Investing in the Land

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“For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share in their material blessings.” Romans 15:27

Day Two: Today was just as enlightening as yesterday, yet on a much different level. It started with a one hour bus ride to Tel Aviv to one of the worst slum areas of the city. After all, as one leader told us today, “Why would you visit Israel and not go to the places Jesus would have visited?”

As we traveled we heard about the history of the church in Israel, the relations surrounding the Jews, Christians, and the Messianic Jews, and the growth of the Messianic Jews since Israel was declared a nation again in 1948. We learned that growth has gone from 23 Messianic Jews to 30,000, but there is much work to be done – and we learned through a few organizations how God is reaching out to His chosen people.

We first went to the Red Carpet Nail Center – a safe haven for women involved in sex trafficking, prostitution and drug addiction. Jewish, Arab, and former Soviet Union women are welcomed here to feel the love of Christ without demands or limits. It was very emotional hearing the stories of these women who are desperate for healing from the Holy Spirit. The desire of the center is for each woman who enters their doors to recognize she is the King’s daughter, worthy, valued, precious, and loved.

From there, we went to Kitepride. A business that helps to partner with the Red Carpet Center in getting jobs for the women who want to leave the prostitution industry. Their goal is to speak to the women regarding their future hoping they can let go of their past, and then, lead them to a destiny God has planned for them. I encourage you to look at their website Kitepride.com and read their story of how they are making bags from repurposed kites and employing these women who create them.

After lunch, we heard from one of the leaders from One for Israel. An organization that is reaching Jewish people for Christ by starting the only Hebrew Bible College in the world – and its in Jerusalem, which is a miracle!

You may be familiar with the One for Israel testimonial videos. If not, get on YouTube and watch one. These videos were started to reach the next generation of young, technologically savvy people.

The testimonials were started because the organization saw that a non-believer, whether atheist, Jewish, or Muslim would more likely watch a video in private than listen to a message in public. These videos as of today have been watched 90 million times! People are hungry for Jesus!!

As far as our Biblical sites today, we did have lunch on the Mediterranean Sea where Jonah ran from the Lord.

“But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.” Jonah 1:3

Here’s a picture of that port today:

From the port we walked to Simon the Tanners house where Peter was staying in Joppa when he received his vision from the Lord regarding Jews and the Gentiles.

“He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean....Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism  but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Acts 10:28;34-35

Just beyond this door is where Peter had his vision of the church today:

Today, I was challenged. Challenged in my own walk and spiritual purpose. What is God calling me to do? What do I have a heart for? Am I going to follow my heart or ignore it?

I think these are questions God wants us consistently asking ourselves. After all, we are His hands and feet, and He longs for us to experience His power as we step out in faith for Him. What is God calling you to do today?

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History and Holiness

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“The stones aren’t holy. What’s happened here is holy.” – Jerusalem Tour guide

Day One – A Tour of the Temple Grounds

Today, we started our journey into the Holy Land in what I now know as the most important archeological site in the world- The Holy Temple. Our Jewish tour guide was overflowing with information regarding the history and tradition surrounding this site. I wish I had the time to write all I learned. But, for this post, I’ll keep it to a few highlights.

As we drove this morning toward the southern side of the temple, the Mount of Olives was on our left. I always pictured the Mount of Olives farther away from the temple, but it was literally across the street. It was surreal thinking this was the area Jesus not only preached to His disciples, but where He also ascended to Heaven. (Acts 1:7-12)

We began our morning at the “Southern Steps” – a place where all Jews (including Jesus) were required to walk up three times a year to the Temple for Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles as instructed in the law given to Moses. The steps are also believed to be where Peter preached after the anointing of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

As a side note: The steps were uneven and had different landing spaces. Our tour guide said the reasoning for the steps being this way was so the Jewish people wouldn’t rush into God’s presence. They were forced to take their time. This resonated with me and my routine on Sunday mornings – do I rush into God’s presence or prepare my heart as I attend worship?

