The Upper Room

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL, SEPTEMBER 7, 2018: Room of the last supper in Jerusalem, Israel, ©dudlajzov/123RF.COM

“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'”

Then He said, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there” (Luke 22:7-12).

This beautiful building was built over the original Upper Room where Jesus enjoyed His last meal with His friends, where He washed their feet and prophesied about who would betray Him and who would deny Him. It was built hundreds of years after Jesus during the time of the Crusaders. It’s hard to imagine the original guest room where Jesus lounged at a low table with the disciples, but that room is actually several layers of earth below this room.

Sometimes when I read this story in the Bible my eyes quickly go over the familiar words, but today I wonder why a man was carrying a water jar. That was women’s work. Was the man’s wife ill? For sure, the man was easily identified, maybe for such a time as Jesus needed His friends to prepare a place for the Passover meal.

Here in this place, however many layers of earth below, Jesus initiated Holy Communion–His body broken for them and His blood shed for them–elements of the New Covenant Jesus had with His followers, even us. As we participate in this meal in our churches, we self-examine ourselves, ask God for forgiveness and commit to living in light of our salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross and our eternal life through His resurrection.

Prayer: Thank you, Holy Lord, for sacred places that remind us of events you instituted for remembering and reflecting the reality of our salvation. Thank you for the hope of an eternal life spent with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Victory Over Temptation

Pinnacle of the Temple

Our temptations are common to man, but Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but He did not sin. It happened after His baptism. He went into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days. The devil came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'” Then the devil took Jesus into Jerusalem and to the pinnacle of the temple. He said, “If you are the Son of God, jump down, because it is written in the Scriptures: ‘He has put his angles in charge of you. They will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.'” Jesus responded by saying, “The Scripures also say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.'” Not satisfied, the devil took Jesus up on a high mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world. He said, “If you will bow down and worship me, I will give you all these things,” Jesus told the devil to go away and said, “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” The devil left Jesus, and the angels came and took care of Him (Matthew 4:1-11).

In each temptation, Jesus used God’s word as His defense. We can do the same. But what if you don’t know the word? Beloved, let God’s word be written on your heart. Read it, study it, know it, let God speak to you through it. It is God’s way of communicating with you, loving you. Let God love you, my friend. We all need the Scriptures working in our lives because these are tough times. God’s word is not just for our defense, but for our testimony. What would you do if a friend asked you about God? How did you come to know Him? What difference has He made in your life? Be ready to tell him/her. Everyone needs Jesus today.

These three temptations were not the only times Jesus was tempted. He was tempted as we are but did not sin. One hard time was at the end of His ministry when He was aware of His coming suffering and death on the cross. To the east of Jerusalem in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for another way. He found His friends sleeping. How easy it might have been to just say to the Father, “This is not for me. I don’t know why you thought I was strong enough to have my friends abandon me at such a hard time and then to hang between Heaven and Hell!” But Jesus went back two more times to asked the Father for another way, but He said, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Even in that horrible moment, Jesus hung on to the love of the Father. We can too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for His example to be victorious over temptation. Thank you for your word. Write it on our hearts, Lord. Help us to know your amazing love every day and to know your presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Visitation

The Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem village in Jerusalem Israel.

When I was in Israel, I learned, “Once a holy place, always a holy place.” The Church of the Visitation is one of those places and is found in the village of Ein Karem, a little southwest of Jerusalem. This is the place where Mary visited Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel told Marry she would give birth to the Son of God. At the sound of Mary’s voice, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumped, an early recognition of Jesus by the baby John the Baptist. The Magnificat, Mary’s Song, is written in many languages and displayed on the walls of the church. The story is recorded in Luke 1:26-27, 39-56.

Another church marks the place where John the Baptist grew up. A stone marks his hiding place when Herod ordered the death of baby boys under the age of two years old.

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God'” (Isaiah 40:3) is the purpose of John the Baptist, written seven hundred years before he was born. Our purpose is the same–to know God and make Him known. We may not wear camel hair and a leather belt, but we can speak the truth so others will come to know our Lord and Savior, His amazing love and grace.

Following is short video of Ein Karem. Please sit back and enjoy a brief tour of this little village and the Church of the Visitation.

Prayer: Thank you, Holy Lord, for John the Baptist and his example of teaching the truth. Empower us to reach out to those you give us so they will come to know you in a personal way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Caesarea, the Home of the First Non-Jew Christian

Ruins of the ancient city and port of Caesarea. Israel. Sunny spring day. The preserved and restored minaret of the times of the Arab invasion. Concept of archeological and historical tourism

Cornelius, a centurion who lived in Caesarea, Israel, had a vision of an angel that said to him, “Cornelius! Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea” (Acts 10:4-6). Cornelius sent for two devout soldiers and told them everything the angel said to him and sent them to Joppa.

