My Trip to Israel as a Christian
My wife and I went to Israel to experience the Holy Land first hand and had the time of our lives. We did both of these things thanks to the grace of God and we will forever be thankful for the opportunity the walk in the footsteps of Jesus, Apostles, and the other great men and women of times-past who took on the mantle of being called a Christian.
On our flight to Israel when we were over the Swiss Alps we hit some major turbulence and I was shaken to the core. The airplane must have dropped a couple of hundred feet in a matter of seconds and I gripped the headrest of the seat in front of me with great force as I fought the very intense urge to get out of my seat.
I opened my Bible to Psalm 91 and 27 and I repeatedly read them to calm my fears. I also was praying that the airplane would not crash and that God would save us. The airplane was still going through the fierce turbulence but my fears were calmed by the Word of God.
There were two Orthodox Jews in the seats in front of us and they were reading their Tanachs. The stewardess observed us all reading our “sacred books” and she made a comment that because of this everything was going to be alright.
Before we hit that major turbulence the pilot told the stewardesses to urgently return to their seats and they hurriedly put away their serving trays and ran to their seats and put on their seatbelts. As I watched them run to their seats I knew that we were in for some serious trouble and the fear began to build inside of me.
If a veteran stewardess who flies for a living shows fear you know that you are in for some serious trouble. Whenever I fly I look at the reactions of the flight attendants and I look into their eyes to determine the seriousness of the situation. They fly for a living and they know when something is not going right.
After I read my Bible I felt guilty for showing fear and not trusting God to deliver me. Here I was on the trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land and I was acting like I didn’t even trust God to protect me.
The Apostles did the same thing in Mark 4:35-41 when they were in rough seas in a boat and Jesus was asleep in the stern. The apostles were fearful and Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith in God’s protection. I was in a man made vessel just like the Apostles and I showed fear because of the weather like them as well.
“And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Mark 4:35-40.
I will list some of the truly awesome and moving experiences that I had on our trip to Israel that will be with us for the rest of our lives. On day two of our trip we were in the Sharon Beach Resort in Nentanya, Israel. We awoke at 2:00 am which gave us a great opportunity to have devotions that related to where we were and that coming days travels.
Nentanya is a couple of miles away from Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea where Jonah fled from God's calling on his life on a ship to Tarshish. We opened the windows during our devotions in the book of Jonah. The wind was howling outside and the sea was tempestuous with waves crashing on the shore beneath our open window which was about 50 yards from the sea. This was experience was moving because we could envision Jonah on the boat with the same sea in the same conditions as they were that very morning. We will never forget it!
On day three we went to Mount Carmel which is a very beautiful place. There is a huge statue of Elijah there with a sword in his hand and his foot on one of the heads of the false prophets of Baal. I wish I could have been there that day when Elijah stood alone for God and withstood those false prophets by the power of Jehovah.
One thing that touched some of us was the light rain that fell on us when we were on top of Mount Carmel. This of course is what happened when Elijah prayed for rain after years of drought in the land of Israel. On day four we awoke in a hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Our front door was literally 30 yards from the shore of that great lake which our Lord walked on and calmed the raging sea.
After breakfast I had some time for further devotions in our hotel room. I opened the window which allowed a soft morning breeze to blow on me as I read the great things that our Lord had done on that very same lake which I could see and smell from my window. This was exhilarating! Nothing could compare to this emotional time of reading God's Word in the very place that the living words describe as a breeze from that very lake softly blew on my face and through my hair.
Even more touching than these glorious experiences was our time at the Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb was where the body of Jesus was for three days until His resurrection. We started by observing Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) then we actually went inside the tomb of Jesus. A big sign in the tomb reads: "He is not here for He is Risen." Amen, He is Risen indeed!
After going into the Tomb of Jesus we took seats literally yards away from the tomb and our pastor gave a moving sermon that exalted Christ and His Word. We then had communion and sung hymns and this truly was the apex of our trip to the Holy Land and one of the greatest experiences in my Christian walk.
