The Last Day is really the First Day!

As we concluded our time in Israel our tour guide, Ronen, challenged us with these encouraging words: “Make your nine days in The Land a collective Day One.”

Days Two and Beyond are what we do with the experiences we just encountered.

This has been my fourth trip to Israel. And each time I’ve enjoyed a very special heart-to-heart connection with my Father and Savior.

But we are always encouraged to give away that which we have received, right? And that’s why I’m passionate about The Land. That’s why I want as many people to experience it for themselves.

On our final day in Israel, we began it six miles south of Jerusalem in Bethlehem. Amazing to see the Herodian, the ruins of Herod’s palace. To think that Jesus was born in its shadow, and to see what became of the followers of Herod and the ways of Rome. I’m thankful for the grace and life of the little baby born in Bethlehem! And the significance of that life on all mankind, even you and me 2000+years later!

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4 CEV

We then went up to Jerusalem and followed the path of Yeshua from the Mt. of Olives on Palm Sunday, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Antonian Fortress along the Via Dolorosa, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the site of the crucifixion and the tomb.

My favorite spot today? Praying with a young man in our group on the Mt. of Olives. It was a special last day! Or like our guide says, the first day!

Off to Turkey for a few sites and then home!

I’m so very thankful for this opportunity to experience The Land. It’s such a special place.

Shalom!

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Come with me to Israel! I’ll be bringing a group back to The Land in October. Please join us!For more info go to www.gtitours.org/trip/ronald19

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Praying at The Wall.

Day Seven.

Although many might disagree, it’s just a wall. God does not live in the wall. He does not need to open and read the prayers inscribed on tiny pieces of paper and left in small crevices. The prayers offered here at the wall won’t be answered with any greater priority. It’s just a bunch of massive stones that Herod had taken from a nearby quarry and stacked on top of each other.

But for many, these 2000+ year old stones are the closest they’ll ever get to the Holy of Holies today. You see, the ancient temple, destroyed in 70 AD, used to run east and west at the top of Mt. Moriah. The eastern porticoes were for the Gentiles. The further west you went, the holier it became, until finally one reached the Most Holy Place, which was fairly close to this foundation wall in the heart of Jerusalem.

So, did I offer a prayer at the wall? Sure! Was there something special about those few moments of one-on-one communication with the One True God? Absolutely! But it’s not about the stone! And I know that those who pray here regularly understand that.

It’s awesome to get to pray here. It’s not about the stone, it is about who is your sure foundation?! What is the bedrock of truth in your life. Does that make sense?

On this day, many families were celebrating their son’s bar-mitzveh. The dads beamed with great pride! The sons were greatly moved at this new direction in their journeys.

There was prayer, reciting and reading Scripture, music, dancing and great joy! At first, we felt like outsiders. But this is a public celebration, and our group was included, even if just for a few minutes. Fun!

We also went up to the Mount, where the temple used to be. There’s a Muslim shrine in its place now. Part of the politics of The Land. And a good reminder that for those of us who believe, thanks to the sacrifice of the Lamb, God makes His residence in our hearts.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? …for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16‭-‬17 NIV

The Southern Steps are always one of my favorite sites. We get to stand on 2000 year old stones and read Acts 2, which is the story of the day the Church was born. The people of God were celebrating Shavuot. We call it Pentecost. They were celebrating the day Moses brought the Law of God down from the mountain. And God chose that very day to release His Holy Spirit for us all!

So many amazing sites and stories in this Land!

Shalom!

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I’m here in Israel preparing for a Biblical Study Tour in October. I would love to have you join me in The Land! For more information go to gtitours.org/trip/ronald19.

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Let us go up to the House of the Lord!

Day Six.

We said goodbye to the Sea of Galilee this morning and traveled across the Land to the west and south and up to Jerusalem!

Our first stop was the Roman city of Scythopolis. Interesting, before it was a Roman city it was the Israelite tel called Bet She’an. A tel is a large hill upon which multiple civilizations were built on top of each other. Then, when the Romans came to the Land, they built a major city at the base of the tel.

Why here in this spot?

It has water. It is defensivable. It has crops and agriculture nearby. And it is along a major crossroad and highway.

It is a major cultural hub. And a place with great influence in the Land. I think the faith lesson for us here is a reminder to not let us be influenced by the culture, but rather we can make it our aim to be people of faith who influence the culture for the Kingdom of God. (See Romans 12:2, for example). Whether it was the judgment of God against the excesses and carnality of Rome, or merely a natural event, this beautiful city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD.

