Highlights of the Holy Land

In May of this year, my husband and I had the privilege of traveling to Israel with a small group of friends from our church. Even though this was a bucket list trip for us, it developed into much more as the allure of the Holy Land captivated us.

Some of our highlights were:

  • Caesarea by the Sea: Situated on the stunning Mediterranean Sea, this is the ancient Roman-style city that Herod built complete with a man-made harbor and system of aqueducts. Viewing the sapphire blue sea, it’s easy to understand why he selected this spot. Even more enlightening is the realization that many New Testament heroes resided or spent time here, including Cornelius the Centurion and the Apostle Paul. As a side note, Herod was struck dead in the stadium here (Acts 12:19b-23).
  • Jezreel Valley: From Mount Carmel, we observed this immense flat valley and comprehended this is where Armageddon will take place. There is an Israeli Air Force Base located there and we heard multiple planes taking off.
  • Mount of Beatitudes: Located next to the Sea of Galilee this hillside area is a natural theatre providing perfect amplification. As Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, everyone in the crowd, including the rear portion, would have been able to hear him.
  • Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee: It was a beautiful day for a boat ride, but we heard tales of how suddenly storms pop up over this body of water. While his disciples were in a boat, Jesus walked toward them during one of these storms and they almost didn’t recognize him. The question, “Do we miss Jesus in the storms of our own lives?” challenged each of us.
  • Baptism in the Jordan River at Kinneret: Despite being a commercialized site and the fact that I was baptized by immersion almost 40 years ago, this experience touched me deeply as I renewed my commitment to Jesus Christ. Fish even nibbled on my legs!
  • Masada: Expecting to see just an oversized “Alamo,” we were overwhelmed with the enormity of this fortress masterminded by Herod. The story of the 1000 Jewish men, women, and children who defended it from the Romans, eventually choosing mass suicide over enslavement, was awe-inspiring.
  • Camel Ride: Well, what can I say … something I always wanted to do, even if it was through a parking lot.
  • Wadi Qelt in the Judean Desert: Also known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Psalm 23) and where we saw the steep and tortuous path portrayed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. There is a monastery built into the cave-laden cliff, inhabited by Eastern Orthodox monks, with a history of offering hospitality to pilgrims.
  • Jerusalem: Despite the gold-hued Muslim Dome of the Rock being the most recognizable feature of the city, the panoramic view was breathtaking.
  • Mount of Olives: The sight of the holy cemetery and the immense number of tombs astonished us. The Jewish people believe that when their Messiah comes, the dead will rise and walk to the Temple Mount. They believe this close proximity will allow them to be first; but, not to be disrespectful, I chuckled when I thought of the scripture, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16, NIV).
  • House of Caiaphas (High Priest during Jesus’ ministry and trial): Built over the spot of what historians and archeologists believe to be Caiaphas’ home is the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. As you make your way down below it you will find yourself in a dungeon where they believe the soldiers contained Jesus in advance of his crucifixion. It was sobering viewing the grooves in the walls where guards would have secured our Savior’s arms.
  • Garden Tomb: Located just outside of the walls of the Old City next to a rocky hill resembling a human skull (Golgotha—where Jesus’ crucifixion occurred) is a tomb that may have been the location of where Jesus’ body was laid to rest preceding His resurrection. Although there are differences of opinion among scholars as to the actual site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, we experienced intense emotions when we entered the tomb.

These are just a dozen highlights from our trip, and yet there were so many other memorable spots. Venues such as Mount Carmel, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, the Golan Heights, Harod or Gideon Springs, the Dead Sea, the view of Mount Moriah, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Western or Wailing Wall, and the Via Dolorosa are among those places. Several people told us Scripture would transform from black and white into color after spending time in Israel. We agree that yes, the trip definitely added another dimension to our study of God’s Word. If you get the opportunity to visit Israel, the Holy Land, go!

And remember, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6, NIV).

© 2018 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

 

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Drop Dead Gorgeous

We’ve all done it. We’ve stretched the truth to appear more dramatic. We’ve fabricated a story to cover exactly what happened. We’ve told a white lie in order to not offend someone. But the Bible employs different words for those actions: deception, falsehood, unwholesome talk, and finally, lying lips.

Let’s move to a narrative in Scripture where our heroine possibly thinks,

It’s just a little lie, a little deception, and we’ll keep some of the money for ourselves.

Her name, Sapphira, means sapphire—a beautiful and precious gemstone—Sapir is the Hebrew word from which it originates. Perhaps her eyes were even a lustrous blue, but the jewel was flawed. God struck down Sapphira with a premature death, and we remember Sapphira for her sin rather than her beauty.

