Petra: Home of the Nabateans

Hi Everyone,

Well, every good thing must come to an end and this is the end. I still have one more day here in Israel, but I’ve got to catch my first flight tomorrow afternoon so I won’t have an opportunity to post any pictures or thoughts. I sure have enjoyed taking pictures and writing my thoughts for the day during these two weeks that I have been in Israel. I hope that you have benefitted in some small way. If you have then save your money and keep saving it until you get enough to come to Israel and see the sights for yourself. It has absolutely changed the way I read God’s Word and it has changed my life as well. It will do the same for you.

Today we had another long bus ride. We left Israel and went into Jordan. The two countries are somewhat friends, but getting across the border you would have never known it. Once across the border we had another 2 hour bus ride to the “Valley of Moses” in Jordan. We had lunch where I took the picture of the huge chandleair, light fixture. You won’t believe how big this thing is, but check it out in the pictures that Brian has downloaded for today. We walked from the hotel into the mountains to the site of Petra. Oh my goodness!? Can you believe what the Nabateans did!? They didn’t have the tools that we have today. I checked around every corner and didn’t fing one Home Depot!? The one enormous and beautiful building is but one of many buildings in the mountain range. The home of the Nabateans was impenetrable. Many nations tried to conquer them, but failed until the Herod Antipas, Herod the Great’s son, figured out that if he cut off their water supply then they couldn’t survive back in the mountains. The Nabateans surrendered to the Romans, but continued to live in the area under Roman rule. It was truly an amazing sight.

You will want to check out the picture of Haneen. I’ve sent pictures of Bedouins throughout my trip. They fascinate me. They wander through the desert living like their Arabian ancestors in tents. Haneen is a Bedouin child. She is 13 years old, but about the same size as my daughter Annie. I think I was missing Annie so bad today that I hung out with Haneen for quite awhile and just talked. She was such a cute kid and we talked about her family. She and her family live up in the mountains and she rides a donkey down into Petra to work. Her mom makes bracelets and polishes rocks for Haneen to sell to help provide for the family. This kid is sharp!? She could sell a ham sandwich to a hog!! She first gave me a rock (as a gift because she liked me! That should have raised the red flag right there.) and then she told me how bad “business” had been. Is this kid 43 or 13? She showed me lots of necklaces and bracelets. I asked her how much? She told me how much it would cost if I bought it in the store and then she gave me a price less than half of that amount!? Wow! What a deal!? In the words of that great American theologian, Tom Cruise, “You had me at ‘hello.'”? I’ll always remember Haneen and the way she cleaned out my pockets. ha!? What a kid!? What a country!? What a trip!? It’s been fun, inspiring, eye-opening, and I’m going home full. Thank you Lord for giving me this great opportunity.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

The Red Sea

Hi Everyone,

We spent the day in the bus for the most part as we made our way to the southernmost part of Israel. I can look out my hotel balcony and see Egypt to the south and Jordan to the east. In between the two?is the Red Sea. I can?throw a rock from the balcony and almost hit the Red Sea. Wow! Does like get any better than this?

On our way here today we did stop and see the valley of Zin. If you will remember when Moses and the children of Israel came out of Egypt they came through the desert of Zin. Moses sent Joshua and Caleb to spy out the Promised Land while they were still in the Desert of Zin. That’s about a 100 mile journey!? I’m getting a real clear picture that Moses, Abraham, Jesus, all of those guys in the Bible, they had their walking shoes on!?We were looking out over Zin today and Laura Sabolich said, “Boy, this sure gives you a better understanding of why the Isrealites said, ‘Moses, did you just bring us out here to die?'”? Is sure did give me more compassion for those that I’ve always said were complainers. They had something to complain about.

Tomorrow we are crossing over into the nation of Jordan to see the stronghold of the Nabateans–Petra. I’m hoping to get some awesome pictures, but the connection here at our new hotel is weak and very expensive so I don’t know if I will be able to get them up on the blog. I’ll give it the ol’ college try. Take care.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

The Last Day in Jerusalem

It is Sunday morning, now Sunday afternoon for me here in Jerusalem. It has been a week that I will never forget! What has been the highlight of my time here in Jerusalem? Was it the Garden Tomb or sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane? How about walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel or visiting the City of David? How about…well, I could go on and on with the lists of potential highlights, but the fact of the matter is that the highlight for me has been quiet times of reading God’s Word by myself while looking over this incredible land full of history. I will never forget floating in the Dead Sea or seeing the caves where they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, but looking over the Kidron Valley and reading the story of David capturing the city from the Jebusites in 2 Kings 5. From that victory a great, wonderful, and sometimes tragic history has been written. In very direction I turn there are stories to be read from God’s Word–that is what has made being here in Jerusalem so wonderful.

