Holy Land Devotionals

2010 Holy Land Devotionals
The Precipice of Nazareth

Holy Land Devotional Day 1

                                        by Steve Herman, Richwood UMC, NJ

                                                       Read Luke 4:16-30

"16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
 18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

 20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.

 23Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' "

 24"I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian."

 28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."  ~ NIV

This picture of the precipice of Nazareth takes us back to the day Jesus preached his first sermon in his home town synagogue at Nazareth. The sermon began well, and the hometown crowd was very proud of the local boy Jesus who was quickly becoming famous. However, the sermon took a quick downward spiral when Jesus hinted that God’s love and mercy was extended not just to the children of Israel, but to the people called Gentiles as well. The crowd was so angered by his teaching, they took Jesus to the top of this precipice and tried to kill him by throwing him off the cliff.

Like the crowd at Nazareth, when Jesus comes into our life we are often very excited at first. But when Jesus begins to challenge our prejudices and stretch our understanding of God, or move us out of our comfort zone, we to want to push him away. Lent is a season for giving up our sins, not giving up our Lord when he points out our sins. This Lent when we are challenged to grow, and our faith is stretched, let us not react like the crowd at Nazareth, but let us open our hearts to all the Lord would teach us.

Holy Land Devotional Day 2

                                        by Steve Herman, Richwood UMC, NJ 

                                                     Read Matthew 18:1-6

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

The church at Tabgha by the Sea of Galilee has a mosaic of fish and loaves that remind us of the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes.  In the courtyard there is an ancient millstone (see picture) that also reminds us of a story from the life of Christ.  One day his disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  It has been suggested what they were really asking was who was the most insecure, for only an insecure person argues about their greatness.  Jesus in his wisdom calls a child into their midst and offers the humble child as an example of greatness in his kingdom.  Jesus then says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

When I see this millstone at the sight of the miracle of the feeding of the multitude, I cannot resist the possibilities of combining the two stories.  Jesus took the fish and the loaves from a child and fed the multitude (John 6).  He also warned of the severity of consequences for anyone who causes a child to stumble in their faith.  In both stories a child and God’s love for children are central.  Let us look at children in the same way as did Jesus.

 

Holy Land Devotional Day 3

    by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield, UMC

Read Genesis 1:1

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

 In America, we measure ancient in hundreds of years.  In Jordan and Israel they measure ancient in thousands of years. This stone carving at Petra dates back to before the time of Jesus. Although wind, rain and time has worked to erode the stone, many details of the carvings are just as vivid today as they were when they were made.

 Not far from this spot both nature and human hands have destroyed some of the ancient works.

It reminds me that with God there is no beginning or end. God always was and always will be. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is nothing that can change or destroy God.

 We can put our full faith and trust in God.

Holy Land Devotional Day 4

     by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield, UMC

Read II Corinthians 5:17

 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

We saw the old and the new side by side. The ancient ruins were surrounded by new modern structures.

Paul reminds all that when we are in Christ, the old ruins of our past are gone and are replaced by a new creation in Christ. We leave the scars and brokenness of the past behind for a new life.

The Death of Moses
Holy Land Devotional Day 5

                                        by Steve Herman, Richwood UMC, NJ

                                                  Read Deuteronomy 34

 "1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."

 5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.

 9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.

 10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel."

Few places in the world offer as thrilling a view as Mt. Nebo.  It is not that tall of a peak, but it is the tallest peak in Transjordan, and the place where God took Moses before he died to view the Promised Land.  On a clear morning one can still see the entire Jordan River basin from the peaks of Mt. Hermon in the north to the Dead Sea (the lowest elevation of earth) in the south.  Directly east one can see Jericho, and on the horizon are the mountains of Jerusalem. 

It always seemed sad to me that Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land.  It would have seemed the fitting culmination of his life’s work.  But Joshua was the leader for that task.  Moses had been faithful in his time; he had delivered the children of Israel from the land of Egypt and brought them through the wilderness to the edge of the Promised Land.  Now it was time to pass the torch of leadership onto another.  All any of us can do is be faithful in our time.  We all are links in a chain of God’s redemptive plan for this world, and none of us truly begin a ministry, or end one; we are all merely faithful in our time.  But now and then, God allows us, as he did Moses, a glimpse of the future, and as with Mt. Nebo, the view is breathtaking! 

Holy Land Devotional Day 6

                                        by Mel Dunn, Bridgeport UMC, NJ 

                                                         Read Psalm 48

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.

 "1 Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
       in the city of our God, his holy mountain. 

 2 It is beautiful in its loftiness,
       the joy of the whole earth.
       Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
       the city of the Great King.

 3 God is in her citadels;
       he has shown himself to be her fortress.

 4 When the kings joined forces,
       when they advanced together,

 5 they saw her and were astounded;
       they fled in terror.

 6 Trembling seized them there,
       pain like that of a woman in labor.

 7 You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish
       shattered by an east wind.

 8 As we have heard,
       so have we seen
       in the city of the LORD Almighty,
       in the city of our God:
       God makes her secure forever.
       Selah

 9 Within your temple, O God,
       we meditate on your unfailing love.

 10 Like your name, O God,
       your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
       your right hand is filled with righteousness.

 11 Mount Zion rejoices,
       the villages of Judah are glad
       because of your judgments.

 12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
       count her towers,

 13 consider well her ramparts,
       view her citadels,
       that you may tell of them to the next generation.

 14 For this God is our God for ever and ever;
       he will be our guide even to the end."                                    

                                       ?I Walked today Where Jesus Walked? 