From here we visited Magiddo, Mt. Carmel and Caesaria along the Mediterranean Sea.

Tonight, we have reached the House! We will spend the next three days in Jerusalem! Why? To see the sites, to study the Word and to praise the Lord!

That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord — to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.
Psalm 122:4 NIV

Shalom!

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I’m here in Israel preparing for a Biblical Study Tour in October. I would love to have you join me in The Land! For more information go to gtitours.org/trip/ronald19.

#gtipastors

Walking and praying where Jesus walked and prayed.

Day Four in The Land brought us to the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. Today we went where we know Jesus was! We made eight stops, so it was a very full day!

Sunset behind Mt. Arbel

We began at the community ruins of Chorazin. Rich Ferreira opened up the Text to several examples of community. One of these passages was from Mark 5:28 where we read about the woman who dared to touch the corner of Jesus’ robe or likely His prayer shawl. Instantly she was healed! This woman, because of her bleeding and uncleanness, had been cut off from her family and community for twelve years. In an instant, Jesus welcomes her back by healing her!

I also got the chance to pray with a couple from Indonesia. Daniel and Ani, seen here praying in the synagogue, asked me to join them in praying for her parents to come to know Jesus the way she knows Jesus. Will you join with me in prayer?

Daniel and Ani

The next place was the Mt. of Beatitudes. I was blessed to share the teaching here from Matthew 5-7. This is the Sermon on the Mount — the first of Jesus’ public teachings. The encouraging words of our Master are to be salt. Make the world a better place. Be light. Treat others as you want to be treated. We can all be amazed and marvel at His words of grace and peace.

View from Mt. of Beatitudes to the east

We also visited Jesus’ hometown of Capernaum where we were reminded of the humanity of Jesus. He walked these streets and interacted with the people here daily. Randy Alonso told us “There is an answer to every problem of man found in the humanity of Jesus.”

Randy Alonso teaches at Capernaum that “people who were not like Jesus liked Jesus.”

Our day continued with a trip some quiet time at the top of Mt. Arbel where you can see this whole region of the Sea of Galilee. It is believed that Jesus prayed up here on this mountain top. We took time to pray as well.

The view from high atop Mt. Arbel.

And we concluded the day with a boat ride across the Sea and a traditional St. Peter’s fish dinner.

I came to Israel this time with my hands open wide and a hope for a significant heart-to-heart connection with Jesus. He has joyfully surprised me with such moments every day. There is something special about making time to connect. And I must say, it’s even more special here in The Land.

Shalom!

gtitours.org/trip/ronald19

From the Dead Sea to Living Water!

Day Three in the Land.

First things first. When you travel to the other side of the world, sometimes “Jet Lag” can really mess with one’s natural sleep patterns. The first two nights for me were okay. But sleep last night was a bit tricky. By 2:30 a.m. I was wide awake. I tossed and turned for over an hour. By 4 o’clock I decided to get up. I’m a bit of a runner, so before another hour passed it was time to lace up the running shoes and hit the bike trail that parallels the shore. The benefit of a pre-dawn run, you get to see the sunrise over the Moab Mountains!

Sunrise on the Salt Sea

The curious thing about the Salt Sea, the water is greater than 30% salt. So there is no life in it. It’s beautiful on the surface, but completely void of any substance underneath. The good news, One Day it will be teeming with life!

Wherever this water flows, there will be all kinds of animals and fish, because it will bring life and fresh water to the Dead Sea. Fruit trees will grow all along this river and produce fresh fruit every month. The leaves will never dry out, because they will always have water from the stream that flows from the temple, and they will be used for healing people.
Ezekiel 47:9‭, ‬12 CEV

We visited five additional sites today. The first was the southern border palace of King Herod called Massada, which means “strong hold.” It sits high atop a mountain on the edge of the Dead Sea. There is an amazing historical significance for the people of Israel that is not unlike the story of the Alamo in my town of San Antonio.

A five minute bus ride from the base of Masada is Ein Gedi, which means “Springs of Wild Goats.” David and his band of warriors hid out in the caves around here and you’ll find the Bible story in 1 Samuel 23 and 24.

There are also a number of springs of living water here. It’s really amazing to see water in the desert and if it were a warmer day, I’m certain we would have cooled off in the waterfall!