Today we got to go up on the Temple Mound where the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. It was both sad and awesome to stand there where Solomon’s Temple once stood and to look at the land where Herod’s magnificent 2nd Temple once stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Today there are two mosques on the site: The Al Aksa Mosque which has been on the mound for more than 1300 years and the famouns Dome of the Rock which has been here for about 600 years. We were told today that Rabbis instruct Jews to never visit the Temple Mound because they don’t know exactly where the Temple once stood and therefore they don’t know where the Holy of Holies was located. No Jew, except the High Priest, was allowed in the Holy of Holies so it is not safe to walk around where the Holy of Holies was once located. We were also told that Jews and Christians were once allowed to visit inside the mosques, but not today. We were not allowed to take our Bibles up on the Temple Mound and we were not allowed to pray while up there. (Keep it on the down low but I prayed while on the Temple Mound)

We also visited the ruins of the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years. (John 5:1-14) It was so interesting seeing the ruins because there were healing pools dedicated to the healing god, Ascelpius, located right where Jesus healed the man. The story has always fascinated me because Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” He had been physically limited for 38 years –of course he wanted to get well right? Maybe. While I have been here I have seen beggars every day. They each have their story. They each have their ankle bandaged or crutches under their arms or… We were told not to give them anything because many of them make their living by begging. Our guide knows some of them and he told us that they live very well. If you were to take away their story then they would have to do something else to provide for their family. I don’t know anyone like some of these folks I have met, but I do know many folks who have a challenge, are going through a trial, and instead of pressing on and trusting God to see them through they want to use their challenge or trial as a reason to throw in the towel. Jesus says, “Do you want to get well?” If so, then pick up your mat, throw back your shoulders, straighten up your back, and trust God to see you through! He’ll make a way where there seems to be no way! Don’t quit–have faith!
The story has taken on a whole new meaning after seeing the ruins of the healing pools of Ascelpius. Jesus didn’t need the healing waters of Bethesda to heal the man who had been lame for 38 years. Jesus walked right up to a pagan healing center and He healed a man without the “healing waters.” Wow! What a powerful truth for you and me. Jesus doesn’t need gimmicks or special “prayer cloths” or any such thing as some of the hocus pocus preachers are peddling in our land today. Trust Him. He is sovereign! You can trust Jesus in the midst of your pain and suffering regardless of what is causing it. You can trust Him alone!

We are off tomorrow morning for Petra. Have a super Lord’s day.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

From Gethsemane To The Grave

Today was Sabbath here in Jerusalem so everything Jewish was shut down. It’s funny how even in the hotel you see signs of the Sabbath. There are four elevators at the Inbal Hotel and two of them are called, “Sabbath” elevators. This means that during the Sabbath they stop on each floor so that Jews don’t have to push any buttons. Pushing buttons would be work. I’m so glad I live under the New Covenant instead of the Law!

Early this morning we went to Caiaphas’ house. Caiaphas was the high priest who plotted with the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus. (Matthew 26:3-4) After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsamane the took Him to Caiaphas’ house. These steps that I am sitting on in the picture are the actual steps that Jesus walked up to Caiaphas’ house. (You need to read Matthew 26-27 and John 18-19 to get the full picture.) Seeing Caiaphas’ house and Herod’s palace really gave me perspective. I never dreamed that it was such a distance from the Garden of Gethsemane to Caiaphas’ house or from Caiaphas’ house to Herod’s palace. It’s over a mile to each location and you’ve got to remember that Jesus was beaten to a pulp, scourged with a “cat o’ nine tails,” and physically exhausted from the events.

We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was hung on the cross and laid in the grave. If you will remember we visited the Garden Tomb a couple of days ago, but we were told today that most authorities believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre better fits the biblical description of Jesus’ death and burial. It was so wild being in the church. You wouldn’t believe the people. They were from all over the world.

