks of where the Israelites burned the city of Jericho after they conquered it.
Now, I’m writing from a hotel in En Gedi near the Dead Sea, and the views are breathtaking, as the colossal rocky mountain cliffs are at our back and the enchanting Dead Sea is at our front. It will be amazing to float in the salty and buoyant water tomorrow!
Thank you again for your prayers and your continued support for us!
The Israel Team
Monday, March 14
The best thing about jet-lag is that it is much easier to trick your body in getting up really early. Today many of us gathered at 5:30 am to view the sunrise overlooking the Sea of Galilee; however, the sky was very overcast and foggy, so we didn’t see any sunrise. Nevertheless, we had a great time of digging into God’s Word and worshiping Him together out on the pier. The challenge from our morning devos was how Jesus constantly withdrew to pray and He constantly took His disciples with Him to find rest and fellowship with each other and with God. There are many distractions in life and it is challenging to find time for God sometimes when you are being pulled in so many different directions. Yet, just like Jesus did with the disciples, the Holy Spirit is beckoning to us today, “Come away and be with Me.”
After a delightful breakfast stacked with an omelet bar and professional espresso and cappuccino machines, we headed off to our first site: Tel-Dan, which is the site where the children of Israel fell into the depths of pagan worship led by King Jeroboam, who built golden calves on the high places at Dan because he didn’t want Israel to have to go to Judah and offer sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. Consequently, his fear of losing his prominent position and his fear of man led to him turning, not only himself, but all of Israel to worship idols. The main challenge from learning about the tribe and ancient city of Dan was about contentment: Am I content with where God has placed me? Or am I trying to jockey for position, prominence, security, fame, and fortune? Or am I trying to humbly obey God’s call on my life to simply obey Him and learn contentment in all situations? Also, King Solomon was also responsible for the splitting of Israel and leading Israel astray. Thus, we were challenged with the fact that the wisest man alive could slowly be turned away from God because of compromises he made. Solomon’s compromises had devastating effects on the entire kingdom. What choices am I making now that will have an impact, whether positive or negative, on those around me both in the present and the future? Am I making any little compromises in my life? Mr. Mulvihill also challenged the students to not compromise their purity. It was a great reminder of the fact that wise and godly people with incredible callings on their lives by God are still prone to stray. How much more important is it for us to be intentional about making godly choices that form Christ-like character in our lives that will be a blessing to our friends, our family, and those God places in our lives!
From Dan, we went to Omrit, in the area of Caesarea Philippi, which highlights ruins that are currently being excavated by our friends in St. Paul, MN at Macalister College! They are unearthing what they believe to be the third temple to Caesar Augustus built by Herod. It is very probable that as Jesus and his disciples were in this area of Caesarea Philippi, they would’ve passed by this temple of imperial cultic worship, and it is from this context that Jesus asks His disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” And it is very probable that from this location around Caesarea Philippi, Peter’s Messianic and divine confession of Christ took place.
Also, at this site we saw how the Gospel of Mark clearly illustrates the fact that Jesus is God by taking his readers through the crucifixion story while using the eight steps used by Romans to anoint their emperor. Fascinating. While the theology of the story doesn’t change, the depth of insight into what Mark was trying to communicate to his readers was most certainly enriched!
Upon arriving at the ruins of the actual city of Caesarea Philippi, we encountered the ruins of the temple of Pan, which was considered to be the entrance or gate to the underworld (or Hades). From this context, we more clearly understood the passage from Matthew 16:13-28, where not only does Jesus ask the disciples who He is, and not only does Peter give his confession of Jesus’ divinity, but Jesus responds with “ … and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
We finished our afternoon with two incredible excursions: 1) we visited a breathtaking waterfall in the Golan Heights, and 2) we went to the top of Mount Abital which overlooked the Israeli/Syrian border. From our vantage point, we were able to see two abandoned Israeli tanks from the 1972 Yom Kippur war and a very large ghost town in Syria called Quneitra that had been abandoned years ago. Going to these two sites was a great way to wind down our day after receiving incredible but very challenging teachings about living for Jesus Christ.
