Thirty-eight years ago, I graduated from seminary and Donna and I took a trip to Israel before beginning my first pastoral position. I always said I would like to lead a tour of Israel one day. In 2019, fifty-five of us flew to Tel Aviv, Israel to begin our journey and walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It was a first-time experience for everyone and was the trip of a lifetime. Certainly, for me … it was a dream come true. We tried to lead another trip, but COVID caused us to postpone twice. Last month was God’s timing for returning to Israel and adding Egypt.
Our journey began on the Mediterranean Coast and then north to Galilee where we went to the ancient ruins of Caesarea, took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and visited a reconstructed experiential version of Nazareth, Mount Arbel, Caesarea, Magdala, Mount Precipice, Mount of Transfiguration, Caesarea-Philippi, Valley of Armageddon, Capernaum, Decapolis, Golan Heights, Valley of the Doves, Mount of Beatitudes, and the location of the feeding of the 5000. Thirteen people were baptized in the Jordan River. The fingerprints of God were everywhere. We couldn’t help but praise God … knowing that if we didn’t, the “stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).
We said goodbye to Galilee and headed south … Temptations of Jesus, Jericho, Sycamore tree, Qumran, Engedi, Jordan Border, Masada, and the Dead Sea. We were on the path to Jerusalem. It was amazing how many biblical sites we saw even while remembering, “and there were also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Jerusalem and Bethlehem came next … birthplace of Jesus, Shepherd’s Field, U.S. Embassy, Knesset, Western Wall, Caiaphas House, Stephen stoning, Gehenna, Via Dolorosa, Tunnels under the old city, Temple Mount, Israel Museum, Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Pool of Bethesda, and an evening dinner in a Jewish home in Jerusalem. What an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of a precious family in this extremely complicated part of the world.
Interestingly, I stood on the stone Jesus stood on entering Jerusalem in the First Century. When Neil Armstrong stood on that same stone, he said it was a bigger step and thrill than his first step onto the moon. It is a joy to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, but I realize the challenge is to do that day to day back home. He still says, “Follow me.”
Cairo, Egypt came next. Pyramids, Cairo Museum, boat ride on the Nile, camel ride. I found the most interesting part our time in Egypt was visiting the Cave Church. The church is in the trash dump servicing the trash of twenty-five million people. Christians live in the dump and collect the city trash and then sort through the trash to see what is salvageable. Seven thousand people meet in a cave every Sunday to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Garbage dumps do not scare away Jesus. He shows up wherever He is invited.
My favorite place of all was the Garden Tomb. I looked in. The tomb is empty. He is risen. Very moving. Heart-warming. Life refreshing. I know that I know that I know He lives.
Am I going back? Lord willing. Maybe you will join me!!!
Please send me your email address if interested.
I’m tentatively thinking February 2024.
Upcoming Speaking Open Doors/Prayer
October is a busy month. There are many Bible studies and Leader Faith Forums with leaders. I will be speaking at the War College in Pennsylvania and the leading their weekend retreat. The Capitol Commission Annual Gathering of State Chaplains takes place in Nashville for 3 days. Please pray we serve God, in the power of God, for the glory of God.