The night before our final Day in the Holy Land, we had gone from Jerusalem to Caesarea to Megiddo to Nazareth to Cana and finally, and ended up in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.

It was from there that we were to cross the Lake to the other shore and finish our Pilgrimage. 

I was tired and hungry and,  after going through four individuals at the Hotel dining room to get a diet Pepsi to drink,  I was more than a little frustrated.   I was also grieving the end of the trip which had been so spiritually uplifting.  

After my dinner partner left me to finish alone,   three nice folks said, ?Come over and finish with us.?

I did and then planned to then go immediately to bed, skipping the lecture that was scheduled for 7:30.   One of the ladies said she would like to attend the lecture but was afraid she would fall asleep.   So, I offered to go along and help her stay awake.

I am rejoicing that I didn?t fall asleep without that most memorable experience on the trip.   The lecturer was going over the ministry of Jesus in Galilee and his depth of knowledge was exceptional.   However,   much of what he said was a review from Seminary and it was only his gracious manner of presentation that held my interest and kept my heavy eyes open.

He spoke for about an hour and then without any sort of accompaniment he began to sing in the most beautiful and moving way -

                         I walked today where Jesus walked,
                                     In days of long ago.
                        I wandered down each path He knew,
                               With reverent step and slow.
                     Those little lanes, they have not changed,
                                A sweet peace fills the air.
                          I walked today where Jesus walked,
                                  And felt Him close to me.

                           My pathway led through Bethlehem,
                                    A memory's ever sweet.
                                    The little hills of Galilee,
                                That knew His childish feet.
                        The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes,
                                   That Jesus knew before
                               I saw the mighty Jordan row,
                                     As in the days of yore.

             I knelt today where Jesus knelt,Where all alone he prayed.
                               The Garden of Gethsemane,
                                     My heart felt unafraid.
                               I picked my heavy burden up,
                                   And with Him at my side,
                                I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
                                I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
                                I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
                               Where on the Cross He Died!

                        I walked today where Jesus walked,
                                  And felt Him close to me.

I felt tears well up in my eyes and as I looked around, I could see I was not alone.   I think, we understood for the first time that night that we had been doing just that and that we could return to our churches, families, and friends and knowing that we had walked where Jesus walked - and continue to walk everyday with Him.

                                                        Psalm 48:9-14

"We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.  Your name, O God, like your praise, reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with victory. Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice because of your judgments. Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever."

Holy Land Devotional Day 7

                                                           “Freedom”  

                               by Emil Winkelspecht, Trinity UMC, Clayton, NJ

When we look at the picture of this Bedouin community, it is for us to say, “Oh how terrible that they have to live that way.” But, our guide explained that this is how the Bedouins prefer to live because they are free from the constraints of the world. Out in the Wilderness they don’t have to live by society’s rules. Even if they are moved to a more “normal” house built for them, they will choose to live in a tent right next to the house.

How often do our lives look like a Bedouin village? We would rather live in the “freedom” of sin, doing our own thing; rather than live within the “constraints” of God’s ways. In Galatians 5:13 Paul tells us, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Choosing to go our own way, we refuse to submit and live as servants of God. And yet, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” True freedom is freedom from self obsession, rather than freedom to serve ourselves. The values of God’s kingdom are upside-down compared to the way of the world. When Jesus announced His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, He read from Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Are you willing to be what Paul preferred to call himself, “a slave of Jesus Christ” so that you might know true freedom from sin?  Let us pray today and every day, “Jesus, I submit myself to your lordship that I might know real freedom in the Spirit.”  

“THE EMPTY TOMB”

Holy Land Devotional Day 8

by Eunice Vega-Perez, Trinity UMC, Hackettstown, NJ

Read:   1 Corinthians 15:12-17

The Resurrection of the Dead

 "12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

After spending the entire week visiting the many places Jesus went to do ministry here on earth, our very last destination was the Garden Tomb. In that place the guide who worked there made us stop for a while and reflect about the great sacrifice Jesus the Christ did on the cross for us all. Before we literally went to see the tomb we also reflected in the horrible and cruel death the cross was back in those days. The cross was a death full of humiliation; an inhumane death, a death without dignity.  Oh, but we all know the end of the story-The Empty Tomb. There I was standing in the place where it is believed that our Savior victoriously raised from the death so all of us could have a purpose driven life. It was a lot to take in.

Paul reminds us that if we do not believe Christ resurrected from the death, then our faith is in vain. God indeed loved us so much that God entered into humanity through the person of Jesus Christ into a world of hopelessness, into a world of chaos, to bring us hope for today and hope for tomorrow. God sent Jesus into a world to set us free from sin and death so through Jesus we could be in the right relationship with God. Don’t you think we follow and serve a very intentional God? I surely think so!

I have done a lot of reflection since I came back from the Holy Land about my experience standing in front of the empty tomb and the implications it has for me as a spiritual leader in the 21st century. The empty tomb calls me today to vigorously preach the Good News of Jesus Christ with joy and excitement. The empty tomb moves me to seek justice in places where there is not. It moves me to take risk, it moves me to challenge the status quo and it moves me not to be silent. The empty tomb moves me to expand the kingdom of God just where I am regardless of the consequences.  The empty tomb reminded me of the eschatological hope-- that Christ will return for you and for me and we will be together at His heavenly banquet. So whatever we go through for the cause, at the end, it is absolutely worth it!

I am so glad we believe and worship the Savior of the Empty Tomb!

In Christ,

Eunice Vega- Perez

 

 Sanctuary of the Church in Cana in Galile
Holy Land Devotional Day 9

                                                               by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield, UMC
                                                                                        Read John 2:1-3

"On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, 'They have no more wine.' "

Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine when the wine ran out at a wedding reception in Cana in Galilee. Jesus didn’t make just ordinary wine but the best wine. Jesus makes the ordinary extraordinary.

