Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter Nineteen

Chapter 19 - Thursday continued

            Once again I was at the Garden Tomb.  I entered the empty tomb once again to see the place where Jesus had laid.  This was our final visit, our final site on the tour---the empty grave.  What a place to end, for it was only the beginning!  Jesus raising from the dead was the beginning of eternal life.  Best of all, that eternal life is available to all who receive Him.  I cannot understand how anyone can reject His love when they truly understand He would have come to this earth and gone through all of His agony just for him or her.  How wonderful, though, that He made the sacrifice once for all.  Anyone can take freely of the gift of eternal life.  “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”  (John 1:12)

            New foundations have been laid down in my life because of my trip to Israel.  The first foundation is my desire to start reading through the Bible again, this time with maps and study guides and really begin to “search the scriptures”.  It will now be much more alive to me since I have walked the land. 

            The second foundation is the 29 new friendships I have to build on.  Who knows how our paths will weave in and out through this life, and then we have all eternity to spend together.  How nice to have an initial acquaintance in this life.

            The third foundation is understanding the purpose of the shoreline in my life---to know God does draw me into His presence to bestow peace, joy, and love upon me, and to strengthen and encourage me.  And I know that my final crossing from the shore to the other side is completely in His hands.  I do not have to worry about it.

            Thank you, Jesus.  I love you.

            And, my dear friend, I love you too.  Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you.  Jesus has a journey for you too.  Be open to it and believe.  Reach out, take His hand, and let Him be your daily Guide.  Feel His presence as you journey into everlasting joy with Jesus.

Carol Casarez

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter Eighteen

Chapter 18 - Thursday 3/30/89

            Our final day in Israel.  We had come back to Jerusalem on Wednesday night, and after our evening meal we had a vespers service, a time of sharing what this trip had meant to us.  It was a very heart-sharing, heart-warming, heart-touching time.  I had asked for one friend to go on this trip with me.  God gave me 29 friends...24 from Lee College and five temporary residents in Israel.  I love how God multiplies everything He touches.

            This day was Land Day, a day commemorating when the Jews took the land from the Arabs.  There was a strike on, and most of the shops were closed.  Tension was extremely high, and this was the first day I felt any fear.  God was with us, though, and protected us through the day.  We went to the Temple Mount and sat on the steps such as  Jesus had taught on. (1999 note:  We found out later that someone was shot on those steps about an hour after we were there.)  We visited the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall).  I saw how slips of paper with prayers on them were stuck in every crack and crevice, like gum is stuck all over the bottom of a table.  Inside the Temple Mount we saw the Dome of the Rock, the Moslem shrine to Mohammed.  We also went to the Upper Room, the place of the Last Super and Pentecost.

            After lunch we went through the Old City, walking the road Jesus walked as He carried His cross (“down the Via Dolorosa”).  When we got to Golgotha, I thought about His blood saturating throughout all the land and down through the centuries to reach even me.  My heart is broken when I think of all that He suffered in His crucifixion.  I almost could not bear to listen to the details, it was so gruesome, so humiliating.  Sometimes I get caught up in the joy of the love of Jesus, and I forget all the pain and agony and suffering He went through.  He truly suffered far more than any other human being has ever suffered.  I thought of how people from all over the world come here to see the sights and view the history of this one Person, but do not really care about HIM.  This must make Jesus so sad.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter 17

Chapter 17 - Wednesday continued

            By the time I left the Sea of Galilee I understood what the shore in  my mind meant.  I first stood on the shore in 1977.  In a dream I looked out across the expanse of water and sky, and it seemed God was reaching out for me.  I turned and looked for Paul, and in so doing, God vanished.  Was I placing Paul before God?  Were my priorities in the right order?  In 1980 I knelt at an altar in complete surrender to God.  As His Holy Spirit filled me, I sensed I was on a shore and the waves were washing over me, cleansing me, filling me with joy and ecstasy like I had never know before.  Love flooded my heart in a new measure...I loved everything and everybody.  I felt so pure and squeaky clean, and I felt as though I could see more clearly...everything seemed brighter to me.  Since that night I have stood on the shore many times and been alone in the presence of Jesus.  I have heard the trumpet playing out across the waters:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul!”

            God beckons me to this shore in my mind as a way of drawing me aside to be alone with Him.  During these times He reassures me of His love for me, and He builds my faith and dependence upon Him.  I know I would never want to face life without Him in control, without knowing I was safely in His care.  Someday I will stand on that shore again, and Jesus will come and take my hand.  Together we will cross that expanse and I will be with Him, forever in His presence.  My deepest desire is for that day to come soon.  My heart longs to be with the Lover of my soul.

Friday, January 26, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter Sixteen

Chapter 16 - Wednesday, 3-29-89

            The morning started out with a boat ride, crossing the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum.  We stopped halfway across the lake to have a time of Bible reading and prayer.  Because everyone knew how “sacred” this place was to me, I was privileged to lead the group devotions that morning.  That was a very special treat to me. 

            We visited the Church of the Beatitudes, a place where Jesus taught the multitudes.  At the Church of the Heptagon, where Jesus took the fish and bread and feed the 5,000, we had more time to meditate.  I sat and gazed at the sea, very open to the message God had for me.  I read in my Bible in John 14 and 15 and let His words go straight to my heart, as though it was His personal message to me:

            “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am...
            You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it...
            If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you...
            He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him...
            But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you...
            Every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful...
            If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples...
            You did not choose me but I chose you to go and bear fruit---fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command:  love each other...