Thank you so much for your prayers! We can’t wait to see all of you back home!
The Israel Team
Sunday, March 13
With another good night’s rest behind us, we were ready to tackle today’s adventures in the Promised Land. After a few of us watched a beautiful sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, we left in our bus to a location on a hill that could’ve potentially been the site where Jesus taught the Beatitudes. It was incredible to take in the history and context of one of the most foundational passages in following Christ. Then we traveled to Kursi, which is located in the Gadarenes/Gerasene/Decapolis area of the east side of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus healed the Gadarene demoniac and sent him on his way to be a witness to all those around him. The message for us today is what story am I communicating to others? What is my life communicating? Is my life about me? Or is it about Him?
From Kursi, we traveled to Chorazin, which was one of the three cities in which Jesus primarily ministered: Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin. We were able to stand in a 1st century synagogue that Jesus most likely visited and taught at! The primary message from Chorazin that we took away was the emphasis on two essential facets of discipleship: community and the centrality of God’s Word. We studied how the 1st century Jews and Christians lived in community, how the Torah was studied and memorized from an early age, and how that translated to the relationship between a rabbi and his disciples. We were challenged to answer the question of “How important is the Word of God in our lives, our homes, and our education?” When the Torah was brought out of its holding chamber box in the synagogue, there would be singing and dancing because the Word of God was being brought out? Do we sing and dance in our hearts and have that same passion for pursuing God in His Word in our daily lives? What are we willing to do to become like our Rabbi, Jesus Christ?
From Chorazin, we ventured into Capernaum, which was the location of Jesus’ ministry base. Not only that, but there is convincing evidence that Jesus and Peter lived in a home that was discovered in the ruins in Capernaum decades ago based upon the fact that there was graffiti on the walls only saying Cephas (Peter) and Yeshua (Jesus) and based on the fact that Peter and Jesus had to pay the temple tax, which meant that they were registered under the census, which implied that you had a home address in that location. Also, we traveled to the ruins of Magdela which includes another 1st century synagogue that Jesus frequented and which includes the oldest image of a menorah in history. This is significant because it proves that Israel actually existed and that Jews belong in the Promised Land. Furthermore, at Magdela, we saw how a 1st century boat was discovered and repaired. This boat gives us insight into the type of boat that Jesus and His disciples might have used in their day. Lastly, we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, experiencing the wind and the waves as our Savior once did; truly a marvelous experience.
By the end of the first few nights, our team was exhausted. Today, even after dinner there is a little more pep in our steps and energy in our bodies. We are adjusting to the time difference and are excited about going up on the Golan Heights tomorrow!
Blessings from the Holy Land,
The Israel Team
Saturday, March 12
Before we begin today’s blog, I wanted to let you know that you can see over 100 incredible photos of our trip so far at Karen McDermott’s Facebook page. Click HERE to go to her Facebook page site and stay updated with her daily photo uploads.
It’s amazing that this is day 3 of our trip, yet it feels like the first. It’s incredible what a good night of rest can do for you! This morning we were ready to go bright and early at 6:30 am for breakfast and were on our bus by 7:15 am. Our first stop was visiting the ancient ruins of Megiddo in which there are 28 different layers of civilizations that have been archaeologically excavated! Not only was this a city that King Solomon fortified (1 Kings 9:15), but this city offers an expansive view of the Jezreel Valley, the potential battlefield of Armageddon. Furthermore, we learned that Megiddo was once a city that had high places for Baal worship, which involved child sacrifice. We examined Scriptures where God told the Israelites, as they were entering the Promised Land, to tear down these high places of demonic worship; however, the Israelites failed to remove all the high places and destroy idol worshiping nations that inhabited the land. The present-day application that we wrestled with was the question of “What is my high place?” What are the areas that have been exalted above the worship of Jesus Christ in my life? Am I my greatest idol?
