Our Holy Land Tour is Over—It is Well with My Soul

Day 9: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

Our Israel tour has come to an end. Hard to believe! It’s been a fabulous tour connecting the Bible and its lands to life. One place in Israel that’s special is the lobby of the American Colony Hotel. That’s right, the lobby.

American Colony Hotel

(Picture: The American Colony Hotel)

The best part of this hotel is that the lobby has framed the original manuscript to one of my two favorite hymns: “It is Well with My Soul.”

I’ve posted a picture of it here. Can you make out the words?

Click to continue reading »

At the Garden Tomb, Contemplating the Resurrection

Day 9: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

We spent the morning at the Garden Tomb, where hundreds of us gathered in the beautiful gardens that surround the ancient tomb. Chuck Swindoll led us in a communion service.

The tomb itself is not the tomb of Jesus, but the location gives the best place in Jerusalem to contemplate the resurrection of Jesus.

At the Garden Tomb, Contemplating the Resurrection

(Photo: The Garden Tomb)

In my many visits to the Garden Tomb through the years, I have only had one guide tell me the tomb was the tomb of Jesus—and that visit was back in 2000. Since then, each guide has expressed that the Association makes no official claim that the tomb represents that of the resurrection of Jesus.

“The important thing is,” they always point out, “the tomb is empty.” I couldn’t agree more.

There is no better oasis in Jerusalem than the Garden Tomb to contemplate the central truth of Christianity’s faith—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Click to continue reading »

The Israel Museum, the Holocaust Museum

Day 8: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

We spent the morning in Jerusalem at two magnificent museums. Both reflect a history of the chosen people that we must never forget. We toured the Israel Museum, which houses the original Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book. We also saw a number of wonderful archaeological finds we saw that connect directly with Jesus and the Bible.

Israel Museum

(Photo: The Israel Museum. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But the most moving museum was Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, which remembers the more than six million Jews who were murdered during WWII simply because they were Jews.

The museum’s path led our group before disturbing scenes suspended on pale walls. Life-sized murals of living skeletons stared at us. Corpses lay piled after mass-executions in photo after photo. Hundreds of discarded shoes lay under a glass floor. In another area, a recording read aloud the names of children and their ages at death. Chilling . . . and so very sad.

The Hebrew phrase Yad Vashem means, “a hand and a name,” an idiom from Isaiah 56:5 that refers to a memorial. How could anyone forget such horrific events?

But the museum has its rays of light as well.

Click to continue reading »

The Jordan River, Ein Gedi, Masada, and the Dead Sea

Day 7: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

Today we descended from Jerusalem into the warmer Jordan Valley. In fact, it’s the lowest elevation on the planet! We began with a worship service beside the Jordan River, the very site where tradition says Jesus was baptized.

Jordan River

(Photo: Jordan River baptism site, where Jesus was baptized)

On the west shore of the Dead Sea, we toured several places:

  • Masada—where first-century Jewish patriots committed suicide rather than surrender to Rome.
  • Ein Gedi—where a young David hid from a jealous King Saul (1 Sam. 23:29; 24:1).
  • Several brave souls chose to float in the Dead Sea, but once was enough for me!

And we toured Qumran—by far the most “boring” site of the three . . . and yet its significance for the Bible stands far above the others.

Click to continue reading »

In Jerusalem! Where Jesus Walked (Literally)

Day 6: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

No matter how many times I come to the Holy City of Jerusalem, the first view never gets old. I’ve never lived here, but it still feels like home. That’s probably because Jerusalem repesents so much of what we Christians love about the Bible. And we’ve seen a LOT of Jerusalem in the past two days.

Finally in Jerusalem! Where Jesus Walked (Literally)

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Southern Steps Excavations)

Our Sunday morning began with a worship service on the steps of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount! How great is that?

Fewer places give the sense of the time of Jesus like the Southern Steps excavations. In fact, because it is forbidden to dig on the Temple Mount itself, this area immediately south of the mount offers important archaeology to help unpack the history of the Temple Mount during the first century.

We sat on the 200-foot wide flight of stairs that represent both original and restored steps from the Second Temple period—the time of Jesus.

Jerusalem: City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and the Pool of Siloam

Day 5: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

When people picture the city of Jerusalem, they usually think of the historic Western Wall, or the Old City, or the Temple Mount crowned with the Golden Dome of the Rock. But people on our tour were surprised to learn that the original city of Jerusalem lay just south of the Temple Mount on a small spur of land that encompassed about only ten acres.

City of David

(Photo: City of David at right, and Kidron Valley)

Crammed with houses and punctured with archaeological digs, the original area of Jerusalem looks much different today than it did three thousand years ago when King David conquered it.

Today, this part of Jerusalem retains the name, “The City of David,” and offers a number of archeological interests that relate to the monarch. The best way to view the area is to ascend the stairs just inside the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and stand atop the observation platform.

Check it out from Google Street View. Go ahead and click around:

Click to continue reading »

Kidron Valley and Jerusalem Walls

I snapped this photo of the Kidron Valley beside the Old City walls of Jerusalem. It’s impossible to fathom the history that occurred simply in the space of this photograph. Not the least of which is Jesus and His disciples crossing the Kidron Valley to enter the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1).

Sometimes it’s enough just to ponder a photograph.

Caesarea Philippi, Tel Dan, the Golan Heights, and the Sea of Galilee

Day 3: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

Today the Insight for Living Ministries’ Israel tour pointed its buses north towards the Golan Heights and several significant biblical sites. On our way north, we passed Tel Hazor and I thought of when Joshua conquered the city in his day. Our time in the Golan Heights included a visit to Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi

(Photo: Caesarea Philippi)

The site has been identified in Scripture with the names Baal-gad (Joshua 11:17; 12:7; 13:5), Baal-hermon (Judges 3:3), and Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).

Jesus brought His twelve disciples all the way up to the pagan region of Banias/Caesarea Philippi and asked them the question:

Who do people say that the Son of Man is? —Matthew 16:13

We also toured the amazing site of Tel Dan and saw the beautiful panorama of the Golan Heights. (Read more about these sites below.)

Click to continue reading »

The Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Nof Ginosar, and Nazareth

Day 2: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

The picturesque view from the Mount of Beatitudes offers visitors more than simply something to see. Today our bus tugged up the incline toward the “mount” and took a few hairpin turns up the hill. Once on top, the road curved east and rewarded us with a marvelous view of a church that gazed out over thirteen miles across the Sea of Galilee.

Mount of Beatitudes

(Photo: Mount of Beatitudes)

The beautiful chapel supports a cross with a stained dome that towers over its structure made of gray cinder blocks. The building’s eight sides commemorate the eight “beatitudes” that began Jesus’ celebrated Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10). The Mount of Beatitudes marks the traditional location of the sermon.

Here Chuck Swindoll gave a message on the Beatitudes and we sang songs of praise to God. It’s a great place to sit, read, pray—or just enjoy the view.

Click to continue reading »

Caesarea, Mount Carmel, and a Great Question for You

Day 1: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

Today, the tour began—with 500 of our closest friends! And what a great day it was. We began our day at Caesarea—the primary port used in the time of Jesus and the Apostles.

Caesarea—A Place for Entertainment, Evangelism, and Education

(Photo: The theater in Caesarea)

Caesarea by the Sea

In the first century, Caesarea enjoyed a constant flow of people with money to burn (sort of like tourists today, I guess). The bustling seaport featured all the usual touches of Roman culture—including a vast entertainment industry for the masses that frequented the city.

We sat in the ancient, massive theater built for 3500 spectators and overlooked the ocean.

Click to continue reading »