When we give our hearts and lives to Christ, Jesus changes us and brings out the very, very best in us.

(A view from the boat on the Sea of Galilee)
Holy Land Devotional Day 10

                                          who is this?  

                                  By Emil Winkelspect, Trinity UMC, Clayton NJ

                                                   Read Mark 4:35-41

"That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side."   Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"   They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" ~ NIV

Our boat trip across the Sea of Galilee was almost cancelled because the sea was so choppy.  The dark clouds, wind, waves and rain really brought this Scripture passage to life. We had lunch in a restaurant on the far shore and by the time we came out the sun was shining. It was easy to see how quickly sudden squalls could blow in across the sea. In our lives, sudden squalls sometimes blow in and we like Jesus’ first disciples respond, “[Lord}, don't you care if we drown?” Why do we do this? Because we so quickly forget who this is. Not only is He the Creator who can make the wind and waves obey Him; He is also the One who cares for us enough to come among us, suffer and die for us that the relationship we were created to have with Him might be ours. Repeatedly, in the book of Ezekiel, we hear the words, “…then they will know that I am the Lord.” God wants us to know Him, and He reveals Himself perfectly to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Are you seeking to know God so that it doesn’t even enter your mind that He doesn’t care?

 

Church Of The Nativity in Bethlehem
Holy Land Devotional Day 11

             by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield UMC, NJ

                                                   Read Colossians 3:12-14

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

From the outside, The Church Of The Nativity is very plain and ordinary. It is almost unrecognizable as a church. A doorway that is only 4 feet tall has replaced the once large and ornate entrance. In order to enter we had to bow down and lower our heads. Some had to almost get on their knees to avoid hitting their heads.

It was a wonderful reminder that the incarnate Son of God was born in a stable and was laid in a feeding trough. We need to come to Jesus in humility with our heads bowed and on our knees.

 

Holy Land Devotional Day 12

“WALKING THROUGH THE VALLEY”

by Mel Dunn, Bridgeport UMC

                                                                   Read Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

 "1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;  my cup overflows. 

 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Psalm 23:4  "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

I stood looking at the Dead Sea.    I tried to comprehend that this seemingly beautiful blue sea  was, indeed,  the lowest place on the face of the earth.    And, that in spite of all the beauty of the reflecting sky, It was a “dead sea”.    

It had been an interesting day.   First, we had a long drive up to Mount Nebo and we took time gazing over the Holy Land from the place where Moses stood to take that last promised look before God carried him away.

Then, we traveled down a winding road into the Valley of the Jordan River and spent an  hour passing through the border between Jordan and Israel.   There,  we witnessed the distrust and fences that people put up that signify all the anger of hatred in the world today - from the mountaintop to the deepest valley.

And, as I took this picture, I was struck by the beauty that is found even in the valley.  However,   I was fascinated by the sidewalk that ended so abruptly and which then led off into a path that seemed to disappear on the shores of the salty water.  

As I offer this picture for you consideration,  I think of our Lenten Journey.    The sidewalk may end and all that we can see ahead may be the lowest point on the face of the earth, but we can assured that no matter what this season or this year holds -

“The Lord is with us; His rod and  staff will comfort us and see us through.”

The Aqueduct at Caesarea Maritime
Holy Land Devotional Day 13

by Rev. Steve Herman, Richwood UMC

Read: John 4:1-32
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

 "1The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

 4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

 7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

 10Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

 11"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

 13Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

 15The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." 16He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."  17"I have no husband," she replied.

   Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."

 19"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

 21Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

 25The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

 26Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

 27Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?"

 28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

 31Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."

 32But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." "

Water has always been a precious commodity in the Near East. Without water, there is no life. Cities needed fresh water supplies; some built tunnels from streams, and some built aqueducts. The aqueduct pictured brought fresh water several miles from Mt. Carmel to Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea. Herod the Great built the Aqueduct

and the city, and both were a tribute to Roman engineering. The aqueduct had to maintain a perfect angle of descent, or the water would spill over the edges.

The precious necessity of water forms the background of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well in John 4. Jesus uses water as a metaphor for spiritual life, and says he offers “living water” that once consumed will satiate us forever. The woman replies, “Give me that water!” 2000 years later the city of Caesarea and the aqueduct are in ruins; no water runs to the city anymore. But the eternal water of life from Jesus still flows!

Garden of Gethsemane
Holy Land Devotional Day 14

By Tom Austin, Deerfield UMC
                                          Read: Matthew 26:36-39

 "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." 

Gethsemane means oil press. In this garden there are olive trees that are over 2,000 years old and these trees still bear fruit.

When Jesus was overwhelmed with his impending death he went to this garden and prayed. He returned to pray three times while the disciples slept. When Jesus was sorrowful and troubled, the first thing he did was pray. Through prayer he found the strength and courage to go to the cross and give his life for us.

I have heard it said, “When all else fails pray.” Why do we turn to prayer as our last resort? Like Jesus if we pray first, we will find through the power of the Holy Spirit that same strength and courage to face our troubles and temptations.