The second message of the day as we overlooked the Jezreel Valley in the Tel Jezreel Park was centered around the life of three men: Elijah, Saul, and Gideon. The application from the lives of Elijah and Gideon was that they were weak and broken human beings, just like us. We can draw encouragement from their lives as we press on to live lives of boldness and faith in Christ Jesus.
We then traveled to the area of Nazareth and visited Nazareth Village, which recreated the culture and home life of what Jesus might have experienced. The last part of our day included a walk along the Sea of Galilee. We trekked to a spot on the sea that is most likely the spot where Jesus got in a boat and preached to the crowd sitting on a hill overlooking the lake. Finally, we ventured to Tabgha Falls and enjoyed wading our feet in the thermal spring water; and some of us even ventured into the water at the base of the falls! It has been incredible getting a taste for what Jesus and His disciples would have experienced! The Bible is coming alive and so are our hearts! Thank the Lord for opening up His Word to us!
May God’s shalom rest upon you,
The Israel Team
Days 1 and 2
The Best of Israel: 12 Day Tour – March 10-21, 2016
Thursday, March 10
International travel is generally grueling. International travel when you get little to no sleep the night before is torture. Whether bad planning or not, most of our incredible team got 0-2 hours of rest before we headed abroad to the Holy Land because we had to be at the airport at 3:00 am. Let’s just say that when we arrived in Newark, NJ for our six hour layover, there were sleeping bodies from our team strewn all over the thin carpet at our gate. To make matters even worse, the air conditioning wasn’t working, and the indoor temperature was hovering around the mid-80s in our terminal. Needless to say, we all rejoiced in the Lord for the stickiness and stench of that tortuous layover! Despite the tiredness and heat, we managed to enjoy each other’s fellowship, play some games and cards, savor some food and coffee, and get some emailing done too.
The flight from Newark to Tel-Aviv proved to be more restful, but it was definitely more interesting. The reason for this was because a group of 30 ultra-conservative Orthodox Jews were on the flight with us. They dressed the part with their yarmulke (Kippah), tassels, prayer shawls, and by binding “the Law” literally on their foreheads and arms. Every few hours, these Orthodox Jews would stand up in the aisle, congregate near two bathrooms, and begin praying intensely by swaying their bodies back and forth. The flight attendants and even the captain had to repeatedly ask them to sit down because they were preventing people from using the restroom. Meredith Christian eloquently summarized that experience by quoting Paul in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free [from the Law]. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Even though these Orthodox Jews were expressing their pious devotion to the Law of Moses and their traditions, it was void of humility and lacked the love of God. Their example challenged us to continue to be utterly devoted to God but express that devotion through the love, humility, and meekness of Jesus Christ.
Friday, March 11
Upon arriving in Tel-Aviv, there was no rest for the weary. We were immediately whisked away to our tour bus where we drove for an hour to Caesarea, an ancient city on the Mediterranean coast made most well known by Herod Agrippa I. In the New Testament, Caesarea is where Philip took the Gospel (Acts 8), where Peter and Cornelius had their divine convergence (Acts 10), where Herod Agrippa I was eaten by worms after he claimed to be a god (Acts 12), and where Paul made his defense three times (Acts 24-26). Mr. Mulvihill’s excellent teachings today centered on two main questions: 1) “Who do you say that I am?” and 2) what does is mean to be a witness for Christ? In combining the answers to those questions, we were challenged to bear bold witness to the very truth that Jesus is God. In Caesarea, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Now in our present day and age, the divinity of Christ is challenged on multiple fronts from the secular humanist perspective to the Islamic tradition. We must continue to ask God for boldness and humility in being His faithful witnesses, not loving our lives, even unto death. After a time of journaling and corporate worship on the beautiful coast of the Mediterranean in Caesarea, we left for our hotel and enjoyed a lovely pre-Sabbath meal, full of fish, ribs, salads, hummus, and a wide variety of desserts! After eating our meal, almost everyone went straight to bed.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
The Israel Team