The following report was written by Anne. The pictures and video vignettes are a compilation of those taken by ipads, iphones, and cameras belonging to Anne and other Tour members. We couldn’t resist giving you this “home-made” glimpse of our Tour of His Land. We pray you will be blessed…
IN HIS LAND
A TOUR OF ISRAEL
April 21st-May 5th, 2013
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee…He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him. Matthew 4:18, 21-22
On April 21st, after a one day delay due to violent storms on the East Coast, I arrived in the city of Tiberius, located on the shore of Galilee in northern Israel. Approximately 80 people from all across the United States came to join me for a Tour of His Land. Because God has called me, not to lead tours, but to revive the hearts of His people, my aim was to use the tour for a greater purpose then just site-seeing, as thrilling as that can be. I wanted what we would see to be a means of strengthening the faith of each one who came, while filling their hearts with holy, consuming fire of love for Jesus, for His people, for His land, for His Word, and for the world that He so loves. My prayer was that Jesus would draw near and walk beside us as we toured, opening our minds to understand His word with fresh insight, and our eyes to see things He had seen as we walked where He walked. Along the way, I prayed that each of us would hear His clear call to discipleship in such a way that we would be renewed in our commitment to follow Him.
Below is my report on how He answered prayer above and beyond what I could have asked for…
BESIDE THE SEA OF GALILEE: THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP
Matthew 4:18-20 & John 21:1-17
We began beside the Sea of Galilee on a spectacular day with a cobalt blue sky overhead and the sea stretching out like rippling glass to the Golan Heights softly rising in the distance. As we stood on a small beach, we could see fishing boats coming and going, we could hear the lap of the water at our feet, we could feel the sea breeze in our faces, and we were transported back in time to the day when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John, to forsake everything and follow Him. They did. They dropped their nets, climbed out of their boats, and became “fishers of men”…
We remembered back to the moment in our own lives when we heard Jesus calling us to come and follow Him. I wondered out loud if some of us had obeyed the call, but then failed, as Peter had done. So we meditated on the scene after the resurrection when, sitting beside an open fire on which He had fixed the disciples breakfast, Jesus recalled Peter to discipleship. So our tour began beside the same Sea where Jesus had called and recalled His disciples to follow Him, with a challenge to disregard past failures, and follow Jesus ourselves in a life of genuine discipleship.
Video clip – Sea of Galilee Teaching: https://vimeo.com/67665883
CAPERNAUM: THE PRAYER LIFE OF A DISCIPLE
After our devotional on the beach, we went around the edge of the Sea to Capernaum, the city that was Jesus’ chosen home-base after He left Nazareth to begin His public ministry. With the splendid ruins of the ancient synagogue behind us, and the Sea of Galilee stretching out in front of us, we remembered the events of Mark 1. Jesus had taught in the synagogue, cast out a demon from a possessed man, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of fever, then in the evening ministered to the whole town that gathered at His door.
How exhausted He must have been at the end of the day, how desperate He must have been for a good nights rest in order to be refreshed for the demands that would be made of Him the next day. Yet Mark 1:35 says: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”
We turned to Luke’s Gospel and traced something of His prayer life. We learned that He prayed when He was alone, when He was with His disciples, and when He was in a crowd. He prayed on His face, on His knees, or standing up. He prayed in the evening, all night, in the morning, or at mid-day. Jesus prayed! I couldn’t help but ask myself, if He felt the need to pray, why don’t I? How do I think I can go one day—one hour—one moment without it? We were reminded that every authentic disciple has a strong prayer life.
Video Clip – Capernaum Message on Prayer https://vimeo.com/64659894
THE MOUNT OF BEATITUDES: THE INNER LIFE OF A DISCIPLE
Overlooking the beautiful blue Sea is a knoll that is dotted with flowering gardens and small amphitheaters, topped off with a church. In an amphitheater that is positioned near the traditional place where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, we read the first few verses of Matthew 5. We noted that the Sermon on the Mount is not like the sayings of Mao or Gandhi. The Sermon on the Mount was specifically given to disciples, not the general public. Only Spirit-filled disciples could understand, much less live out, the radically different life that He described. It was a call to Kingdom greatness. Jesus took the Ten Commandments and pushed them into the heart. He challenged disciples not to add Him externally to their lives. He is to be their life from the inside out.