            I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter Fifteen

Chapter 15 - Tuesday, 3/28/99

            The Sea of Galilee is twelve miles long, seven miles wide, and lies 690 feet below sea level.  The Jordan River flows through the Sea of Galilee down through the Jordan valley into the Dead Sea.  Because the Sea of Galilee lies so low, where it is warmer, and there are high hills around it, where it is cooler, the air mixes and storms can rise up very quickly.  It is not unusual to have six foot high waves immediately, making it very dangerous to be on the sea.  It is understandable why the disciples were afraid in their boat out on the sea in the midst of a storm.

            This day we drove to the Syrian border, which is blocked off by rolled barbed wire and guarded by a UN guard.  This was the road to  Damascus that we could only look down, not travel on.  The snow-capped Mt. Hermon could be seen in the distance.  We viewed Caesarea-Phillippi ruins, and took a nature walk to a waterfall and to the ruins of Dan.  It was here that we saw an archgate dating to the time of Abraham, 1800 BC.  We were also in the Golan Heights area, an area of volcanoes.  After leaving there, we went to Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, located on the north end of the Sea of Galilee.  The day ended with a bonfire on the beach and singing of praise choruses.  By now we had all become best buddies with each other, almost like a family.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter Fourteen

Chapter 14 - Monday continued...

            We arrived at En Gev on the east side of the Sea of Galilee in the early evening.  Our accommodations for the next two nights were cottages right on the shore line of the lake.   Called “Kibbutz”, these cottages are actually run by a commune.  This group of people combine their skills and wealth and families and live together in an agricultural setting.  Even though we were separated in groups of 2-4 in the cottages, we all came together in the communal dining room to eat.  The whole setting was very clean and well organized.

            Staying on the shore of Galilee, I was next to heaven.  I had been waiting for this shore for a long time.  There was something here I needed to experience, to learn.  I wanted to better understand why God had brought me to the shore in my mind during times of deep meditation.  Having stood on this shore so many times mentally, to be on it physically was a very moving experience for me.  I was the last person to leave the beach and go in at night, and the first one out in the morning.  At 5:30 a.m. I would get up and be out by the water to watch the sun rise (what magnificent sun rises and sun sets they were!)  I wanted to capture every possible moment I could on this shore line.

            That first night, in the blackness of the night, I looked across the sea to the city of Tiberias on the hillside.  The lights of the city seemed at first like a million tiny flickering candles.  Then as I gazed at them, it seemed that they started sparkling like jewels.  The lay of the city on the hillside made it seem like the bottom of a staircase just beginning to ascend into heaven.  I thought, “If the entry is this awesome, this beautiful, what must heaven itself be like!  It must be far too brilliant for human eyes!”

            I saw a single light way down the shore on the other side of the lake, and I imagined Jesus down there frying fish over an open fire, just waiting for me to join Him.  As I looked out across the waters it seemed that I could see the flowing white robe of my Jesus walking on the water, as though His feet did not touch.  He was walking toward me.  I sensed His presence all around me. 

            As I watched the waves roll softly into the shore, I realized that everything I had gone through in my depression was worth this moment.  I cannot believe that I might have ended my life and never have had the opportunity to stand on the shore of Galilee in the presence of Jesus.  Somehow I felt that no matter what comes my way in the future, I know that with Jesus I can make it through.  He holds my hand and will never let me drown.  We will walk on top of the troubled waters together.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Journey to Israel - Chapter Thirteen

Chapter 13 - Monday, 3/27/89

            Today we loaded into the bus for a three day journey through the area of Galilee in the northern part of Israel.  We drove through Tel Aviv, which to the world is the capital of Israel.  The population there is 500,000.  To the Jews, Jerusalem (population 450,000) is the capital.

            From Tel Aviv we drove to Caesarea, a port Herod built on the Mediterranean Sea in honor of Caesar Augustus.  It was styled after the Greek city of Athens, only larger.  Herod did everything in a big way.  For those of us who like to golf, it is in the Harbour of Caesarea where the only golf course in Israel is located.  (how about a tee time, Lois?)  We had a picnic lunch on the white sandy beach of the Mediterranean.  It’s a beautiful blue-green sea.

            We stopped in Megiddo and viewed the lush Jezreel valley, so fertile and green and peaceful looking.  So many battles have been fought here, but there remains the big slaughterhouse of them all---the battle of Armageddon.  It’s very disturbing to think that the beautiful, serene valley will be war torn and bloodied.  However, we can rejoice because we know that our side wins!!  Jesus will be victorious and will set up His kingdom to reign forever!!

            “All hail King Jesus!  All hail Emmanuel!
            King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Bright Morning Star.
            And throughout eternity I’ll sing His praises,
            And I’ll reign with Him throughout eternity!”

            Nazareth, the place where Mary the mother of Jesus was from, is a city of 50,000 people today.  In the time of Mary it was a village the size of a football field with only about 200 people living there.  It was a nowhere, no place, little insignificant village.  It had the reputation of “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  But where does God go when He chooses to use someone or to reveal Himself?  Once again He chose the humble, the seemingly insignificant.  In Nazareth God found Mary, who lived in a cave-like house over which a church is now built to preserve her home, the Church of the Annunciation. 

            When I saw those monstrosities built over the places of significance in the life of Jesus, I couldn’t help but feel Jesus would have been much happier if men would just give Him their hearts instead of building monuments to Him.  The monuments will one day be destroyed, but the heart lives on forever.  Today He still desires our hearts.  It isn’t so much our action as it is our attitudes.  Are we humble, are we submissive, do we have a servant heart?  Can His love flow through us so that HE might be seen and not we ourselves?