We also went to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in one of eleven caves in the desert.

The next destination was one of two stops we’ll make along the Jordan River. This location was opposite Mt. Nebo, where Moses looked into the Promised Land and urged the people of Israel to remember God as they crossed into the New Land without him. It’s the same spot where John baptized Jesus. It is believed that the reason John chose this spot to baptize was to remind the new followers of The Way to repent and remember the faithfulness of God from generations past, to bring His children into The Land at this very crossing. It’s a faith lesson for us today, right? Even every Sunday when we observe the Lord’s Supper or Communion we are urged to remember… remember the sacrifice of Jesus and the life eternal that we share with Him.

Tonight, well after dark, we arrived up north to the Sea of Galilee, where we’ll spend the next three days. This is clearly my favorite area of the tour!

We’re only three days in and this study trip has been very refreshing for me… like Living Water!

Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who is thirsty.
Revelation 21:6 CEV

Shalom!

If Israel is someplace you’ve always wanted to see, join me in October. I’d love to show you. Go to gtitours.org/trip/ronald19 for more info.

No worries, even in the desert.

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Hebrew has three words for wilderness. This is “Tzi’ ya.”
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Wilderness of Zin aka the Israeli Grand Canyon
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Bedouin Hospitality: Sweet hot tea and baklava!


Day Two of our Biblical Study Tour in Israel found us in the Wilderness. There are three words, three meanings, which we find in the Text.

The first is “midbar,” which is an area that is more like a large open space that has plenty of grass and pasture for sheep to graze.

The second is “tzi’ya,” where it’s pretty desolate, little to no vegetation or water, but an oasis within a day’s journey (approximately every 25 miles).

Then there is “Yeshimon,” where it is completely empty, nothing for a hundred miles. Think “surface of the moon” or Tatooine from Star Wars.

We have seen all three types of “wilderness” in the two days we’ve been in The Land. Today, we journeyed deep to the southern part of Israel, to The Wilderness of Zin. David was here. So was all of Israel as the people wondered in this region for 40 years.

The faith lessons can be found in Psalm 1 or Jeremiah 17.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord , whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7‭-8 NIV

We saw trees with deep, deep roots near the waters that flowed through Ein Avdat, where the rocky walls are over 300 feet high. Could this geographic spot have been the inspiration for these Biblical word pictures?

What is the key to bearing fruit in the Kingdom? How do you have hope when you are being tested or you feel like you are in a season of wilderness? Can you really be free of worries? Yes! When you trust in the Lord!

We can all be encouraged to stay firmly rooted near streams of the living water of Jesus! Two of His words come to mind… In John 4:10-14, He tells the woman at the well that He will give us Living Water. And in Matthew 6:25-34 He tells us why we don’t need to worry.

Even in the desert. Especially in the desert. When you are parched and weary, He is there to give you Living Water!

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Today we also enjoyed the hospitality of bedouins, those who make the desert their home. This included sweet hot tea, baklava to eat and even a camel ride!

We concluded Day Two with a fun dip in the Salt Sea… like floating down the Comal or Guadelupe Rivers without the tube!

Tomorrow: Massada, Ein Gedi and Qumram.

Shalom!

If Israel is someplace you’ve always wanted to see, join me in October. I’d love to show you what I’ve learned. Go to gtitours.org/trip/ronald19 for more info.

#gtipastors

God’s got this!

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I’m here in Israel on a pastor’s tour… learning how to teach and bring people to the Land. Today was our first official day on tour. We went to four stops, but saw a lot of the central plains region called the Shephelah.

+We studied 1 Samuel 4 at Kiriath-Jearim. We noted how the Israelites forgot about God and the encouragement for us is to not follow in their ways.

+At Bet Shemesh we studied the story of Samson and how his compromises led to some awful problems.

+At Azekah we looked down on the Valley of Elah where the Philistines and Goliath mocked the One True God and how David, the courageous shepherd boy took God at His word and, by the miracle of God, defeated the enemy with a single stone. (1 Samuel 17).

+And at Bet Guvrin we learned about cisterns and how we need God to constantly fill us up!

Tonight is a special Shabbat dinner and tomorrow is the Dead Sea Sea the desert.

Shabbat shalom!

Wow! Wonder!

To join me on a Bible Study Tour in October go to gtitours.org/trip/ronald19