CHORAZIN: DISCIPLES FEED OTHERS
We drove up through the hills to the ruins of ancient Chorazin.
Standing near the blackened stones of the ancient synagogue, with the grassy green mountainside sweeping down to the Sea in front of us, we could easily picture a crowd of 5000 men, in addition to women and children, who had followed Jesus around the lake, interrupting His retreat with His disciples. He had welcomed them with compassion, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. They had listened to Jesus teach, and towards late afternoon, they were hungry. The disciples gave Jesus five loaves and two fish, which were totally inadequate to feed a crowd of thousands. But it was all they had. Jesus took the food, blessed them, broke them, gave them back to them, and they passed it out until everyone was fed. For the 80 of us gathered on that hillside, it was deeply moving to be reminded that Jesus uses disciples, with all of our broken pieces, to feed others. But first we must give Him everything we have.
THE BOAT: DISCIPLES ARE WATCHED OVER
While Jesus did not see the buildings, the roads, the cars, the buses, the high-rise hotels, the commemorative churches and all the other signs of civilization around Galilee, He would have seen the topography: the rolling clouds and pouring rain that cascaded down the hillside the day before the Tour began, the Golan Heights standing on the eastern side of the sea in soft shades of tan and brown, the blue of the water reflecting the brilliant blue of the sky as though it was a mirror, and the fishing boats bobbing on the surface of the water. So towards the end of our first day of touring, we climbed aboard a fishing boat, set out to sea, and when we were away from land, we asked the operator to turn off the motor and allow us to drift quietly for fifteen minutes.
In the stillness we could hear the water slapping against the wooden hull, hear the canvas snapping in the wind, feel the deck under our feet and the breeze in our faces, look out at the same mountains and hills that He would have seen hundreds of times…and many of us wept. It was perhaps one of the most moving experiences of our time in His Land.
We remembered that from the surrounding hills, Jesus watched His disciples straining against the oars during a storm, then walked across the water to them. Because Jesus keeps His eyes on His disciples. While He may not deliver us from hard places, He does promise to be with us in the midst of our storms and trials. Peter’s eager desire to join Jesus on the surface of the lake is a standard of faith for all of us. He was willing to step out of the boat, to leave his comfort zone, and risk everything in order to experience the power of God in his life as he walked on water. Sitting on our boat, looking over the side at the calm surface of the water, we could only imagine what it would have been like to have gone overboard in a raging sea because Jesus invited us to “Come.” Peter did!
When the operator turned the motor back on, we were led in worship as we sang hymns of praise for the greatness of our God who has not changed. He is the same today as He was in Peter’s day. And if we don’t know His power as Peter did, maybe it’s because we are not willing to step out of all that’s familiar and take a risk of faith.
Video Clip: https://vimeo.com/68050428
And that was just Day One!
Day Two found us driving to what is now a bustling city, but in Jesus’ day was a very small village nestled in the hills west of Galilee. Nazareth.
NAZARETH: DISCIPLES SHARE THE GOOD NEWS
Sitting along the walls inside a replica of the synagogue similar to the one Jesus was accustomed to attending in his hometown, we opened our Bibles to Luke 4:14-21. As we read the passage, we could almost feel His passion, hear His authority, and sense that the audience was riveted to not only His words, but the power with which He uttered them. We were gripped ourselves by the acute awareness that as His disciples, we bear the responsibility and the high privilege of sharing with others the Good News of forgiveness of sin, freedom from oppression, and the favor of God.
Video Clips Synagogue – https://vimeo.com/67577562
With the words of Jesus still echoing within the small, simple synagogue, we had the privilege of meeting Botrus and A’Bir Mansour. This Christian Palestinian couple runs a school in Nazareth for 1200 students, K through 12. Botrus shared with us his own journey as a disciple, including his testimony of salvation. He then gave us the honor of praying for him. How thrilling to meet this humble man who is making disciples of young men and women in the next generation. In Nazareth! How thrilled our Lord must be as Heaven surely applauds this dear couple.