We met some Chinese Communist this morning who are in Jerusalem studying the agricultural methods of the Jews. They were at Caiaphas’ house singing “Amazing Grace” when we met them! Isn’t God amazing! I can’t count all of the nationalities of people that I have met while I’ve been here in Jerusalem. There are many things that separate us–things like language, dress, economics, etc. but all of that is forgotten because of the one thing that has drawn us from all of these nations–Jesus. Well, I got to run. It’s an early morning tomorrow. Be sure and check out the pictures. There were some really cool ones today. I sure love you guys and pray for you each day.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

Floatin’ In The Holy Land

Hi Everybody,

I’m not going to say it, but you know what today was, right? You got it! It was an awe…I’m not going to say it. I know you must think, “Mike is making this stuff up. Every day can’t be that good can it?” You just don’t know unless you’ve been here. It is better than “that” good! Today, we left the hotel and went down to Qumran and then on to Masada and last of all, we stopped at the Dead Sea for a swim. Was that wild! Before we got to Qumran we stopped in the desert where we could see Jericho and Jerusalem. Let me tell you, that is some rough territory. In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus tells the story about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. That’s about an 18-20 mile walk through the desert. Jesus said the man fell into the hands of robbers. If you were here and reading the Scripture from Luke you could see exactly what Jesus was talking about. In Matthew 20:29 Jesus healed two blind men as He and His disciples were leaving Jericho on their way to Jerusalem. Also, if you will remember, Jesus met Zacchaeus, the “wee little man,” in Luke 19 while He was in Jericho. Jericho was a city that Jesus was very familiar with because He passed through there on His way to Jerusalem from the Galilee. Jericho also was very prominent in the Old Testament as Joshua and the children of Israel conquered it in Joshua 6. Enough about Jericho.

Our next stop was the ruins of Qumran. It wasn’t too long ago that I had mentioned the Dead Sea Scrolls in one of my Sunday morning lessons so having the opportunity to actually see where the Scrolls were found make me super excited. The Essenes lived in the desert community kind of as a rebellion against the Temple in Jerusalem because they felt the priesthood had become corrupt. The Essenses were super devout and refused to compromise with the world. When word got to them that the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed they took all of their scrolls and hid them in the caves up in the mountains. Talk about trying to find a needle in the haystack! There are caves everywhere! The scrolls were hidden about 70-73 A.D. and they were not found until 1947! What did they find? Fragments of every book of the Bible except for Esther, a complete copy of Isaiah, and much more. I’ve included a picture of jars that look like the jars found in Qumran caves for you to be able to see.

Our next stop was Masada. It is located just west of the Dead Sea and it the place where Jewish Zealots resisted the Rloman army for three years until finally the Romans built a huge, and I mean HUGE ramp to the top of the mountain. I’ve included pictures of ruins of the Roman’s base camps (There were 8 around the mountain with 5,000 men in each camp.) When the Romans finally made it to the top of the mountain almost 1,000 Jews had committed suicide so that they wouldn’t have to be slaves to the Romans.

Our last stop of the day was the Dead Sea and it was such a wild place. The salt and mineral content of the water is so great that nothing can live in the Sea. For hundreds and thousands of year everyone thought that it was worthless, that is until the Jews figured out that they could use the sea salts for cosmetic purposes, Last year Israeli companies made $5 billion off products produced from the Dead Sea! The Dead Sea is evaporating at 3 feet per year, but the Israeli and Jordanian governments have gotten together and have figured out a way to drill to the Red Sea and pipe water over the 150 mile stretch of mountains so that they can fill up the Dead Sea once again.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to bore you to tears. I would encourage you to get your Bible out and turn to the back where the maps are located. Look up the places that we’ve talked about today. You can find Jericho, just 9 miles south of Jerusalem; Masada, which is located in the Ein Gedi where David hid out from Saul for seven years (1 Samuel 23:29), and Qumran, about 9 miles south of Jericho. I’ve been looking at maps since I’ve been here and it is such a help to get things situated in my mind.

Well, I’d better get to bed. We are getting up early in the morning and going to the house of the high priest of Jesus’s day, Caiaphas house. It’s going to be another…never mind. You know what was coming next! I miss you all and pray for you daily.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

The City of David

Hi Everyone,

It was another wonderful day in Jerusalem!! We got to visit the hottest archeological dig that is taking place in all of Israel, the City of David. Archeologist now know that the current Jerusalem is higher on Mt. Moriah than the city David captured from the Jebusites in 2 Samuel 5. The main reason the city was located further down the slope of the mountain was because without water you couldn’t have a city and the water source, the Gihon Springs are located down in the valley.

The archeologist have uncovered what they believe to be the ancient palace of King David. They’ve uncovered the water transport system that was used by David in 1000 B.C. They have discovered the Pool of Siloam where the blind man was brought to Jesus and asked whose sinned caused him to be born blind? Jesus said, “Neither.” He then spat on the ground…well, why don’t you go to John 9 and you can read the whole story for yourself.