We were at the steps around 9am, precisely when Peter would have preached. Amazingly, the steps were empty and quiet, and we had an amazing sermon given by a pastor here. He spoke of the church being birthed through Peter’s speech as 3000 Jews accepted Jesus as Messiah that day. I could imagine the thousands of Jews listening to Peter, this uneducated fisherman who denied even knowing Jesus just 50 days earlier, boldly speaking of God’s Kingdom.

As I reflected, I sat in gratitude toward Peter and those followers who joined him in passionately spreading the good news of Jesus so 2000 years later I could hear about Jesus and be saved. None of it could have been possible without the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was right when He told them before He died that it was better He go away (John 16:7).

Here are a couple of pictures of the steps:

From the steps, we headed toward the Western Wall or the “Wailing Wall.” This Wall, which was one of the supporting walls of the Temple Mount, is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people today as it is the only remnants of the Second Temple built since Rome destroyed the Temple In 70 A.D. The Wall was much more magnificent than I imagined – huge with massive stones rising over 130 feet from the ground where we stood.

It was a holy moment as we were able to place prayers in the cracks of the wall – and place our hands on the wall and pray. I imagined thousands of years ago, the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctuary of the Temple where God’s presence appeared and only accessible by the high priest once a year) just being beyond this Western Wall. It was overwhelming.

Side note: to make more room for the prayers, every 2 years Rabbis collect the prayers and bury them in the Mount of Olives.

Pictures of the wall below:

Next, we were able to walk through the tunnels of the Western Wall which stand 2-3 stories below ground level. We learned much history from King David to King Herod to Suleiman the Magnificent. Again, it was amazing to walk on roads built over 2000 years ago which are now well below ground.

As the afternoon approached we walked (in reverse) the Via Dolorosa – “The Way of the Cross.” While our guide repeatedly told us this might not be the exact route, he emphasized the importance of focusing on the proximity to the original events and reflect upon those.

We started at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where in 335 A.D. Constantine, the Roman emperor who made Christianity the national religion of Rome, erected a church to encompass Golgotha (where Jesus died) and the tomb where He was buried.

The following picture, though dark, is the shrine built over the rock of Golgotha (you can see people in line to touch the rock)

The next picture is the tomb of Christ. Traditionally, this was built around the site of where Christ was buried. In the picture, people are standing in line to touch the marble slab Jesus could have laid.

The next picture posted is a cave nearby Jesus’ tomb that was excavated recently. The finding of this cave brought more hope that the tomb built around The burial of Jesus could be accurate.

I learned so much history today, but more than that, my faith and my belief in God’s Word and its amazing accuracy was strengthened and secured. The Bible isn’t legend, or folklore, or mere tradition – IT. IS. REAL.

The books in the Bible happened. The history is there, and from what we saw today, the archeological findings continue to confirm the Bible as truth.

I don’t know where you stand today in your faith, but let me encourage you – we serve a God who is real. A God who came in the form of a man to shed His blood for our sins so we can be reconciled to Him when we die.

Jerusalem is the epicenter of our faith. One day we will all worship together here, and we will understand our God who cannot be completely understood while we are here. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

He said to me: ‘It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.‘” Revelation 21:1-7

Beyond the Pages

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“Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; He has shown Himself to be her fortress.” Psalm 48:2-3

For years I’ve longed to visit the Holy Land. To walk where Jesus walked, where He preached, where He healed the sick, where He willingly chose to die on a cross so I could one day stand before a Holy God sinless, guiltless, and pure.

I’ve longed to see the sites He took in each day. To experience the waves in the Sea of Galilee, the refreshing water in the Jordan River, the beautiful hillside of the Mount of Olives, and the majesty and mystery of the Temple grounds.

Today, my dream of taking this journey to the Promised Land is coming to fruition – as I write, I’m traveling to Israel.

It seems surreal as I honestly never thought I would have this opportunity. But, here I am, embarking on a journey with Jesus (and my sweet husband, and a ministry team of 18) into His homeland.

Many have asked me to write of my experience as I travel – so as technology allows me to I will try my best to put into words what I know will be amazing and life-changing.

I once read that to visit the Holy Land is to step out of the physical world and enter into a spiritual one. I certainly don’t think you have to go to Israel to have a spiritual encounter with God, but I know for me it will allow me to step away from the distractions of life and focus completely on Jesus. To try to understand Him more. To be more aware of His teachings. To stand in awestruck wonder at the sacrifice He made for me. And to appreciate Him like never before.

So, I’m trusting God will exceed my expectations and take me beyond the pages of His Word and into a spiritual awakening like no other. I pray He gives me the words to allow you to experience it with me. In the meantime, I’ll see you in Jerusalem. Shalom…Katie

Are You Ready?

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“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:14;16-18

As I write this, we are just one week away from Christmas Day -Are you ready?? I’ve heard and used (and asked myself) those three words in many conversations over the past week. Of course the question refers to the hustle and bustle of the season – getting the Christmas tree up and the house decorated, buying gifts for friends and family, sending out holiday cards (one I didn’t get around to this year – ughh), and planning parties and gatherings with loved ones. Let’s face it, in America, the Christmas season is more about being “a super busy month” than “a silent night.” It’s kind of sad that Emmanuel, God with us, has to compete with the commercialization of His coming to earth. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all the traditions of the holidays, but if I’m honest with myself, those traditions become my focus rather than the miracle of God coming to earth as a baby in a manger. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. A LOT.

I believe the real question I should be asking myself (and others) is am I ready for the real “reason for the season”? Am I ready to celebrate, not just Christmas, but the birth of Christ? Am I ready to quiet my flesh so my soul can rejoice about and reflect on the amazing love of God, who left His heavenly home to come to this fallen earth – if I take the time to meditate on that thought alone it’s really mind blowing. It should bring me to my knees in awe and my lips to praise!

This baby in a manger, “the One and only Son who is Himself God,” came so you and I could be saved from ourselves and our sinful nature. Jesus came so we could have a perfect, holy, loving example to strive to follow as we live our lives. He came so the veil in the temple could be torn and we could approach His holy throne in confidence. He came so the Holy Spirit could come and reside within each of us. And Jesus ultimately came so you and I could spend eternity with Him in a place He has prepared for those who love Him (“where no eye has seen and no ear has heard and no mind has conceived of” 1 Cor. 2:9). Amazing, isn’t it??

The first 18 verses in the book of John (I’ve listed a few above) are some of my favorite that describe the birth of Jesus – “the Word became flesh…full of grace and truth…to lavish grace in place of grace already given.” I read these verses in John and I feel unworthy, yet completely forgiven, humbled, yet fully accepted, overwhelmed, yet immensely loved. How do you feel when you read them?? I’d love for you to comment and let me know. Your words can help each of us prepare our hearts so we CAN BE READY for the celebration of His coming. Whether you feel led to share or not, I pray the next seven days bring you (and me) a little closer to God and more in love with Him than ever before. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)

I send each of you hugs this holiday and a big Merry “Christ”mas!! Katie

Fireworks and Thunder

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“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

My 9-year-old black Labrador retriever, Molly, is terrified of two things – fireworks and thunder. If she is outside and hears either, she freaks out, busts through the invisible fence, and takes off running. This past Saturday night was one of those occasions. As the SEC championship game ended and fireworks went off at a neighbor’s house, I immediately went outside to call Molly in. But, she was already no where to be found.

My husband and I jumped into the car and started driving around the neighborhood in search of her. As we rode around calling her name, I kept thinking to myself why in the world would she leave the security and safety of our house and run out into the unknown when she was fearful and afraid.

This thought kept running through my mind that night and the next day as we searched for her. It just didn’t make sense – she had an owner who was right there, ready to comfort her and take care of her, and instead, she chose to run off into the darkness in search of safety with no guarantee of finding it. And then it hit me… this is exactly what I have a tendency to do to God when life feels out of my control.

