Four years ago today, I was on a life-changing journey through the Holy Lands.
Walking where Jesus walked and exploring historical archaelogical sites throughout Israel transformed my faith from mere head-knowledge to 3-D, concrete reality.
Before Israel my Scriptures were black-and-white words.
After Israel my Bible is a full spectrum of vivid colors and imagery.
Now when I read a Bible story, I can picture in my mind the geography, remember the smells, and feel a deeper connection to ancient history.
I’ve always meant to blog about my journey, but every time I’ve started to in the past, I’ve always gotten distracted (cursed ADHD!) and never finished.
Having just brought home our fifth and final child, I feel a strong responsibility to document my travels in the Holy Lands for my children. I want them to know that Jesus is God, the Bible is true, Hell is hot and Forever is a long time.
Discovering that Christianity is rooted in physically-verifiable science and archaeology was a game changer for me, and I hope these daily blog posts provide a springboard for their faith journies… and yours.
Joining me on my journey four years ago today were my best friends at the time, Luke and Dan:
Luke was one of the first people to get behind my dream of launching Life Church Michigan from scratch and his signature is one of three on our legal incorporation papers! Luke is a jokester who continues to be one of my buddies to this day.
Dan was my best friend. I discovered him in 2010 while hiring for an open worship position at my previous church and we quickly hit it off. In 2014, Dan uprooted his family to join our team again. We opened a church together in a former golf center, our families were close, and I provided the funding for Dan to produce his first radio single.
First stop in Israel were the ancient aqueducts built by King Herod.
Yes, THAT King Herod.
Still standing to this day, these aqueducts line the Mediterranean Sea and brought fresh water 13 miles (!) from Mount Carmel.
Next we traveled north to Caesarea Maritime, built by 8,000 people under the direction of King Herod. Over the centuries the site has been destroyed and rebuilt by Muslims and Crusaders.
The site is first mentioned in Acts chapter 10 and boasts the remains of one of Herod’s summer castles along the sea plus an ancient Olympic stadium. Gold medals used to be the only award at the Olympics; it was King Herod who first introduced the Silver and Bronze medals at Caesarea.
In Acts 12:19, Herod Jr. came to Caesarea where he was struck down by an angel and eaten by worms. If you ask me, that’s a pretty bad way to go.
RUN YOUR RACE
In Acts 25, the Apostle Paul is arrested and brought here.
Outside Paul’s prison cell was Herod’s Olympic track where he heard athletes practicing hard.
The inspiration for “races” in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-3, Philippians 3:13-14, and 2 Timothy 4:7 in Paul’s writings came from this jail cell (which I am standing above in this next photo).
In Acts 25-26, Paul is brought before the Roman audience to plead his case.
Dan and I stood in the exact spot where Paul did. Acts 26:1 finally made sense; Paul “motioned with his hand” to quiet the crowd because he was facing an audience in-the-round!
Two big ideas rang out to me standing where Paul stood in his chains:
Don’t define your leadership by what you see RIGHT NOW. Paul had NO IDEA his impact… in chains! When you experience new challenges and struggles, you are growing! The leadership you are providing your church now will outlast you… just look at Paul!
Paul was in prison. That’s tough. Yet Paul did not quit. He fought, finished, and kept the faith. Paul used his current struggles to write Scripture. There is always a struggle before a breakthrough!
Next we travelled to Mount Carmel, the famous site where the prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18.
It struck me that rain is rare in the desert. How does the sparse vegetation grow?
The morning dew, early in the morning, sustains life.
You will discover your sustenance if you will rise early for the dew.
The danger for leaders is when we focus on the rain (ministry out of memory) and forget the dew (fresh revelation every single morning).
SEA OF GALILEE
Finally we wrapped Day One where Jesus walked on water.
I tried walking on the same water: