Archives For Israel

After a week to reflect on my Israel journey, I’ve summed the adventure into three takeaways. Takeaways you can process yourself, even if you’ve never stepped foot out of your own hometown:

A STATEMENT:

Standing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I watched lines of people stop to touch, kiss, and pray on a giant rock slab. This stone, according to tradition, is the place Jesus body was prepared for burial after He was taken from the cross (we later found it was placed in the entryway during a 19th Century renovation of the church, but who really cares about details?).

After days of watching buses of tourists pile into these “holy sites,” and realizing my own propensity for getting caught up in the drama of these historic locations, I heard God make a clear statement from the vestibule of this Gothic church that will stay with me the rest of my life:

“Many people want the blessing of being where I’ve been, but so few want to pay the price to follow me where I’m going.

A QUESTION:

From the ruins of this Capernaum temple on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus spoke some of His most difficult words. Just days after He fed 5,000 people on a Galilean hillside with 5 loaves and 2 fish, He challenged many of these same people to embody the essence of Who He was, not only the blessing of what He could do for them.

Jesus loved to create unresolved tension.

After hearing these words, Scripture tells us many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. It’s easy to look backward and wonder how anyone could have stood in the physical presence of the Messiah and walked away. But standing in these temple ruins where Jesus Himself had stood, I heard Him ask me the question:

“If you had been standing here in this temple that day, would you have stayed with me or left like so many others?”

A PERSON

I grew up in a charismatic church movement. And honestly, over time I grew to resent it. Because of what I experienced in many “spirit-filled” encounters, I pushed the Holy Spirit away. I despised the manipulation. The abuse. The emotionalism. All with little evidence of truly transformed lives.

So I rejected the Spirit, too. Not overtly. Subtly. In my heart.

But standing in the Upper Room, the ascribed location for Acts 2, I realized my prior experience was mis-informing my current reality. What I was rejecting was the man-made charismatic subculture, not the Holy Spirit Himself. That would be asinine!

Jesus promised the Spirit to bring transformation, power, and the miraculous into our lives. The desire and ability to follow after Him. He is meant to be a normal reality of everyday life, not some crazed, event-driven emotional pursuit.

Why would I allow man’s abuse cause me to reject that offer?

A statement. A Question. A Person. This is what I brought home from Israel. How does it resonate with you?

Everyday in Israel has been a unique experience.  I’ve never seen such a small land mass with such a plethora of different geography (yes, I said a plethora).

Ruins, deserts, mountains, lush hillsides, beaches, modern cityscapes.  All in a landmass similar in size to my home state of Indiana.  It’s easy to see why this was called the “Promised Land,” and why there is still so much conflict over who owns the rights to it.

There’s nothing like it.

We spent this morning back in Jerusalem’s Old City at the Upper Room (the location of the Last Supper and the events of Acts chapter 2), took one last walk past the Western Wall, and then spent the afternoon at a vineyard in the Judean Countryside.

Another day to add to a list of unforgettables.

The day I left to come here, my 4 year old son asked me if I was going to see Jesus (like He’s an amusement park or my long-lost Jewish uncle Epstein that lives just east of Nazareth).  A funny question.

But honestly, as speechless as this land has consistently rendered me all week, I really didn’t “find Him” here.

While I undeniably understand better who Jesus was (and how Israel plays into the story of God), what I personally found is a deeper passion to follow who He is (insert subtle reminder here: He’s alive).  He’s invited me (and you) to participate in His Kingdom. Not in history, but right now.  Today.  And going forward.

If we’re willing to surrender to it.

Tomorrow: home.

Israel Day 5

Erik Cooper —  April 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

We spent the morning in the old city of Joppa, the ancient seaport where Jonah launched his boat escape from God (and was subsequently ingested by a large fish).  It’s also the city where Peter had his game-changing vision that the Gospel was for all people and not just the Jews.

But this evening we had the honor of worshiping with a Messianic congregation.  Choosing to follow Christ is no small decision for these people.  Even in a growing secular Jewish culture they are considered traitors, sometimes harassed and even threatened by those clinging to culture and power.

It was beautiful to worship with them, to hear original Israeli songs penned from their congregation, and the messages connecting the prophetic words of the Torah with their fulfillment in Jesus. I couldn’t stop weeping as we sang these words:

Yeshua Yeshua kava tov lishoma et kolcha

Jesus, Jesus how good it is to hear your voice

There’s nothing more beautiful than remembering your brokenness and once again hearing the only Remedy calling your name.

Tomorrow back to Jerusalem and the Upper Room as we wrap up this crazy adventure.

Israel Day 4

Erik Cooper —  April 22, 2010 — Leave a comment

Today in Galilee

I gazed at the hilltop where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

Climbed on rocks in the Jordan River.

Stood in the ruins of the Capernaum Temple where Jesus delivered one of His most difficult messages.

I saw Peter’s house on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (which by the way is really a lake).

Walked the hillside where Jesus feed 5,000 hungry people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Sailed the waters where Jesus walked and Peter sank.

Photographed the cliffs where a horde of demons plunged a herd of pigs to their death at Jesus command.

Drove the beachline where Jesus called simple fisherman to become His disciples.

I took time to reflect on the rocky shore of the Sea of Galilee, all the while wondering:  if I had lived here during Jesus ministry, would I have had the courage to follow Him?

Do I have the courage to follow Him?

Israel Day 3

Erik Cooper —  April 21, 2010 — 1 Comment

Quite a different day today (more adventuresome than reflective).  In typical fashion, my buddy Nathan had my hiking all over the mountains of eastern Israel.  He keeps me interesting, I keep him alive. It’s a good contract.

We visited the ancient fortress of Masada, a stunning wilderness stronghold built by King Herod in case he needed a place to hide out.  He never used it, but it was inhabited by Jewish rebels just before the fall of Jerusalem in AD70.  You can read their fascinating story here.

Only minutes up the road is En Gedi, the breathtaking wilderness hideout where David fled from Saul.  This is the location of 1 Samuel 24, where David spared Saul’s life while he was “relieving himself” in a cave.  The pictures don’t do it no justice.  If I were running for my life, I’d head straight here, too.

We took a swim in the Dead Sea (not only do you float, you physically can’t sink!).  Oceans contain about 3% salt.  The Dead Sea: 25%. I’m still cleaning the salt crystals from behind my ears.

Last stop was the caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the late 1940’s and early 50s.  These manuscripts were a powerful testimony to the accuracy of the Scriptures.  These copies almost perfectly matched their next youngest counterparts, nearly 1,000 years younger, showing how precisely the texts have been passed down from generation to generation.

Tomorrow we head north to the Sea of Galilee where Jesus did most of his teaching.  I may try to walk on water like Peter did.  I’ll let you know if it works out better for me than it did for him.