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Israel 2014 IFL 079Weaving through the Golan Heights, modern reminders of the ravages of war were common along the side of the road.  Blown out buildings, wreckage of lost armored vehicles and warnings of live mine fields give a sobering reminder that people in this region are at odds with each other.  Cattle seem to oblivious to the barriers that divide fields filled with delicious grazing and others with explosives buried just below the surface of the ground.

Then, our bus catches up with several other modern comfort liners.  We wait our turn to enter into another important Biblical site.  The rain is coming stronger, the wind is blowing a bit stiffer and pilgrims never complain but cinch up their parkas and huddle out to the site right behind our tour guide.

Our Caramel Bus 11 group huddles off the beaten track in a designated seating area.  The head waters of the Jordan River bubble up from a spring and head south to feed into the Sea of Galilee.  Mt. Hermon looms behind us.

Israel 2014 IFL 082This is a sacred site for Christians.  Jesus was here in His day.  He gathered His disciples and asked them a telling question, “Who do people say that I am?”

His disciples give a cross section of popular opinion.  Some believe Jesus is a prophet.  Others think that He is John the Baptist.  Yet, others believe that He is Elijah.

Most important to Jesus is who His disciples believe that He is.  This is when Peter offers his own opinion.  Peter confesses that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus commends Peter, assuring him that His confession was a revelation to him from God the Father.  It was a truth that Peter believed.  This declaration shaped Peter’s life and the lives of believers who came after him.

Knowing that this watershed moment occurred in this place called Caesarea Philippi, gave us all pause.  It is right to wonder if we are living our lives of faith based on convictions of our beliefs.  Too often Christians misunderstand that it is more important to believe than it is to know.

A confession is about what we truly accept as truth.   We understand it and embrace it as conviction.  It shapes our values because it is what we believe.

What do you know about your faith?  Can you distinguish that from what you sincerely believe?  It is not about what you know but far more about what you believe.

photo credit: brucefong photography.

IMG_3445The modern Israeli freeway signs pointed to Caesarea Martima, a national park just north of Tel Aviv.  It was our destination on our tour of the Holy Land.  Geographically and historically, it was a good place to begin our exploration of the Land.

This city by the sea was built by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar Augustus.  The archaeologically rich site is the only place where Pontius Pilate is given a place in history outside of the Bible.  He is the one, as governor, sentenced Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion.  His name is written in stone as one of the governors of this amazing city.

Our intimate tour group of 800 strong, transported by 18 buses, piled into the ancient amphitheater.  We experienced our first of several phenomenal worship services.  Powerful songs knitted our hearts together.

Israel 2014 IFL 020A gifted thespian donned ancient garb and delivered a rendition from King Herod.  We reflected over the visits to this regal city by Peter and Paul during the church’s early beginnings and initial missionary journeys.

When the morning message started, so did the weather.  The wind kicked into high gear.  Umbrellas went up to shield us against the rain.

Israel 2014 IFL 028The swirling gusts upturned many umbrellas.  We huddled together and survived the distraction.  All of the lead worshipers were spared electrocution.

Then, we walked.  Our guides called their groups of 40.  Through the world of personal electronics and varying frequencies, we each tuned into our assigned guides and walked through the ruins of this ancient city.

Peter once was here.  Perhaps it was here that he baptized Cornelius.  Maybe here the Apostle Paul boarded a ship that launched the missionary journey that forever marked how Christianity was constantly broadcasting the good news of Jesus to the entire world.

Israel 2014 IFL 041Long ago thousands lived in luxury and were introduced to God’s plan to bring salvation and joy to a world that needed hope for the eternity that awaited each one once their days on earth were done.  Paul may have suffered the humiliation of imprisonment here.  A ship may have picked him up in this very port city and brought him to his final days in Rome.

While lives of the first church were once active here and her enemies may have tried to resist this new faith born out of the Resurrected Jesus, the Gospel began and would explode around the world at this very port.  This is very well where the church ignited a worldwide lifesaving movement.  It is still growing today.

photo credit: brucefong photography and cellphone photography