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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blessed Beyond Measures (home from Israel)

I am finally getting around to blogging about my experience in Israel. It was such a wonderful down to earth experience that I needed. Words will never be able to describe the beauty, teaching, or change in my soul that has happened. I thought I would post a few pictures to let you see a little bit of God and His beautiful handy work. Here we are at Azekah looking down on the Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath. To the left of the picture is where it all came down. To the right of the mountain is where the stream would be where David collected his 5 stones to kill Goliath with. As we looked down into the valley we were asked "What stone has God given you to throw?" and "What is your Goliath?" As our tour guide, Marty was telling the story of David and telling us a little more about a Shepard and his duties. I was watching this young man below us herd and tend to his sheep. The sheep know the Shepard's voice only and to keep the sheep all together (where he wants them) he will throw rocks near the sheep to make them listen and move. The Shepard did just that and as the sheep wasn't listening the rocks got bigger and bigger. It was so great! This is the Cave of Adullam. Who would have thought the Lord would have spoken to me in this cave with swarming bees and pigeons everywhere but He did! I was able to read Psalm 57 in this very cave (square foot square meter) where David fled from Saul and he wrote Psalm 57. "I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth." It is very powerful to read something so moving in the very place it took place. I had to share this photo with you taken at Lachish (2 Kings 18:5-8 and 18:17-25) because it is just the beginning of the beauty of God's holy land. Really none of these pictures turned out to what it really looked like, but this is as close as I could get. God, You are breath taking! Another piece of beauty... the Salt Sea (or Dead Sea). This is what we saw from the deck of our hotel room. Simply Beautiful! Here we are at Arad and as we were on an adventure (not knowing what was ahead) we came across these sheep being herded in the desert. You can't see it so well... but one of the Shepard's is on the back of a donkey and when you see a donkey, camel, or horse it means the family has some wealth. This day we were being taught about hospitality... you never know you might be entertaining an angel. To much to our surprise we were led to the home of Bedouins. Genesis 24:18-19. They see you from a far and begin to prepare HOT sweet tea for you (which was delicious) and a type of flat bread. There were 19 of us and they welcomed us with open arms. "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves, Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:9-13 This is a young girl, Rachel who was in my group with her lovely family. She is such a sweet spirit and I pray I can continue to be friends with her and her family forever. Love her! This day was the hardest day physically. This picture was taken at the top of Masada. It took us (the back of the pack) 50 minutes to climb up this mountain/plateau (there was a lot of praying going on has we climbed to the top), but we all made it and we got to see all God's beauty from above. Masada. It was hard, but so worth it! I really felt God pulling me up that mountain. :o) Here are the deer of Israel. They are called Ibex. When you see written in the text something about a deer or the feet of a deer this is what the very words of God is speaking about. A small dainty thing. "He makes my feet like the feet of a deer..." Psalm 18:33 (Do you see the baby?) Here is En Gedi. There was a bigger waterfall we could have gone to, but Marty decided against it since we had some older folks with us who wouldn't be able to make it. Which was fine, because this was breath taking. This was a beautiful picture of living water. Marty also reminded us of Numbers 20:1-12 and told us all water comes out of rocks in Israel. Makes you think, huh? "They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 59:10. Then we were asked, "Are you refreshing?" and "Where are your En Gedi's in your life?". Oh... this place... Mount Arbel. Luke 6:12-19 or Mark 3:13-19. Yes... this is it! I will not question it. The Lord my God was here 2000 year ago... praying for his disciples, called his disciples, and where he spoke and healed the diseased. Beautiful and beyond words. (that is the Sea of Galilee behind me). Here we sat on the Sea of Galilee on the most uncomfortable basalt rocks EVER! As we sat here John 21:1-11 was brought to life. You might ask "How do you know it happened there?". Well my friend there are 7 warm springs (Tabgha) coming up from under the lake and it makes the water warm and where there is warm water there is algae and where there is algae there are fish. "But now I will send for many fishermen." declares the LORD, "and they will catch them. After that I will send many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks." Jeremiah 16:16 We got to go out on a boat on the Sea of Galilee and have our morning devotional. It was WONDERFUL! Here is Gamla. The home of Zealots. The Zealots were very passionate people, but passionate with swords and would kill. Jesus is a very confusing guy because He had traits of being a Zealot, but His passion was not with a sword but with love. Jesus also picked a Zealot as one of his disciples his name was Simon. Then we were asked, "Who are the zealots of today?" and "Who has that passion?" This picture is of a original Synagogue on the side of Gamla where Jesus taught. We were not able to go down there (for unknown reason), but that is okay. Mount Beatitudes. Matthew 5:1-12 (square foot square meter). We have a love sick God... "In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye." Deut. 32:10. "Record me lament; list my