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Archive for December, 2009

Make 2010 a Banner Year in your Walk with the Lord!

Happy New Year, Friends!

People have mixed emotions about making New Year resolutions. But I am convinced that it is always good to “excel still more” in our personal growth and development.

Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 4:1, “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”

I want to urge you to make 2010 the most spiritually devoted year of your life. It is so easy to get distracted by things of the world, that we neglect the priority of seeking our Lord daily. It is a spiritual battle and our adversary, the devil, will try anything to keep us from walking intimately with God.

As 2 Corinthians 11:3 declares, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

Please make Jesus Christ your 1st Love as you take time to exalt Him in your heart and mind everyday! If you need to get up an hour earlier to start your day with the Lord, please make it a disciplined priority. You will find your day and life running a lot more smoothly with a better attitude when you submit each day to His leadership.

There is not just “one way” to spend time with God, but I encourage you to include prayer, God’s Word, worship and silent listening as special activities that enhance our relationship with God. I am praying that you will have a Spirit-filled New Year!

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Ending the Journey of a Lifetime at Golgotha

Our last day began with a brief tour of the hospital where Tom Gronewald volunteers as a missionary servant to Israel. It was very enlightening to hear about and to see the medical facilities and preparations done by this hospital.

We went from the hope of holistic medicine to the sobering reality of the Holocaust! Touring the Yad Vashem museum and the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust leaves you an ache in your heart. The staggering scenes and video-taped interviews with Holocaust survivors left a grim reminder of the evil that is in this world. It ignites the passion for showing love and restoring the dignity and value of every human being. People matter to God and people matter to us too!

Our final journey took us to the Praetorian where Jesus was flogged, mocked and spat upon. He went through all the agony of Gethsemane, the beatings and the crucifixion for us!

Wow, what a Savior!

We wept as we stood on the stones in which Jesus received His cruel thrashing. We followed the Via Dolorosa , the way of suffering where Jesus carried His cross with the help of Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21).

Along this busy road we came to Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. We were truly standing on holy ground as we saw the Skull in the rocky cliff and personally witnessed the empty tomb. We gathered to read, worship and celebrate Holy Communion. What a special time of personal renewal and spiritual intimacy with our Lord. Richard played his violin and Kyler led us in worship as we spent an hour and a half just praising God for His gracious sacrifice on our behalf. This is the fitting conclusion to an amazing tour.

Isaiah 53:4-5 reveals the prophetic truth of our Messiah Jesus:

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”

Our group has truly become a family and many are already planning to join us on our next trip to Israel and Greece from July 8-22, 2011. Please pray about joining us as well. You will never be the same!

Shalom!

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The Ancient City of David

We viewed a 3-D movie of the ancient city of David before we saw the actual ruins left in this archeological site. Over 3,000 years of history is being excavated here. Then we participated in the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation where we took part in the actual archeological process with our own hands. Our group discovered coins, bones, pottery pieces, mosaics, frescoes and other specialty rocks dating back to the Second Temple period. It was great to literally get our hands in the dirt of this ancient land.

Our lunch was at the Ramat Rachel Kibbutz, which has a very nice Hotel with a view into Bethlehem and Rachel’s Tomb. My pre-conceived idea of what a Kibbutz would be like was shattered by the modern facilities and luxuries enjoyed in this Kibbutz. It is the only Kibbutz with a Hotel in Jerusalem.

Back into the Old City of Jerusalem, we sang within the Church of St. Ann as our songs echoed off the ceiling. Just outside were the pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man who had been ill for 38 years (John 5:1-17). Kyler continued to lead us in wonderful worship as we tried to assimilate and soak in all the spiritual insights that have flooded our heads and hearts. There is so much to absorb and learn!

Finally, we went through the Rabbi’s Tunnel that goes underground along the western wall of the Temple Mount! The foundations stones of the Second Temple range from 400-1000 tons each and fit so closely together that a razor blade cannot slide between them. The incredible process of chiseling, transporting and laying the stones to make the Temple Mount was illustrated in an animated movie presentation. As we walked along this tunnel, there is a spot that is closest to the Holy of Holies in which people pause to pray.

After this trip of experiences, learning and ministry opportunities, may we all practice Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

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It was a blessing to serve.

What a privilege to serve!

Our only tour today was traveling into Bethlehem, which requires a change of buses and tour guides as it is under strict Palestinian control behind a high wall with barbed wire. It reminded me of the Berlin wall. We were hosted by a great Palestinian Christian man in his store with amazing wood carvings and other gifts. We visited the birthplace of Christ and saw the Shepherd’s fields. It was a short stopover in order to serve lunch at the Soup Kitchen.

Peeling potatoes, making soup, serving plates and just ministering love to homeless and needy people was such a blessing for all of us. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). This ministry provides more than just food: they give job training, dental care and other practical expressions of compassion. It is my prayer that we will all have a growing love for people and a passion to reach out to those in need as a result of this special time to serve.

We then were able to experience the Israeli market with all the diversity, culture and exotic foods. This day allowed us to immerse ourselves in “non-tourist” type of activities. We left the market and went to the Ethiopian Assimilation Center. This is a place where these Jewish immigrants are given a two-year process for their adaptation into their new homeland. They provide language training, schooling for the kids, and basic education of life and culture that was foreign to their Ethiopian existence. We were able to give toys and stuffed animals to the kids.

Today was a reminder of all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us and how we need to be a channel of blessings to others. Let us all practice Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Britt and Chelsea were able to have dinner with her step-sister and enjoyed God’s gracious gift of this meeting. To God be all the glory!