Another great memory of our trip to Israel was when we were given a tour of the Temple Restoration Building in Jerusalem. The building was filled with replica items from the Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 a.d. The tour was given by a Jewish woman and when we went into one area of the building we were not allowed to film or take pictures of the items in glass display cases.
The Jewish Woman wanted someone in our group to read from Psalm 24 and she looked around the room and she picked me. I was honored to read the Scripture in Israel in front of our tour group that had at least six ordained ministers. The Jewish Woman explained that she wanted me to read a verse and then pause while she elaborated on what I had read from a Jewish perspective.
I began to read Psalm 24 from verse 7 and I finished the Psalm with verse 10. I spoke loud and clear when I read these verses and I felt so proud and blessed to have been chosen to read Psalm 24 in Israel. Psalm 24 is about Jesus’ ascension as the King of Glory after his crucifixion and I am honored to have been chosen to read it aloud in front of my tour group. Whenever I read Psalm 24 it takes me back to that glorious day in Israel when I read these words aloud.
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah,” Psalm 24:7-10.
One day my wife and I were having lunch in Jerusalem and we were eating at this very nice restaurant. We bought our food and we grabbed some seats on the second floor which had a great view of the city and the Wailing Wall. This was truly the greatest meal that I have ever eaten in my entire life. We were in the very heart of the “Old City” and it was such a beautiful day with an even better view. I cannot describe how great it felt to be in Jerusalem eating Hebrew food and standing on the same ground that Jesus, Apostles, Prophets, and other great men and woman of the Bible had once stood.
I of course could go on-and-on for hours, but I think that you get the picture how beautiful and moving our trip to Israel turned out to be. My wife and I had the time of our lives. On the eve of our departure from Israel my wife gave a speech in appreciation of our tour guide as we gathered together for one last time.
The epoch that we traveled to Israel was really volatile at the time due to recent suicide bombings by radical Muslims. Were we scared of terrorist attacks while we were there? Absolutely not! For one we were trusting in God for His protection (besides the turbulence) so we not once entertained for a moment that something would happen to us while we were there. Besides, I believe that American streets are far more dangerous than the streets of Israel.
Did I mention how wonderful Hebrew food is? Well, let me tell you, the food was awesome and I have never eaten so healthy in my entire life! What a wonderful trip to remember! I only wish that I had a digital camera at the time.
Food for Thought
Our little tour group had 36 people in it with six ordained pastors from various denominations. This diverse group of people covered the spectrum of an unbeliever traveling with his mom to a Catholic getting ready to sell all of his possessions to become a Franciscan Monk.
I really felt at home with some of my fellow pilgrims and we had a great time and we also had some lively debates concerning various topics like; Tongues (They have ceased), Replacement Theology (not true), Harold Camping (false prophet), and many others.
There was one particular pastor who my wife and I really liked and we spent most of our time eating and discussing biblical topics with him. Whenever I had a question about something I would go to this pastor to voice my concerns.
On one particular day we were walking to the Wailing Wall and they had passed out pieces of paper to our group to write our prayers on and place them in the cracks of the wall. Why would we need to go to a wall to pray to God when Jesus already made a way for us to come before The Throne of Grace?.
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son," John 14:3.
I was taken aback by this because I felt like this was idolatry and an affront to Jesus and what He did for us on the cross (1 Timothy 2:5, John 14:6). I talked to my pastor friend about what the Bible said about this issue and he agreed with me but nothing came of it.
My wife and I stood about 30 feet away from the wall as we watched all of the Orthodox Jewish People and "Christians" in our tour group pray at the wall and put their prayers in the wall so "God would hear them." Why should a Christian put a piece of paper in a wall just like any other unbeliever in the "hopes" that God would hear us?
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," 1 Timothy 2:5.
Jesus is our mediator, not an idolatrous wall that unbelievers pray at! I just don't agree with putting prayer requests in a wall that people think has any sort of rapport with God.
I brought 200 "Bible Tracts" made especially for Jewish people and during our trip in Israel I passed all of them out. I handed out the "Bible Tracts" discretely and I did not think anybody in our tour group had observed me doing this.
One night in our hotel we were having a devotional with most of the members of our group and at the end of the teaching one pastor stood up and said, "Christians should not hand out tracts and witness to Jewish people."