tears on your scroll-- are they not in your record?" Pslam 56:8. "You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace." Song of Solomon 4:9 Here is a fun little picture taken at Bethsaida. It was so beautiful as the sun set. And most of all the most interesting fact I found out about was Peter, Andrew, James, and John (possibly Philip too) came from Bethsaida. It makes me think about how great this place must have been. Beautiful picture. We walked over a hill and we came to this this huge discovery... Beth She'an. We oohhhed and Awwwed over this find. I think we were all blown away by how much was found and dug up, but still we were brought down to earth when Marty said something like "Y'all ooohhhed and awwwed over this pagan capital more than a place like Capernaum.". This really made me think... this is our world. We ooohhh and awww at everything BIG and FANCY, but why? Why is it BIG or go home? "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14 I thought this picture would be entertaining and give you a little chuckle. These pieces of marble sticking out of the wall are 3rd century toilets. The people would daily come in here and do their business together with food being offered to them and a orchestra playing their favorite tunes. The one good thing about these marble toilets are... they were so cool and cooled me down quickly. I posted this picture because WOW! Isn't it beautiful? I would have never ever thought in a million years Israel would look like this... it was so green and lush. This was the city of Susita, Dacapulas. It was a very pagan city. Then we were brought to 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Still in Susita... read Mark 5:1-20. Yes... that is right... Legion shared his testimony and by 749 AD all of Decapulas was Christian. So powerful! Just think of what we could do by sharing our story... we could do powerful things all in the name of Jesus. Yes... I know we could! The Lord had been working inside of me all week... this was it! Marty gave us some one on one time with the Jordan if we had something to give to the Lord and to let it go and give it up. I used it... I let it go. I let my anger, yelling, unloving, and control issues go and they went floating down the rapids of the Jordan. That was it... relief! Joshua 3:14-17. It felt good to be at such a beautiful place and to let it go and give it to God. God made this the Meditterranean Sea. Just breath taking... This was a very special moment. This church is in the Old City of Jeruselem. Marty had us walk in the church very quiet. He had us step up on the steps in the front and turn toward the pews and he had us sing. I can't remember the first song, but the second song was 'Amazing Grace'. I could not stop the tears from rolling down my face. All I could think about was how thankful I am for my salvation and so very thankful for Christ's undying love for me. Temple Mount, Dome on the Rock. 2 Chronicles 3:1. I am posting this picture to help you understand why we should pray for Israel and why we are asked to pray for Jerusalem, because the Muslims are taking over. Soon they will out number all the Jews and take over. They will make it to where the Jews will never be rememebered... that they will be forgotten about. This cannot happen... Jesus was a Jew. Why would God want the Jews to be demolished? He doesn't! It is up to us to do all we can to pray and reach out to Israel any way we can. These people are so special and I will get to this more down in my post. The Western Wall, which use to be the Wailing Wall, but once they became a nation the name was changed to Western Wall. Isn't that a beautiful picture. God's holy people coming to Him in an intimant and passionate way. All different "denominations" of Jews coming together for one purpose. Shema- "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This is my new and forever thing... to remember to live it. I got a ring made and Shema is written in Hebrew on it... this is a remembrance, a promise to God on what my life should always and forever be. "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Yes they do this and they are serious. I think we as Christians/believers in Chirst take it all for granted. We like keeping God in our box because we feel safe, but in the end we need to use the Jews as examples... on putting it out there for all to see. It should all be for the glory of the Lord. I was really blown away by these women. Especially by the woman standing up with her hand over her face. All I can say is passionate! My last and most wonderful moment in Israel. The Western Wall... praying at the wall, hearing the tears, loud prayers spoken in Hebrew, and most of all the peace of the Lord God almighty!!! He poured His perfect peace over me... the perfect peace of knowing when I go home that I will be okay.... that He will continue to be with me and give me the strength to go home and grow and share my testimony and love on others. Here is my group... they were all so wonderful! Every single person made a very special impact on my life and I will never forget them. Especially Marty, the group leader... he is such a special man and doesn't even know it. I could tell him all day long how much he means to me, all he taught me, thank him for sharing his gift... and he would just smile and knod his head and say "Well... thank the Lord." Such a humble loving man. I can't wait to go with him again with the rest of my family, God willing.


Christi Brown said...

Oh Sterling, what a wonderful journey! My favorite...letting it all go in the Jordan! Love you sweet friend!

Heather said...

Amen! Wonderful recap of your trip. I'm so glad you were able to go! Can't wait to go someday.

Kelli said...

This is so amazing! I was surprised also at the beauty in yours pictures, I would never have imagined. I hope one day I will be able to make a similarly journey. I am very glad that you were able to go. I am glad it was such a blessing for you!