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Walking the streets where our Savior once walked was a blessing.

We started on the Temple Mount, which is under Palestinian authority. On this 35-acre parcel on Mount Moriah is one of the most sacred sites in all of Judaism. The Muslims have their Dome of the Rock and two other mosques on this ancient mount. It is also the forthcoming site of the Third Temple to be built in the near future.

Jerusalem

Walking down from the top of the Temple Mount, we all prayed at the Western Wall, placing prayers in the wall on slips of paper. There seemed to be urgency in many prayers as we lifted our petitions to our Lord. We walked to the excavated southern steps that are from the time of Christ leading up to the Temple. It was a tender moment to realize that our Lord probably stepped on these very stone steps. We have a group picture to commemorate this time.

As we walked out from our lunch, Britt Price saw her step-sister whom she was praying about meeting. This was a real miracle! There is no such thing as coincidence. Britt and Chelsea planned a dinner with her later, too. It was fun to see Britt’s excitement to realize that her heavenly Father cares about her enough to answer this special prayer. Our God abounds in lovingkindness!

Our group became like a tight-knit family.

Next, we visited the upper room and prayed for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to fill us. This is where Jesus enjoyed “The last Supper” with His disciples as He washed their feet (John 13:1-35). It is also where the Church was birthed as God poured out His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Please pray with us for a fresh anointing and empowering from the Holy Spirit.

Just east of the city, we arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony about His imminent crucifixion (Mark 14:32-50). There we had a private time to worship and pray in this Garden with olive trees dating back 2,000 years. I was moved to tears as I reflected on Christ’s loving sacrifice for me in this awe-inspiring place. What a gracious God we serve!

Finally, we stood on the Mount of Olives where we witnessed the Sun setting over Jerusalem—truly a spectacular site! The Kidron valley which lies between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount is filled with tombs now. It was a vineyard in the time of Christ as He spoke about being the vine and disciples being the branches (John 15:1-11). This is a good reminder that we are to live fruitful lives! How is the fruit in your life? We need to abide in Christ, because apart from Him, we can do nothing of any eternal value.

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"Padre, Baptize me!"

Our morning began with the dedication and testimony of 17 of our group being baptized in the Jordan River. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward faith. Each person was devoting their lives to Christ and testifying that He is their Lord and Savior.

As I was coming out of the water, several Ecuadorian women came running up to me calling out to me, “Padre, Padre, please baptize us,” in broken English. Therefore, Glenn Goodwin, one of our elders, and I baptized about 20 Ecuadorians as Mark Romo translated in Spanish. It was a special blessing to see their exuberance and joy as they were baptized in the Jordan.

From baptismal waters, we traveled to the precipice in Nazareth where the angry crowd wanted to throw Jesus off of the cliff (Luke 4:16-30). Our daughter, Chelsea, was able to ride an Arabian horse, bareback, all around on this Nazareth hilltop as the owner was happy to let her ride. From this precipice, we could see the whole Jezreel valley and the little town of Nain, where Jesus raised the widow’s only son up from the dead (Luke 7:11-17).

We made a quick stop at Megiddo, the site of the future battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16). Megiddo has 22 layers of civilization excavated in this archeological Tel. Countless battles have been fought in this valley. We then came to Mount Carmel where Elijah took on the prophets of Baal and God sent fire from heaven to consume the altar (I Kings 18:20-40). It is an awesome sight to look out from Mount Carmel to the valley and hills below.

We had an interesting time with a Druze lunch. These people are very kind but spiritually lost. They showed us great hospitality with a homemade lunch and a brief explanation of their beliefs. Leaving politely without rushing, we traveled to Caesarea, named after Augustus Caesar, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This fascinating harbor city has a rich history and ancient ruins to examine.

Richard played his violin in the theatre and Kyler sang a worship song. It was probably in this theatre that Herod welcomed blasphemous praise and was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:20-23). We were chased out as the park was closing. It was a long ride south to Jerusalem.

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It's an amazing gift to walk where Jesus walked and pray where Jesus prayed.

An early morning after a late night was well worth the effort as we walked along the Dan River to Tel Dan. This hike invigorated everyone with the beauty and splendor of this land. This resembles the land that the Israelites of old found:

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).

These eight items listed in this passage of fruitful produce are still national crops today as well. We also could look into the Lebanese and Syrian borders where so many military conflicts have occurred.

Caesarea Philippi was our next stop, the most northeast place that Jesus traveled. Like the Dan River, another spring flows as a head water tributary for the Jordan. It was here that Jesus questioned His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (read all of Matthew 16:13-20).

This Roman colony was the place where they worshipped the false god Pan, of lower Echo. Here they had the “gates of Hell” where they performed sacrifices to their pagan gods. It was also here that Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus was the Master teacher who utilized visual illustrations to impact His listeners with spiritual truths. Praise the Lord that He is the One who is building His church!

Back in Galilee, we ate a St. Peter’s fish lunch and then came to Capernaum, the place where Jesus spent most of His earthly ministry (Mark 1:21-3:14). It was here that Jesus called five of His disciples; therefore, we learned about what being a disciple really looks like.

Passages of John 8:31-32; 13:34-35; 15:8-11 and Luke 14:25-27 all point out key qualities of being a biblical disciple! We had a spiritual time of worshipping God right there on the sea shore of Galilee. It is remarkable to walk where Jesus walked, pray where Jesus prayed, teach where Jesus taught and worship where Jesus worshipped. Please pray that our lives will never be the same as I pray for you too. Thanks!

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