Anne with Botrus & A’Bir Mansour:
Later that same day, we stood on top of Mount Carmel and gazed over the vast Jezreel Valley where one day the armies of the world will gather for a final showdown, Armageddon.
Jezreel valley https://vimeo.com/67736686
MOUNT CARMEL: DISCIPLES HAVE HOPE, CONFIDENT THAT GOD KEEPS HIS WORD
1 Kings 18:1-2, 16, 46; Matthew 26:64 and Revelation 19:11-16
It was on Mount Carmel that Elijah confronted the 450 priests of Baal, and the 400 prophets of Asherah. So on that very site we remembered that after his victory he prayed and fasted for rain because God had promised that if he confronted the priests, God would send rain to end the three year drought in Israel. Elijah held God to His word, and was rewarded with a downpour.
Video Clip: https://vimeo.com/67739606
Turning to Jesus’ own words we read His promise that one day He will return in victory over His enemies. He will end the spiritual and moral drought when He comes to reign and rule this world in righteousness, justice, peace, and love. We read the apostle John’s eyewitness account of that historical moment described in Revelation 19 when the sky unfolds, and Jesus returns followed by the armies of heaven. We read that the armies of the world that gather in the Jezreel Valley go to make war against the Lamb, but are overcome by the Sword of His mouth—His Word. Disciples are confident that God keeps His Word, and therefore we live in hope for the future.
CAESAREA BY THE SEA: THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
II Timothy 4 and John 21:18-22
With the spectacular backdrop of crashing surf, the Roman hippodrome, Herod’s spectacular palace and deep water port, I pointed out to our Tour the base of a small structure that jutted out into the Mediterranean Sea. It was the remnant of the prison where the apostle Paul was in all probability kept for two years as he awaited his journey to Rome and his audience with Caesar in order to appeal his sentence.
Using Paul’s last written words in 2 Timothy 4, I reminded all of us that there is a price to pay for being a disciple. Jesus calls us to follow Him, and when we do, He will lead us to a cross, a place where we die to our own will, desires, ambitions, goals, plans, and dreams, as we yield ourselves totally to Him. Yet we are never to forget that after the cross comes the resurrection, the glory and the crown!
I described Paul paying the ultimate price within the year of writing that passage when he was dragged outside of Rome and beheaded. To underscore the seriousness of our commitment, David and Leah Ortiz stepped up to share their testimony.
Anne with David & Leah Ortiz:
David and Leah lead a congregation of Messianic Jews on the West Bank, and have experienced extreme persecution. But like the apostle Paul before them, their persecution has led to the furtherance of the Gospel in remarkable ways. You can read some of their story, and that of their son, Ami, at: http://amiortiz.com/home.cfm
They are a beautiful couple who are wholeheartedly abandoned to God’s will for their lives. To me, they are so authentic in their discipleship; it’s as though they have stepped right out of the book of Acts. How humbled we were as we prayed for their personal lives, their family, and their ministry. Please continue to pray for God’s power, presence, peace and protection to saturate them and all that they do for His Kingdom.
That afternoon, we drove up to the city that God loves—Jerusalem! There is no way to describe the thrill of seeing it for the first time. I don’t think there was a dry eye on either of our two buses.
THE SOUTHERN STEPS: DISCIPLES ARE TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
John 16:5-16, Acts 2:1-4
One of the highlights for all of us was our time on the Southern Steps, the original stones that led up onto the Temple Mount in Jesus day. It was on these steps that rabbis would teach their disciples. It was on these steps that Jesus would sit, debating the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees that gathered on the perimeter of His audience, trying to trick Him into saying something for which He could be arrested. It was on these steps, very probably, that Pentecost took place, and certainly the place where Peter preached his first sermon and 3000 were baptized in one day. The steps were carved out and placed at random widths and heights so no one could enter the Temple area quickly or casually. They forced people to walk slowly, with a measured, reverent, intentional gait.
And on these very same steps, it was my privilege to remind our Tour group of the person, the power, the presence, the purity, the precepts, the prayers, and the priority of the Holy Spirit. Other tourists gathered on the outskirts of our group to hear God’s Word as I spoke, unconsciously reenacting a scene that had happened many times throughout Jesus’ ministry. Even as I shared the truth, I prayed that what I said would be a demonstration of the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Because He is as alive and active in our day as He was in the first century. And disciples that are used as powerfully today as they were in Jesus’ day are those who are filled with the Holy Spirit because they yield their lives moment by moment to His moment by moment control.