 

 

Holy Land Devotional Day 15

by Steve Herman, Richwood, UMC

One of the most stunning sights in Jordan is the city of Petra. It was the home of a civilization known as the Nabateans. They became very rich as traders and built their city within natural defenses along the trade routes. Their architecture was influenced by the surrounding cultures with which they traded, including Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek. Their civilization flourished at the time of Christ, but there is no evidence of Christianity ever being adopted by the Nabateans. Eventually they, like others, were conquered by the Romans. Today the main remains of the culture are the many magnificent facades they carved into the walls of the cliffs. The most famous façade pictured here and in the Indiana Jones movie is called the Treasury, because of its opulent appearance. But in reality it is like the other facades, an empty tomb.  How ironic, a wealthy culture that built great monuments to their dead, so close to the kingdom of Christ, but untouched by it.  Less than 100 miles away lies another empty tomb, carved in much more simplicity, that changed the world forever.  During Lent, the Nabateans cause me to examine what I am building with my wealth, and what I will leave behind.   

Holy Land Devotional Day 16

            Let is snow, Let it snow, let it snow ????

                                 By Rev. Heidi Bak, Porchtown Zion UMC

ISAIAH 55: 9-12 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,  and do not return to it  without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Henri Nouwen once described Lent as the season during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance.  Some of us certainly experienced that in Israel and especially these past weeks in NJ. If you look closely at the base of the Olive Tree you will see snow.  Yes, Snow.  We were told that Israel’s climate would be like “Florida in Winter.”  Many of us who traveled in January experienced the Florida part, but some of us got in Winter part. 

While no traveler wants the rain to fall during their trip, it must rain some time. 

Our guide shared with us that the winter is a very important season of dormancy and replenishment.  This is especially true for Israel as it receives 90% of its yearly rain water totals in this short period of time, that must sustain the region for the whole year. But, as desperate as the land is for water, so too, is it for the word of God, as only 7% of the total population is Christian.

Maybe we can look at the rain and snow differently--not dreaded, but welcomed. As the buds open on trees and days lengthen because of God’s watering, so too can this be a spiritual season which calls for greater openness to the word of God and a conversion in every area of our lives, so that God’s word will not return empty.

 

“Running the Race and Climbing the Hill”
Holy Land Devotional Day 17

   By Mel Dunn, Bridgeport and Centre Square UMCs

Read: 1Corinthians 9:24  "Do you not know that those running in a race all run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain."

It was our last day – after one last stop we would  head to the Jordan and then would cross over on our way to our last night in Ammon and then a flight home.

We were in the ruins of a Roman city and some us were a bit tired – including our guide.   But, there stood a last challenge … a hill with, it appeared, a few hundred steps on stairs that led to the top.   Our guide said that he wouldn’t be making that climb.  However,  if anyone wanted to go up,  they had twenty minutes. Here are those who ran the race and won.

We all have our race to run and we have to run it even when we are tired and worn. As we progress through our Lenten Journey, God will help us succeed. Our trust must be in the one who climbed the hardest hill of all and will help us climb ours.

Read: 1Cor 10:12  "So let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."

Read: 1Cor 10:13  "No temptation has taken you but what is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but with the temptation also will make a way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it.

Holy Land Devotional Day 18

The Road from Jerusalem to Jericho
by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield UMC
 

Read: Luke 10:30-35 "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "

It is easy to see how a traveler could be ambushed in this desolate area. Jesus asked , "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" Will it ever be asked about us, “Which of these was a neighbor?” or do our actions and deed make the question unnecessary?

Church of All Nations next to the Garden of Gesthemane
Holy Land Devotional Day 19

by Rev. Steven Herman, Richwood UMC
Reading: John 17
"Jesus Prays for Himself

 1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

 6"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

 20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

The beautiful mosaics in the picture are on the front of the Church of All Nations located at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.  Many believe the great intercessory prayer of Jesus found in John 17 was prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died on the cross. On that night Jesus prayed that his church would be one through God’s love. How appropriate that the church located at this site is named the Church of All Nations.

Through the years many people have asked me why there are so many denominations and churches and which one is the “right” or “true” church. My answer is to remind them that Jesus prayed the church would be one, and that the divisive history of the church tells us far more about human nature than divine intent. During Lent, let us pray again with our Lord that the church might be made one through the love of God.

 

The Lion’s Gate
Holy Land Devotional Day 20

by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield UMC

There are seven gates in the Old City Walls of Jerusalem. This gate is called the Lion’s Gate because of the four “lions” that are above the gate.

Jesus is often called the “Lion of Judah” from Revelation 5:5, "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."

The Disciples were waiting for Jesus to take his place as the “Lion of Judah” and become the next King David to restore the kingdom of Israel.

John the Baptist saw Jesus differently. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)

Some say one was right and the other was wrong. I have come to realize that they all were right. Jesus went to the cross as the “Lamb of God” and will return as the “Lion of Judah.”

“Fishermen Early in the Morning on the Sea of Galilee”
Holy Land Devotional Day 21

     “THERE ARE STILL FISH IN THE SEA”
By Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UMC

 Matthew 4:18-22  “And walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea. For they were fishermen. And He said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed him. And going on from there, he saw another two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And He called them; and they immediately left the boat and their father and followed Him.”

Those Jesus Chose to follow Him and to take up the work of founding the church were not the religious leaders of His day. They were not professional folks – doctors and lawyers. They were simple fishermen who worked the waters near their hometown of Capernaum.They left their families and labors to wonder around Galilee and listen to a traveling preacher who made outrageous claims.

That morning, as I boarded the little boat that would carry us across the Lake to meet our bus,  I looked down from the dock and marveled at the sight of fisherman like those who left their needs to follow Jesus. I marveled at the sight and the fish they were hauling in (another picture).  After 2000 years there were still fish and fishermen in Galilee.