I also got to take a trip through Hezekiah’s tunnel. Wow was it a trip. The thing is almost a half mile long. It was chiseled by Hezekiah’s men to provide water for the city when they were under attack from the enemy. You can read about it in 2 Kings 18-20. As I said earlier, the Gihon Spring was the primary water supply for Jerusalem even before David conquered the Jebusites. David used the water shaft to help defeat the Jebusites. It was Hezekiah, some 300 years later, who had his men chisel rock to divert the water into the city and then extended the wall of the city to protect the water supply. It was an amazing feat!? The water is still flowing and watering Jerusalem today.

Tomorrow we are heading to the Dead Sea and Masada. I can’t wait!? Until then I pray that you are being blessed by the pictures and notes from each day. I sure am praying that the Lord will use this time here in Israel to touch the lives of many back home. I think for so many of us the stories of the Bible are just that…stories. Let me tell you, they are far more than stories, they are history, history that has changed the world, and lives like mine. Have a super day.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

The Tomb Really Is Empty!

Hi Everyone,

I don’t even know where to begin this evening. I try to write these posts like I was just getting home from my day and wanting to tell Connie what happened. I have a feeling that she would feel like she was being pummeled with thoughts after about 5 minutes of hearing what all happened in this day. I will try to narrow it down and stick to one subject even though i would like to sit here for the next three hours and fill you in on all of the details of a remarkable day. Let me take you to the Garden Tomb.

Our guide took us to the traditional place where they crucified Jesus and we sat and listened to him speak for several minutes about the site and how the Romans like to crucify people where things were most busy so that people would see and be afraid of what might happen to them if they broke the law. After we left Golgotha we walked around to the Garden Tomb. There were several groups situated throughout the Garden as they have created little sitting spaces for groups of 20-40 in several different areas. Our guide was describing the tomb we were looking at as a first century tomb of someone who was wealthy. Archeologists have determined that it was a wealthy person’s tomb because of the size of it. He also went into more detail about what Archeologists have said throughout the years, but as he was talking I heard the most gorgeous sound that distracted me. It wasn’t in English, but it was familiar. I continued to listen until I recognized the tune…”Shout To The Lord.” I left my group and followed the sound until I was standing in one of the little spaces created by those who own the Garden. There was a group of about 30 Germans, hands lifted in worship, and singing “Shout To The Lord” with all of their hearts. Ooo…I just got goose bumps again!

I went back and joined my group and David Darnell grabbed me and introduced me to some guy in Spanish. I think David speaks every language known to man except for maybe Pig Latin. ha! He had met a group of people from Nicaragua. David introduced me as his pastor to the pastor of the Nicaraguans and we hugged each other like brothers. We were separated by language by drawn together by the love of the Lord!

There were folks from Africa, England, Korea, Ireland, and David introduced me to a husband and wife that he had met from Spain. Why did these folks travel from all over the world? There is only one reason and His name is Jesus. Glory be to His precious name! It is the name of Jesus, and only the name of Jesus, that can bring a broken and fragmented world back together again. Sitting at the Garden Tomb and shifting my stare between the empty tomb and the full hearts of people from all over world made me realize that Jesus is the hope of this crazy, broken world. Pray for eyes to be opened and hearts to be touched with the Good News of Jesus our Savior.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

The Old City

Hi Everyone,

We spent almost the whole day in the Old City of Jerusalem today. We could spend another ten years and still not see everything there is to see. I’d been told that Jerusalem is a city within a city, but I had never really grasped it until seeing it today–Jerusalem is a city within a city. There is the Old City with a wall around it and then there is the modern Jerusalem which has been build around the Old City and across the hills. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about let’s try this: It would be like building a wall around the downtown area of Oklahoma City. The wall is to protect the citizens against their enemies. As time rocked along growth began to take place around the old city of OKC until you have people living in Midwest City, Edmond, Mustang, and other areas.? This is what happened in Israel. During the passage of time, and as other nations overthrew Israel, growth outside the city took place. Today, Israel is spread out all over the hills, but today we were in the Old City of Jerusalem.

We sat on the “Southern Steps” of the city early in the morning and listened as Kay Arthur taught us from Luke 19. It was a powerful lesson and to hear it sitting on the very steps that Jesus walked on to enter the city! Wow! How do you beat that! From there we went to the Western Wall. You’ve seen pictures of this on TV as Jews pray there day and night and stick their prayers in the cracks of the wall. There were many men and women praying while we were there today, but there is a fence to keep the men and women separate. I was so blessed by the humble prayers of these Jewish men, women, and children. Stop and think about this: Jews have been gathering at this exact place since the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. The generations change, but they keep coming to pray.

I was so amazed at all of the excavation going on around the Old City. Archeologists are digging and making all kinds of discoveries here in Jerusalem. On Thursday of this week I will get the opportunity to go with some others from our group to view the city of David. Archeologists now believe that David’s “Jerusalem” was located down the hill from where the Old City is today. They believe this because the water source, the Gihon Springs, are located down in the Kidron Valley. Look it up in your Bible maps to see what I am talking about. Anyway, I am going to visit an archeological dig and I’m so pumped! I’ll send you pictures.