I started thinking of the times the “fireworks” of life have happened to me – a sudden, unexpected loss or change in life that rocks my world. Or when there has been a “rumbling” in the distance that threatens the “sunny” picture I have created in my mind of what my life should look like. And, I thought how I have allowed those moments to stress me out, and I’ve taken off. I may not have physically taken off, but I have definitely gone on a mental run. I’ve allowed my thoughts to take me places I know God would not want me to go – thoughts that bring me more anxiety, worry, and stress. I’ve had to discipline myself to “take every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) and not fear the unknown future.

I have to admit, sometimes it’s a struggle to not trust my fleshly instincts and let my mind race. Like Molly, I think running away is what’s best for me, when in reality my irrational thoughts are just placing me in further danger and harm. I have found the more I spend time in His Word, the easier it is to stay close to Jesus when those unexpected fireworks occur and when those thunderstorms strike. I’ve learned that a deep trust in Jesus is the antidote to my fear…a deep, unshaken, immovable trust. So… I try to abide in that trust – knowing Jesus has my best interest and has done indescribably more than earn “my” title of trustworthy.

Well, we finally found Molly that next day. After all of our searching, she was only a block away… inevitably trying to find her way back home. She was dirty and shaking and whimpering for my attention when she saw me. Of course, I lavished her with my love and told her how much I missed her (yes, I’m “that” pet owner :-)). And as I reflected about her returning home I thought, what a beautiful picture of when we turn our thoughts back to Jesus… He sees us, wraps His love around us, comforts us with His Holy Word, and welcomes us back into His glorious presence.

As this Christmas season begins, I pray you see Jesus with a newfound excitement, admiration, and love, and that you take all your fears and anxieties to the cross. He’s just waiting to help!

He Knows You

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“This is what the LORD says, he who created you, he who formed you. ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'” Isaiah 43:1

Do you know that you have a Father in heaven who has twice ownership over you? He’s your Creator who first knitted you together in your mother’s womb, and He’s your Redeemer who came to this fallen earth to pay the ultimate ransom to bring you home. Twice ownership as Creator and Redeemer. Yet, most of us live our lives as if we are orphans trying to survive this world on our own. I know because I have a tendency to live this way on a daily basis. I have to remind myself that I am not alone. I am His and He knows me by name. Don’t those words just amaze you? The God of the universe knows who you are. It’s almost unfathomable. Every word you have spoken and every move you have made are known to Him. AND, despite fully knowing you, He unconditionally loves you and longs for you to intimately know Him and trust Him with the details of your life. Do you? Today, I challenge you to pause and reflect on this amazing God who says “you are worthy, you are accepted, you are loved, and you are known!”

Wag More, Bark Less

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“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalms 103:8

I love a good bumper sticker message. One of my favorites I saw a few months ago said, “I used to be cool.” It was on the back of a mini van. My daughter didn’t understand why I wanted to pull up alongside the lady driving the van and smile and wave at her (like we somehow had this sisterhood). Needless to say, I drove on, and the mini van went on its way – not before I got a picture of it and sent it to some of my girl friends, of course.

Last week, as high taxi season settled in (a.k.a summer), I saw a bumper sticker that really stuck with me (no pun intended).  It said – wag more, bark less. The word picture hit home – maybe because we just adopted an abandoned dog, or maybe because the kids are out of school and chaos has officially begun in my house, or maybe because I need to slow down and appreciate all that God has given me and reflect on His love more in my household.  Basically, I think God was telling me, I need to wag more and bark less.

Our incredible Creator is described as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” – an illustration used eight times by six different authors in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, God gives us Jesus as the perfect example of these attributes.  Just look at the patience Jesus had with His children as they argued as to who would be the greatest in Heaven (Luke 9:46), look at His compassion as He approached those who society had cast aside (think woman at the well), look at His graciousness towards those who plotted to have Him killed (think Judas Iscariot), and finally look at His amazing love as He begged for forgiveness towards those who were killing Him (Luke 23:34).  Today, I pray for a summer where I show my family the face of Christ.  A face full of  patience, kindness, compassion, graciousness, and love.  Help me Lord today to wag more and bark less.