For us, 2000 years have passed since Jesus walked these shores,  but His message is still the same today. “Follow Me, and I will help you fish for people.” We so lightly sing, with a nice rhythm, “I have decided to follow Jesus.  No turning back,  no turning back.” Yet, I wondered that morning, as I was watching the Galilean fishermen laboring in the morning mist. Do we really mean what we say? Peter and the others did, and they died founding Christ’s church. What are we willing to do?

There are still fish in the sea and Jesus needs men and women to do the work – to fish for him.

“Dear Lord,  make us faithful to answer your call and sure in living our lives for you. Amen”

 

Jordan River
Holy Land Devotional Day 22

                        “Joint Heirs with Jesus”
 by Angele Cooper, Glassboro UMC

Read:  1 Peter 2:9-109But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once 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.”

Read: John 3:1-21 Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

 1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

 3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

 4"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

 5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

 9"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

 10"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

 16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

 Read: Romans 8:12-3912Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Future Glory  18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

More Than Conquerors   28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

 31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Baptismal Covenant of the UMC is “God’s word to us, proclaiming our adoption by grace…” and, therefore, with this sacrament we become, as the title declares, joint heirs with Jesus.   We are not only embraced into the universal church of believers, but take our place among the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the special people of God - able to cry out  Abba Father, and obtain His mercy as we are “called out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

When we, ourselves, understand with our hearts, not just believe with our minds, the new birth that Jesus explained to Nicodemus, we personally claim our salvation that guarantees our eternal home in heaven. 

When our lives give witness to our “Sonship” through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then, indeed, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” or any of the other promises that are ours through the Trinity?

When we know whose we are, we can expect to know who we are and go forth with enabling confidence wherever ministry for the Kingdom takes us. 

May Lent 2010 be a time of realization, renewal or celebration of your adoption into The Family of God.

           

The En Gedi oasis
Holy Land Devotional Day 23

       Living Water

                                           by Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield, UMC

En Gedi is an oasis located west of the Dead Sea, close to Masada and the caves of Qumran. In the middle of the desert surrounded by dry, barren mountains we visited these beautiful gardens surrounding this cool waterfall. It is fed by a spring bubbling out of the rocks. The stream flows for several hundred yards before being absorbed by the desert. It seems to come from nowhere and goes to nowhere.

In the deserts of our lives, God comes and brings us a spring of living water, a cool breeze and beautiful flowers to brighten our days.

 “Sunset and Sunrise in Tiberius on the shores of the Lake.”
Holy Land Devotional Day 24

                                                     “SUNSET – SUNRISE”

                                               And Then Came the Morning

                               By Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UM Churches

Read: John 21:2-4

“Simon Peter, and Thomas called the Twin, and Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.

Simon Peter said to them, I am going out to fish. They said to him, We will go with you also. They went out and entered into a boat immediately. And that night they caught nothing.

But when the morning had come, Jesus stood on the shore. But the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

There was that sunset in Jerusalem – the cross, the tomb, they knew He was dead.   How much darker could a sunset be than at sunset to see the one you loved – the who held such hope for you – placed behind the stone in the garden.

But,  then Mary came running  with the news.  He’s alive.  And,  Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go tell My brothers that they should go into Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Not in Jerusalem where death had reigned – In “Galilee of the Gentiles”  where He had ministered day after day and had done more miracles that any other place.  The invitation was for breakfast in Galilee.

They didn’t realize it but they were going to have breakfast on the shores of the Lake – the most joyous meal they would ever have.

Our trip was winding down and at sunset we arrived in Tiberius and saw the Sea of Galilee for the first time as the sun was setting.  Then we rested for on Monday we were going to have breakfast in Galilee and ride across the Sea of Galilee and walk where Jesus walked and meditate were Jesus preached the Kingdom and fed the hungry and healed the sin and raised the dead.

We had witnessed the darkest sunset and now we would see the most beautiful sunrise.

Morning had come.

“Dear Lord,  help us to walk with you through the dark sunset and rejoice with you when the morning comes.   Let this be our Lenten Journey.  Amen and Amen”

 Have you been to Gethsemane?
Holy Land Devotional Day 25

By Rev. Emil Winkelspecht, Trinity UMC, Clayton

Read: Matthew 26:36-46

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."  He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" 

     The one place in Israel that I would choose to spend more time would be the Garden of Gethsemane. There is so much to reflect upon in this passage. What is “this cup” that he asks to be taken from him? The inability of his disciples to stay awake with him during the most difficult evening of his life. Would we stay awake with Jesus, or fall asleep as well?

The Chapel in a Cave in the Shepherds Fields – Empty Except for Me
Holy Land Devotional Day 26

“The Quiet of a Cave – A Time Alone”

               By Rev. G. Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UM Churches

Read: Matthew 14:23  “And when He had sent the crowds away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray. And when evening had come, He was there alone."

Jesus needed time alone. He needed to think, pray, and commune with the Father. And we find Him often slipping away from the crowds to pray. Even on the Mountain of Temptation and in the Garden in Agony, He prayed and faced temptation alone.

God instructs us to come alone, in prayer, and He promises the He will hear and give us the strength for our journey,  “But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6)

And the prophet Isaiah says, “Even the young shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but those who wait on Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

It is hard to find a time alone to pray when you are on a hurried tour, rushing with a crowd from place to place. But, in the Shepherd’s field in this small chapel in a cave, I found myself alone with God.  Even in Bethlehem, God provides our needs.

“Dear Lord, during this hurried season, help us to find time to spend alone with You. Amen”

 

The Western “Wailing” Wall
Holy Land Devotional Day 27

                                                                    Presence

                           By: Rev. Emil Winkelspecht, Trinity UMC, Clayton

Our guide told us that Jews go to the Western Wall because it is as close to the Holy of Holies, representing the presence of God, that they can get to. Now this is not to criticize those who went up to the wall to pray, but I had a very strong sense that I didn’t need to go to the wall to pray because Jesus had opened the way to God’s presence through his death on the cross.

