“City of God”
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. In the city of our God, in the holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King. God, in her palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold.” (Ps. 48:1ff)
A few minutes before my alarm clock went off, I was awakened by the sound of a rooster crowing outside my window. Jesus’ words echoed hauntingly in my head, “Before the rooster crows you will have betrayed Me three times…” It was my first morning waking up in Israel. I was staying in Jerusalem. And the sound of a rooster crowing brought a scripture story alive to me.
That was my experience throughout my entire time in Israel. I had the good fortune of visiting Israel in 1994. I was there for 8 days. In Bethlehem I realized it was a relatively small village and in a remote area. In Nazareth I saw the trickle of water from a natural spring that has supplied water to that village since the time of Joseph and Mary. In Judea I saw rough terrain that would inspire a shepherd boy to write psalms about dangerous valleys and a wilderness that would test a young messiah. In Galilee I rode a boat onto the very sea where Peter, James and John fished, and where Jesus walked on the water. In the surrounding area I heard messages from pastors on the very hills where Jesus might have fed the 5,000 and preached about the kingdom of God.
On the Mount of Olives I prayed in the garden where our Lord prayed; I saw how close the temple would have been to the garden. In Jerusalem I stood in the castle of Herod, and looked in the torture chamber in the dungeon; I felt chills running down my back as I thought about Jesus being beaten. In the city I walked the roads where Jesus walked, where He healed the sick, where He confronted the hypocrites, and where He bore the cross: the Via Dolorosa.
Reading scripture since my trip to Israel has never been the same. Now when I read the Bible, I have a clear understanding of the terrain. I know the distances from one place to another. I can smell the countryside, I can feel the wind, I can hear the ground beneath my feet.
Beyond the Biblical value, the country holds many other treasures. Although I have visited concentration camps in Germany, and have toured the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, the Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center) affected me like no other. Climbing the road to Masada was invigorating. Swimming in the Dead Sea was awesome. And going down to Ben Yehuda Street at the end of the day and grabbing a cold drink with locals was a cultural experience unto itself.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Last year Pastor Johnson Kinyua, from our Kenyan congregation, spoke with me about doing a tour to Israel. He mentioned several of his members were interested in doing something. I said we could probably get better deals if we did something together. Plus the idea of doing a tour of Israel with sisters and brothers from Africa will only expand our experience. So Pastor Johnson and I started talking.
I contacted the tour company that I went with back in 1994. They are a first class operation with decades of experience and connections. I was introduced to Noseworthy Travel by Pastor Bill “Flan” Flanagan, a colleague of mine at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, known to many of you because of his great love for mission throughout the world. After speaking with the new CEO of Noseworthy, I’m excited to return to Israel. You can check their website at: www.noseworthytravel.com
We’re looking at an eight-day trip in late April/early May next year. I’m not sure of the cost yet, but the cost will cover all flights, lodging in top-notch hotels (5 nights in Jerusalem and 2 nights in Galilee), highly educated tour guides, and 3 excellent meals a day. Pastor Johnson and I will co-lead the tours with the Israeli tour guides, giving Biblical perspectives and spiritual encouragement. You will not need to spend a dime more, except for souvenirs, snacks and other refreshments.
If you are even remotely interested, please talk to me. It was a life-changing trip for me. And I can’t encourage others enough to go.
In Christ’s Love & Service,