Acts chapter 5, verses 1-11 relays the story of Sapphira, along with her husband Ananias, and their deception in the early church of Jerusalem. Desiring the flattering praise of men, they conspired to sell some property, keep a portion of the money for themselves, yet present before the church the lower sum of money pretending it was the complete amount they received from the sale and not just a portion. When confronted with their deception, the Lord first put an end to Ananias’ life. Later, even after Peter the Apostle offered her an out, Sapphira chose to continue the lie. Then God struck her down.

Whoa! You are most likely thinking that’s a terrible and harsh reaction from God. Why would He kill them? They were certainly entitled to keep some of the money from the sale, but they fabricated a story saying what they “put at the apostles’ feet” was the complete, whole amount of money. The integrity of the early church was at stake and God was not going to tolerate lying. Just as lying has led to the downfall of many Christian leaders today, the early church had too much at stake for this type of sin to take root. It could have choked out the work God was going to do with and in the first believers adversely influencing the future of the church and the spread of Christianity.

What does this historical account mean for us today? You and I can ask ourselves these questions:

  • What am I holding back? Have I fully surrendered my heart?
  • Do I have a desire to be noticed? Am I seeking the applause of man rather than heaven?
  • Am I allowing social media to tempt me to flaunt my good deeds? Am I seeking to “one-up” everyone else?
  • Am I stretching the truth? Am I even telling downright lies?
  • And finally, are these actions blocking or even stopping the work God wants to do in and through me? What effect does this have on His church?

Father God, Please forgive me of the sin of deception which has crept into my life. Please cleanse my heart of this evil and create a new heart. Please restore me to a life of integrity so your will and purposes can be accomplished in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 11:3 (NIV): “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Proverbs 12:22 (NIV): “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”

John 8:44 (NIV): “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

© 2018 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

 

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Attitude Adjustment

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV).

Jesus’ words jump off the page as they diverge from what we routinely witness in today’s culture. We see that Jesus had God’s agenda in mind. He knew he would face death on the cross—the ultimate act of service for us. In contrast, I’m observing and reading a lot about entitlement these days. We’re seeing a coddled generation, but how many of us who are older have adapted this same behavior? Are we expecting others to serve us, meeting our perceived needs and demands? Continue reading “Attitude Adjustment”

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A Letter to My Grandchildren

 

Dear Ones,

I had the privilege to hold each of you within those first tender days you were born. My love runs deep and even though there are five of you, I’m amazed at how much love I have to spread around to each one of you. Now you are all in elementary school and I marvel at how quickly you are growing up.

I pray for you—prayers certainly for your safety and protection, but oh, my prayers are much more. I pray specifically that you will come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of your life. That you will be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you will desire a deep intimacy with him.

The world doesn’t always like to use the word sin, but it’s something you need to confront and deal with in your life. Because no matter how good you are most of the time (or bad on some days), we all do wrong things, think bad thoughts, and say unkind or untruthful words. That’s what sin is. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). If we skip a few chapters over in Romans you will see that God understands that and has a plan for us: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). You may be wondering what that means. Well, God is holy and because we (all boys and girls, men and women) are sinful, we cannot stand in his presence and have a relationship with him. So, God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to live on our earth as a man and die a painful death on a cross to bridge this gap with God. Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We will someday die and if we die without accepting Jesus Christ as Lord we will not be with God in heaven. However, you can have eternal life in heaven with God the Father if you, “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

It may sound like a lot, but it’s very simple. There’s nothing you can do to earn or buy salvation. It’s a free gift from God because he loves you so very much. Even more than I love you. That’s what God’s grace is. Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Many times you will hear that there is more than one way to know God. But that simply isn’t true, as Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Remember the Bible is truth and all truth is from God. 2 Timothy 3:16 declares, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

While I desire to see bright and successful futures for you, I know only God can provide you with the true desires of your heart. As you rely on his guidance and follow his ways, you will find doors opened that you never fathomed or imagined. Seek his wisdom and pray for discernment. I also pray for these two things every day for myself.

Granddaughters, I pray you will grow into strong women of faith. Strong enough to say no to temptation—boys who want to use you, alcohol and drugs, and unwholesome entertainment. God has so much more for you—a compelling femininity—which will take you far as wives and mothers if that’s in God’s plan for your life.

And grandson, there’s only one of you in this bevy of girls. I trust this will foster in you an added dimension of sensitivity enabling you to softly submit to Jesus and make him Lord of your life. At the same time, may you grow into a strong young man full of respect for women and may you deal honestly with all people. This integrity will prove to be a true indicator of your masculinity.

I will continue to pray for each of you because I love you.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

All My Love,

Gramma

© 2018 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

 

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Soil Conditioning

Gardening is one of my pleasures in life. This spring I’m busy transplanting rose bushes, adding hydrangeas, and calculating what herbs to grow this season. It’s my version of “crop rotation.” As we dig the holes for our shrubs I’ve learned the importance of digging a very large hole, and since we live at the coast, it’s important to amend our sandy soil with rich, fertile loam. If we don’t take that precaution our plants will never thrive. Continue reading “Soil Conditioning”

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