The Southern Steps
We left the Southern steps, walked across the Kidron Valley, and entered a garden near Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations for a time of private prayer.
That evening, we once again gathered together at the hotel, this time, for a panel discussion with my dear friends Tom Doyle and Ray Bentley, who left their own tour in Tel Aviv to join us for a few hours. Tom, who authored the recently released book, Dreams and Visions, told us stories of how Jesus is “showing up” in the Muslim world so that many are placing their faith in Him. Tom’s wife, JoAnn described her recent meetings within the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan—meetings where burka-clad women heard the Gospel for the first time and many gave their hearts to Christ. And Ray, the pastor of Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, gave us prophetic insight into the strategic times in which we are living. We were challenged, inspired, encouraged, and thrilled by what they had to say.
Ray Bentley Tom Doyle and Anne Panel discussion
The next day we traveled down through the Judean wilderness to the Jordan River.
THE JORDAN RIVER: DISCIPLES BEAR WITNESS TO WHO JESUS IS
John 1:1-9, 15-18 and Matthew 3:13-17
The Jordan River itself is the border between the nation of Israel and that of Jordan. Because tension has eased between the two nations, it was possible for our Tour to go to the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism. Many of us were surprised to find the same river that had rolled back so the Israelites could cross under Joshua’s leadership, the same river that the Syrian general Naaman had dipped in seven times to be cured of his leprosy, the same river that Elijah had crossed right before being taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, the same river in which John had baptized Jesus, was such a small, insignificant looking flow of water. It was more like a big stream. On the other side we could easily see the faces of the Jordanian military guarding their side of the border. Which meant, of course, that they could see and hear us.
So I opened my Bible to John 1 and described who Jesus is. As a dove fluttered up over my head, I described the Eternity of Jesus…in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God; the Deity of Jesus…the Word was God; the Activity of Jesus …Through Him all things were made; and the Humanity of Jesus…the Word became flesh.
Now this was John’s testimony… And his witness was confirmed by God Himself who leaned out of Heaven and declared …This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. We were challenged to follow John’s example, because disciples bear clear witness of who Jesus is. Not just from a pulpit or a platform, but in everyday life.
Video Clip: Jordan https://vimeo.com/67580791
THE JERICHO ROAD: DISCIPLES LIVE OUT WHAT THEY PROFESS TO BELIEVE
Ezekiel 3:1-4 and Luke 10:25-37
Our next teaching time took place the following day at an Inn which is located on the spot where for centuries there has been a stopping off place for travelers going from Jerusalem to Jericho, or vice versa. Under a pavilion that protects some beautiful excavated mosaic flooring as well as provides seating, we read the parable Jesus told of The Good Samaritan. His meaning was obvious. Disciples are not to be self-centered or self-focused or self-promoting or self-righteous. Instead, we are to put the needs of others before our own, even if it requires sacrifice. I read the first few verses of Ezekiel 3, where the Angel of the Lord instructed Ezekiel to not only eat the scroll—the Word of God—but to swallow it. The Pharisee and the Levite in Jesus’ story had eaten the Word—they had head knowledge of what God says but they had not swallowed and allowed it to permeate every part of their thinking, doing, feeling, going, hearing, seeing, caring, etc. Unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, disciples are to eat the Word by reading and studying it for ourselves, then we are to apply, obey, and live it out.
Video Clip: Good Samaritan Inn https://vimeo.com/67665882
JERICHO: JESUS HEARS OUR CRIES
One of the supreme blessings for me personally was to listen to my daughter, Rachel-Ruth, share two devotionals, one of which was in Jericho. Standing under a sycamore tree, with the traffic of the town swirling around us and vendors hawking their dates and bananas, Rachel-Ruth retold the story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus who had heard Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. When he cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, Jesus heard, stopped, and healed him.
When Rachel-Ruth said that Jesus hears our cries, stops everything He is doing, and comes to our aid, one of the local Palestinian men began crying out for help. While he did not pray to receive Jesus as His Savior, he has heard the truth and perhaps one day he will.
