Saturday, June 10

Saturday morning started early with a rededication baptism in the Sea of Galilea. Throughout the whole tour we were encouraged to listen to what the Lord would have us do with out lives and to submit to His will completely. What a blessed time, even for those who were not baptized!

Bethsaida, meaning “House of Fish,” was Peter and Andrew’s home town. During Jesus’ time, Bethsaida was on the upper shore of the Sea of Galilee, but currently is considerably north or the shoreline. Apparently, the delta from the Jordan River has filled in some of the land, and coupled with numerous years of drought in the land, the city is no longer close to the water.


Close by Bethsaida is another possible site of the feeding of the 5,000. Shortly after that, Jesus walked (and Peter) on the water of the Sea of Galilee.

Hillside, possible site of the feeding of the 5,000

Next in our tour, we visited Dan, where the Israelites had set up an altar to Jehovah, which later turned into a place idolatrous worship. Dan is also the site of one of the springs that feeds into the Jordan River. It is a delightfully peaceful place, at least by the spring.

Kursi is the place where Jesus cast demons out of a man, and the herd of pigs ran down into the water. There are many caves and tombs in the hillsides, where the demon-controlled man could have lived.

Jesus took his disciples up north to Caesarea Philippi, also called Banias, or Panias. There is a massive cliff city names for the emporer, dedicated to Caesar as well as the goat-god Pan. Herod had built a temple over a cave, which was called “The Gates of Hell.” In this place, Jesus asked his disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [that Jesus is God] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:16-18).

Friday, June 9

Our day started out with a trip to the Sea of Galilee, to see a 2000 year-old fishing boat that had been preserved in the mud. We also had a special time out on the Sea of Galilee, with singing and dancing, as well as a time of reflection that this is where Jesus walked on the water. Pictured here is one of the precious women in our tour group.

2000-year-old fishing boat

On the Sea of Gaillee

Magdala is the city where Mary Magdalene came from. We visited there shortly, seeing the synagogue where Jesus would have taught.

Jesus made his headquarters in Capernaum during his ministry in the Galilean territory.  Peter had built a house in Capernaum, and there was a 3rd century house-church built over the place his house may have been. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed here, as well as the paralyzed man let down through the tiles of the synagogue by four of his friends.

Taghba is the possible site of the feeding of the 5000. There are seven warm springs flowing into the Sea of Galilee here, and it may have been here that Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John and Philip to be “fishers of men.” This may also have been the spot where Jesus met His disciples after His resurrection and encourage Peter by forgiving him of his denial.

Mt. Beatitudes is the supposed spot of the Sermon on the Mount. Everywhere you look there are possible places where Jesus may have walked and taught. It’s hard to really comprehend how wonderful the land of Israel is. Even after a week I’m still awed by the experience.

The Desert Will Bloom

We spent Sunday in the Negev which is desert in the southern part of Israel. This is the area where the children of Israel wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised land.

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them: and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as a rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing… (Isaiah 35:1-2)

In 1948 the desert area was 84% arid, unusable land. At this time it stands at 62% unusable land. By using drip irrigation, the Israelis are reclaiming the land for farmland. They have just finished their harvest of wheat. The desert is truly “blooming”!

We also rode camels and slept in a Bedouin tent, similar to what Abraham and Sarah had done. What an interesting lifestyle!

Wheat fields of Negev

Camel ride at Bedouin Oasis

True Worship

Sunday morning our pastor asked us a question: “Did you spend 5 minutes in prayer to prepare yourself to worship God in church?” We had an especially good service Sunday, titled “Worship from a Hollow Heart.” If you would like to watch it, click on:

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand…” (Psalm 95:6-7, KJV).

Worship is not just singing, but service to God in obedience to His Word. Worship comes from a true heart.

Growth is a Process

Affairs of the Heart quilt

Affairs of the Heart

For the last several years, I have been working on this quilt. It’s still not finished; I have about half of the quilting to do.

Our Christian lives are a lot like a quilt–work progresses a little bit at a time, in spurts. Little by little we become more like Christ.

Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Count the Cost

Recently, I decided to make a sun hat to take on my trip to Israel. I pulled out the pattern, “sort of” measured it, to make sure the crown of the hat would fit, and quickly put the entire hat together, brim and all, before carefully measuring. As you may see from the picture, the crown was not shaped properly. Of course, the hat didn’t fit the way I wanted it to, so I had to take it apart the restitch the crown.

In the Christian life, we often get ahead of what God would have us to do. We think we are fully prepared for something, and merrily go ahead with our plans, thinking everything will be okay. I thought of this following verse, knowing that God would want me to be more careful, even in my sewing.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:28-30, KJV).

Of course, in the passage in Luke, the Lord Jesus was talking about discipleship, and  giving up everything in order to serve Him. He wants us to be willing to surrender to His leading completely. Then, as we follow His directions for our lives, He perfects us to be more like Him.

Resurrection Day

Some of you may know that I will be going to Israel on a tour in a few weeks. My sister, who is the organizer of tour, recently wrote this to the group that is going:

Dear Pilgrims,

I’m sure you will be celebrating Christ’s Resurrection in the next few weeks.  We will be too,  beginning this weekend, with our granddaughters (4 and 6 yrs old).  In our Bruce family tradition, we’ll act out the Easter story again and again, changing who gets to be Jesus, or the angel, or whatever.  Sometimes a hole in the bushes doubles as the tomb; last year the tomb was under the piano bench.  They have a great imagination, but I’m thrilled that they are learning the Scripture truths so well.

The “Hill of the Skull”  just outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem has been overtaken by a modern bus stop.  While you get the sense that one of our holiest places has been desecrated by smelly buses, in a sense that is appropriate, because Jesus was crucified right on the main thoroughfare, where all travelers could see the spectacle of the Son of God carrying our sin on a rugged cross.

There is a walk-in tomb near Calvary that might have been the tomb of Jesus.  If so, it was once sealed tightly shut, but the seal on the door wasn’t strong enough to keep the Son of God inside.  After three days he rose again, alive and victorious over death!

That tomb is certainly empty today, and we can visit it.  In fact, we plan to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection with communion together there.

Blessings, Les & Kathy Bruce