Then another pastor stood up during this comment and stated, "Christians who do such things are 'Christian Imperialists,'" to which a couple of Amen's sprang up from the group.
I know that in the Book of Galatians that Paul rebuked Peter publicly for leading the people astray (Galatians 2:11-14) yet I did not believe that it was my place to do so (1 Timothy 5:1) because they were pastors and I am simply a laymen. I would speak to these pastors in private the next day, Lord willing.
I believe it was a pastor's duty to rebuke these “pastors” publicly not a layman such as myself. (A pastor on our trip that did not attend that devotion told me that he would have said something and he also told me that it would have been okay for me to speak up).
That night I explained to my wife what these two "shepherds" had taught was unscriptural and Satanic in origin because it directly contradicted what Jesus had told us. I went over the many verses that command us to share the Gospel and witness to all, including Jewish people:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek," Romans 1:16.
The next day I saw a pastor who was in the audience yet did not speak up, I asked to speak with him privately. I explained to him my concerns over what the Bible teaches juxtaposed with what was taught at the devotional the previous night.
I brought up verses that command us to witness to all and preach the Gospel;
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," Mark 16:15
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?… So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," Romans 10:14, 17.
We went over many other great Bible passages that give us the outline on how to witness to Jewish people, Romans 9, 10, 11 and Acts 2, 7 and even Jesus’ own words, "But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Matthew 15:24.
This pastor understood The Great Commission and realized that we are commanded to:
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine," 2 Timothy 4:2.
This means preach when people want to hear it and when they don’t, it means preach on your vacation and when you are home, it means whenever and wherever you are to be an ambassador for Christ.
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God,"
2 Corinthians 5:20.
Later that day I spoke privately with the "pastor" who called Christians names for handing out tracts. I asked him, "If Jewish people need Jesus as their savior?" This "pastor" said, "No!" I asked him, "If Muslims need Jesus?” He responded, “God loves everybody."
I agreed that God loves everybody (John 3:16), but I also pointed out that God is also Holy and Righteous. He cannot even look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13). I also pointed out the many scriptures that say that Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5) and that we all are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that a Holy God must judge sin (Romans 6:23).
This “pastor” of course had is own interpretation of these verses and even equated people who believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven to the Pharisee’s whom Jesus condemned.
This conversation went on a little further in a like manner and I decided it was getting nowhere fast; we talked respectfully and parted in like manner. Only God can change a mans heart, not us or our arguments. I only pray to be a tool that the Master can use for His Glory.
Some verses come to mind after this experience, "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD" Jeremiah 17:5, "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man," Psalm 118:8.
I would also like to add a postscript to this, during our tour of Caesarea Philippi this same pastor that called Christians names (this incident at Caesarea was before the Bible study) for handing out tracts was giving his interpretation of Matthew 16:13-19.
This "Pastor" said that the reason Jesus said, "Thou art Peter (petros), and upon this rock (petra) I will build my church," because when Peter was a child people would make fun of his name. So, Jesus was giving him some "self-affirmation" to build up his self-esteem.
This of course is not true, to the contrary it is liberal, pop psychology, humanistic hermeneutics. I asked my wife, "If Jesus was trying to build up Peter's self esteem, how do you explain Jesus calling Peter Satan five verses later?"
"But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men," Matthew 16:23.
My wife and I went to Israel to experience the Holy Land first-hand and have the time of our lives. We did both of these things thanks to the grace of God. However, I did not go to Israel to have a liberal preacher infect my wife and our tour group with his demonic teachings. I did not ask him to do these things and Lord Willing, I will not stand for it.
Shall I have just accepted this preacher saying that Jesus is not needed to get to heaven? Should I just hold my mouth when a preacher calls Jesus a liar (John 14:6)? Should I have just overlooked these things under the banner of charity and unity? Would you have? I hope not my friend, "Earnestly contend for the faith, that was once delivered unto the saints" Jude 3.
In conclusion on this subject read the following words spoken by Walter Martin, "Controversy for the sake of controversy is sin, controversy for the sake of truth is a divine command."