The last place we visited today was the Holocaust Museum. I had the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. a few years back, but todays visit really hit me hard. There is not a Jewish person in this land who was not impacted by the Holocaust. To stand next to many of these people as I walked through the Museum and to know that they had a mother, father, grandparent, uncle, or some other relative who died was so sad to me. I left there with a heavy heart.

I sure hope you are enjoying the pictures and notes we’re putting on the blog. I’ve been getting emails from many of you that encourage me to keep posting each day. I was blessed with the opportunity to come to the Holy Land and I have felt a great need to allow others to share the trip with me. Shalom.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

The Holy City

I don’t believe it! I really don’t believe it! As we rode up the mountain and into Jerusalem I got the chills. We went to the Hebrew University and listened to Kay Arthur teach us about the significance of Jerusalem to God. It was such a powerful lesson with the Dome of the Rock (the Muslim mosque which sits where the Temple once stood) in the background as Kay walked us through the Scriptures. We are going to spend the next 6 days here in Jerusalem so I will be able to send you pictures of each of the sights from every day. One last thing. I hope you will check out the pics from today because we visited the ruins of Bet She’an before we came to Jerusalem. Bet She’an is the place where the Philistines hung King Saul’s head on their city wall to embarrass Israel. I got a picture that many archeologist believe to be authentic, but I will let you decide. Have a super day and know that I am praying for all of you while I am here.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.

Headin To Jerusalem

Good Morning Everyone,

I’m short on time this morning since we are getting ready to load up the buses and head to Jerusalem. I tried to get online last night after we got home, which was late, but the internet here leaves much to be desired. I sent some pictures of our trip yesterday so I hope you will take the time to check them out. Let me tell you a little about the day.

We left our hotel and went to Capernaum, which is about six miles north of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus left Nazareth He went to Capernaum and made it His home base during His ministery. Capernaum was also the home of Simon Peter. We saw Peter’s house yesterday and it was so awesome. In the first century Christians built a church over the site. Today, Christians have build a “flying saucer” over the site. It’s not really a flying saucer, but it sure looks like one.

I was able to walk in the old syagogue, built in the 300’s A.D., where many of our brothers and sisters worshipped. If you look at the picture I sent of this you can see white stones resting on black stones. Archeologists believe the black stones are the very foundation stones of the synagogue where Jesus taught.

From Capernaum we went a mile down the road to the Mount of Beautitudes, the place where Jesus preached the greatest sermon that has ever been heard. We read Matthew 5-7 as we sat on the hill and I went back 2,000 years in my mind. Those who heard Jesus were sitting and looking at the Sea of Galilee just like we were!

From there we went down the road around the Sea of Galilee a little further and we visited the Museum of the Boat. Some of you may remember about 5 years ago when a boat was discovered on the Sea of Galilee in the area where Jesus ministered. I’ve got a picture you can check out to see it. Archeologists date the boat to Jesus’ day. There is no way to know if it was the boat that Jesus and His disciples used, but it was used in the day in which Jesus sailed the Galilee.

After such a full day we went to eat at a “Sho Nuff” Jewish restaurant. The food was out of this world! A Jewish lady that owns the restaurant got up and sang a tribute to Kay Arthur who has been going to Israel with groups like ours for 30 years. Kay loves the Jewish people, she loves Israel, and the people of Israel love her. We had a great time, but I was ready to hit the sack. I hope you will enjoy the pictures from my day.

I continue to be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Israel. I have always known that the Jewish people were people of great national pride, now I understand why. They are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They live in the land that God has given them. They are surrounded on every side by political and religious enemies and yet they walk the streets with confidence. They have faith in God. They believe that they are people of destiny, God’s destiny. I was thinking about this last night. You and I are not Jewish, but we can have and even greater confidence than the Jewsih people. The Word of God teaches us “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) Last night at the restaurant they were playing music and dancing when the lady stopped and said, “Do you know what you are singing?”? Then she said, “Messiah will come! Messiah will come!”? I’ve got news for you my friends, “He has come!”? Jesus came to take away our sins, to call us from darkness to light, and to give us the assurance of eternal life! The Messiah has come and He is coming again!? Through Jesus you and I can have the confidence of knowing that our past is forgiven, our present is secure, and our future is in God’s hands. What a glorious future it will be for those bow their knee to the King of all Kings! Have a super day.

You can see the pictures as I add them here on the website.