Video Clip: https://vimeo.com/67665881
MOUNT OF OLIVES: DISCIPLES LIVE IN LIGHT OF HIS RETURN
The next morning, with the Old City as a dramatic backdrop, and from the same general location where Jesus sat down and taught His disciples how to tell what time they were living in human history, I shared my deep conviction that we are living at the very end of the world. Based on what Jesus said, I reiterated how we, too, can tell time. One of the most remarkable positive signs Jesus gave was very obvious to all of us…after being wiped out by the Romans in 70 A.D., Israel was reestablished as a nation. After almost 2000 years of non-existence, she was reborn in May, 1948, and today is a bustling, thriving, prosperous nation located on her ancient homeland, speaking her ancient language, and populated by her ancient people. That’s amazing! It has been a fulfillment of prophecy that has taken place in my lifetime.
The other positive sign is just as dramatic. Jesus said the Gospel would be preached in the whole world, and then the end would come. Today, the Gospel is being preached in the whole world—through printed materials, TV, the internet, the radio, or live presentations, the Gospel is now blanketing the globe. Which begs the question, Are we living in “then?” I reminded the Tour that regardless of their view, their own personal world will end at their death. Five minutes before you and I see Jesus, what will we wish we had done differently? There’s still time to make changes, since He has not come yet. Disciples live in the light of His imminent return.
Zondervan Video: https://vimeo.com/67740632
BETHLEHEM: THE GOOD NEWS IS FOR ALL
The evidence of the power of the Gospel during our women’s meeting was the perfect “set-up” for the next day when we drove to Bethlehem. We stood in a field where we could see the “little town of Bethlehem” on a hill in the distance. With the wall that separates the Palestinians from the Jews snaking through the countryside, and with olive trees dotting the landscape, we still had no trouble visualizing a starry night 2000 years ago when the angels appeared to the shepherds…perhaps in that very same field.
Once again, I was blessed beyond words as Rachel-Ruth shared from the very familiar Christmas story that has been used to announce the Good News throughout the centuries. She described the shepherds as being dirty on the inside, since they could not go to the temple and participate in the sacrificial, ceremonial system. And they were dirty on the outside since they lived 24/7 with sheep. Yet they were the very ones God chose to come to first with the glorious news that Christ…the Messiah…had been born. We could almost see the sky lighting up with hundreds if not thousands of angels saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…! In our hearts 2000 years later, we joined them. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, knowing that when we do, we are praying for the return of Jesus Christ…Jesus the Messiah…the only One who can truly bring peace on earth to Jerusalem and His land.
Video Clip: https://vimeo.com/67668241
The climax of our time together was a few hours spent at a site many Christians believe is the place of the Cross and the Garden Tomb.
THE GARDEN TOMB: DISCIPLES GO AND TELL OTHERS JESUS DIED, THAT HE IS ALIVE, AND THAT HE IS COMING AGAIN!
John 19:17-30, 20:1-18
A hush fell over us as we walked through the manicured gardens to view the place of the skull which is now located at the back of a Palestinian bus station. It is the place where historically executions were carried out, so is very probably also the place where Stephen was stoned to death while the young Pharisee, Saul, held the garments of his executioners. What struck us is that it is not on a hill far away, but it is a site located beside what had been the main road going into the city. If Jesus was crucified there, His agony was surely increased by His public humiliation.
From viewing the stark, stony face of the execution site, we walked back through the gardens. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.…and Jesus was laid there. Praise God! The tomb is still empty because He has risen from the dead!
Video Clip: Garden Tomb https://vimeo.com/67668242
Because we wanted to remember His death and resurrection in a significant way, we took communion together. Only God knows the thoughts and decisions that were made by each one, but there were many who whispered in my ear, “Anne, I will never be the same.” “Anne, my life has been changed.” And so I am praising God for the great things He has done, and the great things He has taught us, and the great rejoicing that continues to flood my heart! I believe that many, if not all of those who began the tour as tourists, went home as disciples! To God be the glory!
With appreciation to Tish Turner for her iPad video vignettes and photos, and to Kim Salsbery for photos.