Matthew 27:50-51 “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

As Christians, we live daily in God’s presence. We don’t need to go to a special place to be in God’s presence. God has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Our privilege is a close, intimate relationship with God. Are you living in God’s presence today?

“The Spring healed by Elisha in the middle of Jericho”
Holy Land Devotional Day 28

                                      “Salt in the Water”

              By Rev. G. Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UM Churches

Read: II Kings:19-22

“And the men of the city said to Elisha, Behold, please, the location of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees. But the waters are bad, and the ground is barren.

And he said, Bring me a new jar and put salt in it. And they brought to him.

And he went forth to the spring of the waters and threw the salt in there, and said, So says Jehovah, I have healed these waters. There shall not be any more death or barrenness from there.

And the waters were healed to this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spoke.”

Elisha had returned from Jordan, after receiving the power and cloak of Elijah and found the city of Jericho in trouble. The water had turned brackish and the ground would not produce crops to sustain the people. The people of Jericho turned to the prophet who took a jar of salt and tossed it into the water and the water was healed.  

As I stood by the spring, I wondered at how salt, which should have made the water unusable,  made it pure. How great is the wonder working power of God.

Jesus  told us, in Matthew  5:13  “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of.”

Oh that in this Lenten season, might we be a healing salt in the earth.

“Oh Lord, never let us not lose our savor, our joy in serving Jesus, and allow us to be a healing presence in this brackish and troubled world.  Amen”

“Pastors Trying to Figure Out What to do Now”
Holy Land Devotional Day 29

                         “When Darkness Came”

                By:  Rev. G. Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UM Churches

Read: Luke 23:44-46  And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in the middle. And crying with a loud voice, Jesus said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. And when He had said this, He breathed out the spirit.

It was our last day in  Jerusalem. On Sunday we would travel on to Galilee. Our plans were formulated to make this day one we would always remember.

We were going to the Garden Tomb, and we had reserved a private time for communion in the Garden overlooking the tomb at the Jewish ninth hour.

But, when the hour approached and the sky had clouded and a breeze was blowing through the Garden. Then it became dark and a light misty rain began to fall.

We were suddenly aware that that the service was not going to go as planned. We had to huddle and make quick plans to shorten our time in the gloom and rain.

We were at an hour and in a place where our Lord suffered more than anyone had ever suffered before or since,  and the time and the darkness matched the hour.  

Oh, how much He suffered there for us – to reconcile all mankind to God.   It was not a place or a time for celebration. That day was a day for rededication.                                      

That day took on new meaning for me. As a teenager,  I had taken Galatians 2:20 as a life verse and it hangs engraved on a plaque in my office.  But, I don’t think I ever before really thought about what it meant to be “Crucified with Christ.”  There next to the tomb and in the shadow of the hill called “Skull,” I was made to reconsider all that happened that day over two thousand  years ago.

“Dear Lord, help us this Lenten season to remember how Jesus suffered for us and how great His love is.   Help us to live for Him who died for us. Amen”

Holy Land Devotional Day 30

                           Truth  by Emil Winkelspecht, Trinity UMC, Clayton, NJ

I couldn’t resist this picture. This sign was on the Church of All Nations next to the Garden of Gethsemene. My immediate thought upon seeing this sign was, “How sad that all too often this is the situation in the Church.”  Although we follow the one who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) we seem to have few answers for a world that is desperately in need of explanations.

If we are going to have explanations for people we have to know the One who is the Truth, the Living Word more today than we did yesterday. Do you have a passion to read and study the Word of God? Can people find explanations inside your church?

The Pools of Betheseda Ruins by Lynn Wolf
Holy Land Devotional Day 31

“POOL CLEANING: Hard Work 
Then And Now” 

                                       by Angele Cooper, Glassboro UMC

                                     The Healing at the Pool – John 5:1-9

  Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

We bought an Intex pool several years ago which meets our needs perfectly.  It does, however, require frequent cleaning due mostly to the size of the filter that is included in the “kit.” As I survey it from outside it appears often to need just a “touch up.” So, in I hop with the skimming net to get the large pieces of debris that have fallen in from the surrounding trees. I am usually quite amazed at how much else is floating around in the water.

I’ve also learned the hard way that leaving these seemingly harmless pieces of the environment for a more convenient time causes much more work later. They accumulate and/or attract other pieces to attach themselves and then you’ve got more then skimming will clean sometimes even more than one vacuuming will handle.  [Again, it’s kind of small equipment]. The other thing I’ve noticed is that even when all the cleaning is done and I’m ready to just relax and enjoy this little luxury, there is always something floating around in the water.

As I am tackling this chore, over and over again I am reminded of the parallel to our Christian walk.  First of all, keeping our hearts clean and ready to enjoy the privilege of serving Christ takes the same diligence as cleaning a pool.  You don’t just do it once and are done.  It is an ongoing task that needs to be accomplished to be crisp and clear.  And much like the misleading appearance of readiness, when you jump in or take a close look, there is often an amazing amount of unwanted spots to deal with.  And they take hard, diligent work to get rid of them.  You have to have the correct tools and know how to use them.  And when all else fails, you have to READ THE MANUAL/THE DIRECTIONS! Oh, the amount of time and trials and effort that could be saved if we started with the manual first.  Again, what a parallel to our Christian walk!  Of course the Bible is the manual to which I am referring.  If we start with it and read and re-read it as often as we need to refresh ourselves on the details or refer to it for specific instructions, the tasks before us are so much more manageable. 

