The past few days, Janis and I had the incredible privilege of going on a trip to the Holy Land. It’s impossible to put into words or see in pictures what happens when you “walk where Jesus walked.” We will forever be indebted to our dear friends, Chris and Sandy Philbeck, and the people of Mt. Pleasant Christian Church, who invited us (and allowed us) to go with them. We were joined by dear friends, Doug and Julie Crozier. (To see a slide show of where we went and what we did on the trip, click here.)
Having just returned, I wanted to share a few observations while everything was still fresh in my heart and mind. So here goes ...
• Every Christian should have going to the Holy Land on their “bucket list,” and when it’s possible for you to go, GO!!
• Every Pastor needs to go to the Holy Land for the impact on your own heart and life, as well as on your ability to preach the Word of God with greater clarity and understanding than you ever dreamed. I’ve been preaching from the gospel of Mark since April of 2013. Having the privilege to walk through Capernaum, the earthly headquarters of Jesus’ ministry, ride in a boat across the Sea of Galilee, visit Caesarea Philippi as well as other sites, was invigorating beyond description. How I wish I had seen the sites before sharing those texts.
• I wish I had gone to the Holy Land 40 years ago, before so much of it had become commercialized. It’s still amazing to see the sites and walk in the land God promised to His people. But the pristine purity of the places described in the Bible, for the most part, no longer exists.
• When you go to the Holy Land to “walk where Jesus walked,” you will walk a lot. Much of the country is very hilly and rough terrain, and you will be walking up and down lots of stairs and lots of stones.
• Because of the passage of time and the fact so many sites have been built upon and built over previous structures, etc., in many places you aren’t walking where Jesus walked or the prophets, etc. You’re walking on top of where they walked. It’s still exhilarating and moving to know you are so close.
• To hear messages, in our case shared by my pastor friend, Chris Philbeck, in the very place where the events described in the Bible took place is impactful and amazing.
• When we drove into the city of Jerusalem on our bus, the driver played the song JERUSALEM. It was one of the most moving experiences of my entire life. No one said a word on our bus. By the way, it was the only song we heard on our bus the entire 10 days.)
• We felt safe the entire time we were there. Not once did we experience anything that would’ve even made us the slightest bit uncomfortable.
• I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that filled my heart when I took the names of our own family and friends, the names of every member of our Crossroads’ church family as well as the names of each of our missionaries, written down on paper, and placed them in a hole in The Wailing Wall and prayed for all of you. I will never forget that experience.
• I can’t put into words what it felt like to ride in a boat across the Sea of Galilee like Jesus and His disciples did on so many occasions.
• From the very first day until the last, when I saw the Jewish people I kept thinking, “These are God’s chosen people.” Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” One time I heard Dr. John MacArthur say, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” But as I saw these people, I realized how special the nation of Israel is to the heart of God. They are called “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
• The nation of Israel is surrounded by three Muslim nations and there is no question the Muslims are trying to drive the Jews out of the land, once again. There are minarets and Mosques all over Jerusalem and five times a day, the call to prayer is issued over a loud speaker system that is overwhelming. The Muslim community may refer to it as a “call to prayer,” but it is much more than that and has to be discouraging and annoying to the Jewish people.
• Psalm 122:6 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Jerusalem needs our prayers and support now more than ever.
• Seeing the Holy Land from the air, for the very first time, was a moving experience. I remember thinking, “We’re about to be in The Holy Land!” Everything we’ve read about, been taught and even taught ourselves, we’re going to actually “be there!”
• Being at Caesarea Phillipi, where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And then, He asked them, “But who do you say I am?” And Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” was incredible.
• Standing on Mt. Carmel, where Elijah called down fire from Heaven and defeated the false prophets of Baal and false prophetesses of Asherah was amazing.
• Seeing the Empty Tomb for the first time was an experience I will remember and cherish the rest of my life.
• Going on a trip to the Holy Land isn’t a vacation or a trip to visit historical sites. It’s a spiritual experience that will change you forever. You’ll never read the Bible the same way.
• The best way to experience the Holy Land is to go with people you know and love. It’s not for the youngest or the oldest to attempt. Did I say there’s a lot of walking and climbing and stairs and stones? Much of Israel and the sites you will want to visit are not accessible for people with physical challenges.
• Lord willing, Crossroads will be taking a group of our people to the Holy Land in 2015, and I will be leading the tour. We hope to be sharing information with you shortly regarding the exact dates and cost. I hope that all of you will consider going sometime soon. And that many of you will join me when we go this next year.
(To see a slide show of where we went and what we did on the trip, click here.)
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.