The next day Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat. He fell into a trance and saw Heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. A voice said, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter said, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice answered, ” Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:9-15). This happened three times. Then the sheet was taken back to Heaven.

While Peter pondered the meaning of the vision he heard men downstairs asking for him and he went to see them. They said they came from Cornelius the centurion, who is a righteous and God-fearing man in Caesarea, respected by the Jewish people. An angel told him to have you come to his house so he could hear what you have to say.

The next day Peter went with the soldiers back to Caesarea where Cornelius and his relatives and friends waited to see him. Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, . . .” (Acts 10:24-36) and he explained the gospel to them. The Holy Spirit came on all who heard Peter’s message, and he baptized them.

Our purpose is no different than Peter’s – to bear testimony of God’s love, forgiveness and eternal life. We each have different gifts, talents, abilities and experiences, but our message is the same. Don’t worry about what you will say. Pray for the opportunities and God will provide the words.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for this story of Peter’s courage and for the wonderful results of salvation among non-Jewish people. Help us to follow in Peter’s steps and do our part to further your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Unstoppable Message

The port of King Herod in ancient Caesarea and the restored embankment. Excursion to the Archaeological Park of the Roman Empire. Израиль. Concept of ecological and historical tourism

Paul preached in Jerusalem, but the Jews did not receive his message. Instead they persecuted him. As they prepared to flog him, he asked the centurion, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” (Acts 22:25) This caused chaos in the city, and Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin where he testified that he was on trial because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:60). The Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11).

Paul was taken at night to the port of Caesarea on the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea for a departure to Rome. Yet he didn’t go to Rome until two years later. He was imprisoned at Caesarea. Although Paul was in the center of God’s will, he was held in prison. It would have been easy for him to give up, but it is believed that Paul wrote letters to the churches from his prison cell. Because he was faithful, you and I are strengthened by the same words Paul used to encourage the new Christians. God’s word spread throughout the world, even though the Jewish leaders made every effort, including plots to kill Paul before he was taken to Caesarea.

Caesarea was built by Herod the Great to honor Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor at that time in history. Enjoy learning more about this fascinating place in this video.

Prayer: Thank you Lord God, for your word. Thank you that it has unstoppable power to go to the ends of the world. Help us to be like Paul, courageous and bold to testify about your love and mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I am the Resurrection and the Life

Bethany Church in commemorating the home of Mari, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus’ friends as well as the tomb of Lazarus. Israel

This church is in Bethany and stands over the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus spent time here with them, and you might remember the story of Martha coming to Jesus all stressed because of preparations she was making to feed the people in her house while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to every word He said.

I want to tell you another fascinating story. It happened after Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, died. Jesus came after Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Martha met Jesus as He entered Bethany. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:21-23). Martha said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Martha was the first person Jesus said these words to. Martha, the stressed out servant. It’s a beautiful story of how Jesus meets each of us at our point of need.

Martha went back to her house and called Mary. “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” Mary quickly got up and those in the house followed her. They went to Lazarus’ tomb where Jesus wept (John 11:35). Then He called, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, still wrapped in his grave clothes. Jesus said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44).

If you have ever felt insignificant, I hope this story reaches the depths of your soul. Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. He meets each of us at our greatest point of need–the need to know Him.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for this reminder that no one is insignificant to you. You created us for your pleasure. O Lord, help us to live according to your plan for our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Haifa – Land of Choices

View from Mount Carmel to port and Haifa in Israel Sunny Mediterranean landscape

Have you ever felt alone in your faith journey, like no one in your family or among your friends understand your ministry. Don’t feel alone. Jesus’ own family ridiculed Him for His lack of a desire to go public with His miracles. Elijah thought he was the only prophet left to preach about the God of the universe. The Israelites resorted to praying to Baal, the god of rain and storm, during a drought in Israel. They also worshiped Asherah, the fertility goddess.