Then, once we begin, we can’t allow little, seemingly harmless, habits or distractions go unchecked.  Temptations often lead to sin in such situations and sin can be a lot harder to clean up after it is committed than dealing with the temptation in the first place. 

Today, I was once more in the pool walking around with the skimming net in my hand gathering the tiny gnats and insects, leaves and tree pieces that had fallen on the water’s surface while my daughter, Aimee, and her dad were chatting and floating about.  She asked me if I ever just enjoy the pool.  My response was that I was enjoying the fact that we have the pool and I am challenged to keep it as clear as possible.  That’s the way it should be with our lives.  We should never tire of praying and seeking the fine tuning of our Christianity that will make us a shining, inviting example for others.  When we are at our best, others are also blessed by that outcome. 

Just the same as I would not dream of owning a pool without expecting to accept the fact that I need to work to keep it ready for use, we should not expect our Christian walk to take care of itself.  We must be ready, willing and able to do what it takes to make it ready for the Master’s pleasure. We must be willing to take up our mat and walk.

            Angele Cooper <><

The Mountains of Europe from 30,000 feet
Holy Land Devotional Day 32

“The Highest Heavens”

By Rev. G Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre UM Churches

“PSALM 36:5-7   “Your loving kindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches  to the skies.

 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast.

How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

As we were flying home from our pilgrimage, I was trying to rest and listening to these words-  

“Though man may strive to go beyond the reach of space
To crawl beyond the distant shim'ring stars
This world's a room so small within my Master's house
The open sky's but a portion of His yard

How big is God? How big and wide His vast domain
To try and tell, these lips can only start
He's big enough to rule His mighty universe
Yet small enough to live within my heart.”

Flying over Europe, supported by those Aluminum wings and sheltered by a thin layer of metal,  I listened to those words on my MP3,  thankful that I was really sheltered in the Loving Arms of God. ugh men may strife to go beyond the reap of spaceTo crawl beyond the distant shining stars

From the Mount of Beatitudes Looking Over a Misty Sea of Galilee
Holy Land Devotional Day 33

“Blessed are the Peacemakers”
       By Rev. G. Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UM Churches

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

How peaceful the lake looked – how beautiful the mount from which the Lord spoke.  It is hard to believe that we who had the opportunity to stand and gaze at the beauty of the scene have been back in our churches for over a month now.

We are back to reality.  But I hope never to forget the feeling I had standing where Jesus taught us to be peacemakers – Where he blessed the humble and “Poor in Spirit.”  I pray for that as each day brings us into an angry and war torn world.

I pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem” where the news reports anger and rocks and tear gas.   I pray for peace for those caught around the world in theaters of war.   I pray for peace for the young men women who are giving up their lives for us.  And, I pray for peace for their families who wait and worry.

The prophet Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."

“Dear Lord,

Help us to ever be humble messengers of the Prince of Peace.  ~    Amen” 

“OUR GOD REIGNS”

Holy Land Devotional Day 34

photos by Lynn Wolf
The Via Dolorosa “The Way of Sorrow” by Rev. Heidi Bak, Porchtown UMC

The Via Dolorosa or “Way of Sorrow” winds along the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City.  Pictured above is a typical hallway/stairway that you travel and the Fifth of fourteen stations marked along the route.

This is the traditional route Jesus followed bearing His cross from Pilate’s Judgement Hall in the Antonia, to Calvary Hill or Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion.  The Fourteen Stations are:

1.  Jesus is condemned to death

2.  Jesus takes up his cross

3.  Jesus falls under the Cross for the first time

4.  Jesus meets his mother

5.  Simon the Cyrenian is forced to carry the Cross

6.  Veronica wipes the sweat from Jesus’ face

7.  Jesus falls for the second time

8.  Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem

9.  Jesus falls for the third time

10.  Jesus is stripped of his garments

11.  Jesus is nailed to the cross

12.  Jesus dies on the cross

13.  Jesus is taken down from the cross

14.  Jesus is laid in the Tomb

This was an incredibly powerful experience to walk and remember what Jesus Christ did for me, for us, for humanity.  But, there was something missing for me.  The final station remembers Jesus in the Tomb—but that is not the end of the story!! 

 We need to remember the living Jesus rises from the tomb.  Mark 16:6 says, “And the Angel said to the women: ‘He has risen.  He is not here.”  Christ has died.  Christ has risen.  Christ will come again. Alleluia

 How are you remembering Jesus walk this Lenten season?  Are you living in the light of the crucifixion or the resurrection? 

 

The Road Back to Zion – from the Mount of Olives to the Eastern Gate
Holy Land Devotional Day 35

“THE HOLY HIGHWAY”
                   By Rev G. Mel Dunn, Bridgeport & Centre Square UMCs

Luke 19:37-38  When Jesus was starting down the Mount of Olives, his large crowd of disciples were happy and praised God because of all the miracles they had seen. They shouted, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God."

Before we visited the temple mount, we spent time on the Mount of Olives, and I took this picture to remember the path Jesus took on that Palm Sunday so long ago. I took this picture because in Scripture the Mount of Olives was a special place for Jesus. He prayed there, He taught there, sometimes he slept there, He spent His last night there and was betrayed there by one of His trusted own. And, on Palm Sunday, His journey began there.

But, that is not the end of the story …  He is coming back there to stand and begin His rule of peace. 

I love the words from the Song “The Holy Highway”.

“There's a road called the holy highway that once was a desert land.
Very soon you'll hear the sound of a holy marching band and.
Everlasting joy upon them, there's a remnant strong and true.
We bring the song back to Zion; we bring the praise back to you.”

The Prophet Zechariah tells us,  

Zechariah14  “He will take his stand on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem, and the mountain will split in half, forming a wide valley that runs from east to west. Afterwards, the LORD my God will appear with his holy angels. It will be a bright day that won't turn cloudy.”   (selected verses)

“Lord help us to rejoice in your crossing the valley so long ago. But, help us to remember that you are coming back to rule and reign and help us always to be ready, keeping our lamps trimmed and filled with oil.   Amen”

 

The Judean Wilderness
Holy Land Devotional Day 36

                         The Temptation of Jesus

                      by Glen Scheyhing, Community UMC in Roselle Park, NJ

The area of Israel that struck me the most during my trip to Israel, is more than likely not on everybody’s Top-5 favorite list.  Beyond the human-made structures and all the human tourists, one of the “purest” areas for me was the Judean Wilderness.  Sure, it’s not much to look at, but the attached photo reveals that there is PLENTY to see.

Luke 4:1-2: “ 1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Jesus is led out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil.  For forty days and forty nights he eats nothing and becomes very hungry.”
 

The closest thing for citizens of the United States to see and understand desolation, I believe is the Grand Canyon.   Like the Grand Canyon of western US, the Judean Wilderness of the Middle East still exists in its rugged state.  Life surviving in this rugged terrain is unimaginable.

However, our Lord survived in this barren wilderness of Judea—though likely not the exact location—for an extended period of time with no food.  I’m glad Jesus conquered Satan’s temptation, suffered, and died for me, for all humanity.  We can have victory because of Jesus Christ.  As the song by Mercy Me goes, “I Can Only Imagine.”  What areas are you tempted daily?  Have  you called on the power of the Holy Spirit for victory as Jesus did?

The Umayyad Palace along the walls of the Temple Mount
Holy Land Devotional Day 37

                                       The Church Built on a Rock

by Mel Dunn, Bridgeport and Centre Square UMCs

On the day we visited the temple mount, I tried to remember as much as I could to share with my congregation and my family. I was especially drawn to the beautiful Umayyad Palace along the walls of the temple mount built by the Turks around 650 AD.  It made a beautiful picture. I admired the symmetry and the arrangement of the plants but I was more fascinated by the stones that were used – some as old as 2500 years and taken from those used in the Second Temple.

Then I remembered the verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 

“Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone,” and I ask myself,  “How do you build a church – a church built on a rock?”

A church that can stand the test of time is surely  “A CHURCH BUILT ON A ROCK.”  We have to build with Christ the corner stone our guide and director. With the foundation being the “Whole Counsel of God” which is the teachings of the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus himself.  We have to read and study the “Book”.

Photo of the Upper Room by Lynn Wolf
Holy Land Devotional Day 38

        Maundy Thursday - The Last Supper
                  By Rev. Heidi M. Bak, Porchtown Zion UMC, Franklinville, NJ

The Last Supper:  Luke 22:7-13   “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover." 9"Where do you want us to prepare for it?" they asked. 10He replied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there." They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

Jesus prepared both Himself and His disciples for His death. He gave the Passover meal a new meaning. The loaf of bread and cup of wine represented His body soon to be sacrificed and His blood soon to be shed. And so He instituted the “Lord’s Supper.”

Scripture: Matt. 26:26-28 ... Luke 22: 19 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins...do this in remembrance of me.”

How are you preparing yourself to receive the body and blood of the Lord through communion? 

Prayer: “Dear Lord, as I take the bread and juice, please help me understand Jesus’  message before it is too late.  Amen”

Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Holy Land Devotional Day 39

(left) The Anointing Stone and (right) The Place of Crucifixion - photos by Greg Milinovich

CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

                         By Rev. Heidi Bak, Porchtown Zion UMC, Franklinville, NJ

One of the most holiest shrines in Christendom is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built over the Crucifixion of Jesus on Golgotha as well as the Tomb of Jesus where he was resurrected. This church was first built by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD and dedicated in 335 AD.

Just inside the entrance of the church, is the anointing stone “the Stone of Unicion.”  It is the place upon which the body of Jesus was placed, anointed with ointments and wrapped in a linen shroud, the common preparation for burial among the Jews.

Luke 23: 32-34 “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

Words cannot describe the incredible changes in my life because of my Holy Land Pilgrimage.  I truly appreciated connecting the scriptures to the antiquity of the land. The sea of Galilee, the Judean Wilderness and the Garden of Gethsemane were more natural, easier for me to picture Jesus’ life & ministry. 

While I appreciated the ornate-ness, detail and beauty of many of the churches, especially the one pictured above, I felt disconnected.  How could something so awful as our Lord and Savior nailed to the cross for our sins, be portrayed so ornately?  As I reflect during these last days of Lent, maybe I’ve been too disconnected from the cross in emotional, relational and spiritual ways. Maybe, I too, have allowed the crucifixion to be pretty and have lost the heart of what Christ did for me on Calvary. How about you?

Holy Land Devotional Day 40

                                                      Have you met the Resurrected Jesus?

                                       By Rev. Tom Austin, Deerfield, UMC

                                                        Mark 16:5-7

"As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "  (NIV)

                                                  Don’t Just Stand There

"The women were looking for the body of Jesus but they found the tomb empty. In their shock they saw a young man in a white robe. He told them that Jesus has risen. He showed them the empty tomb and then told them to go and tell the others what they have seen."

This Easter, when you experience the empty tomb and the living Christ, who are you going to tell? Who are you going to share with that you have met the resurrected Jesus?

 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)





 
  
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