I asked myself, as did Elijah, how could God’s people be so deceived? The greatest showdown in the Bible happened on Mount Carmel when Elijah defeated 450 prophets of Baal. They put their sacrifice on their altar and prayed to Baal to light the fire. They prayed and danced and cut themselves all day and nothing happened. Then Elijah stepped forward and placed his sacrifice on the altar he built. He dug a trench around it. Then he poured water over the sacrifice and filled the trench. He prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36). The fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil. It licked up the water in the trench. The people fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord–He is God! The Lord–He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39)

This showdown happened on Mount Carmel. Today, at the base of Mount Carmel and on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea is the city of Haifa. I have only viewed Haifa from videos and I picked this one for you to see. It is a breathtakingly beautiful place, and it is still a melting pot of culture and religion. Take a few minutes and enjoy learning seven things about Haifa.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the beauty of the earth and the sea, places like Mount Carmel and Haifa. Teach us by your word to know the truth and to follow you, only you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Legend of Job’s Spring

Ein Ayub, Job’s Spring

“In the land of Uz (a land to the east of the Red Sea), there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:1-3).

In one day Job was robbed of his children, his health and wealth. His leprosy was so severe that he scraped his skin with shards of pottery. Through all his suffering he remained faithful to God even after his wife told him to curse God and die. Legend says that Job’s leprosy invaded his tongue and he cried out to God, “If my tongue dies, how can I praise you?” Then God showed Job the spring known as Ein Ayub (Job’s Spring), located on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. Two doves splashed in the water and when the water touched Job, he was healed. The disasters that came on Job and his wife left them without food, so his wife sold her hair to buy food. She looked for Job to give him food and found him at the spring. She hardly recognized him because he was healthy. To erase any doubt, Job showed his wife a birthmark on his shoulder. “Where is your hair?” Job asked her. She said she sold it to buy food. This made Job so angry he vowed to beat his wife a hundred times. God said to Job, “You should not strike your wife. But since you took an oath, you should take one hundred soft sheaves of wheat and tap her once, and you will have fulfilled your oath.” [from Reflections of God’s Holy Land by Eva Marie Everson and Mirian Feinberg Vamosh].

The Bible says Job’s family and wealth were restored. He was healthy again and lived 140 more years.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for Job’s example of faith. Empower us with faith as we walk more and more with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do You Love Me?

TABGHA, ISRAEL, SEPTEMBER 15, 2018: Church of the primacy of saint peter in Tabgha, Israel

After Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection, the disciples were confused. They didn’t really know what to do next, so they went fishing. As seasoned fishermen, they thought they would return to something they knew, but they fished all night without catching one fish.

A man stood on the shore and said, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” The disciples said, “No.”

The man on shore said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

That’s what they did and they caught so many fish they dragged the net with the boat to the beach. The story is from John 21, and the man on the shore is Jesus, who prepared breakfast for the tired fishermen. After they ate, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked Peter two more times, “Do you love me?”

If I was Peter, my heart would break. Doesn’t He know I love Him. Is He testing me because I denied knowing Him in the heat of a moment? What does He mean, “Do I love Him more than these?” Could Jesus have meant, Do you love me more than your friends, more than fishing? I have had to ask myself that question too. Do I love Jesus more than my family and friends? Do I love Him more than what I do for Him or others? I began to put other things in the place of “these.”

The number of fish the disciples caught that day was 153–the same number of nations in the world at the time. Jesus’ last will and testament is, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:118-20).

After Jesus said, “Do you love me?” He said, “Feed my lambs.” I think Jesus was preparing Peter, as He prepares us for ministry–to turn loose of everything that hinders our carrying God’s message of love, mercy and eternal life to the ends of the earth.

A sign on the steps going up from the shore where Jesus made breakfast says, “This is Holy Ground.” Up from there is a chapel, pictured above, known as Peter’s Primacy. Let it remind each of us of the urgency of Jesus’ question, “do you love me more than these?” and the message He wants us to take to the ends of the earth.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your word. Thank you for places that mark where you walked and make your word come alive in our hearts. Empower us to do your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

They Took Offense at Him

Nazareth, Israel

Jesus healed a centurion’s servant, a woman with an issue of bleeding and gave the life of a daughter back to the synagogue leader and his wife in Capernaum. He left there to go to Nazareth, and on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard Him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s the wisdom that has been given him, that He even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him (Mark 6:2-3).

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor” (Mark 6:4-6). Has this happened to you in your ministry? If so, be encouraged. God knows and He is with you even when your family doesn’t understand your passion or the things you do.

Isn’t the cry of every Christian’s heart to speak the truth to our families? Why are they so offended? I wish I had the answer. The situation leads me to pray for my family and for connections. God is faithful to answer my prayers. He gives me glimpses into the work He is doing in my family.

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your word, your presence, your love and care for us. Thank you for encouragement and inspiration. We pray that you continue to pursue, protect and provide for our loved ones. As you didn’t give up on us, we know you won’t give up on them. Thank you for your faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.