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One of the places that you may visit if you visit Northern Israel is Caesarea Philippi. It is where Jesus asked His disciples the pointed question, “Who do you say that I am? and of course, it is where Peter responded, “You are the Christ!”

But Caesarea Philippi is largely a pagan spot. It is also known as Banias (or Panias).  It was made famous in ancient times for being where the Greek god, Pan, was said to have visited a nearby spring. During those days, Pan worship was prevalent here.

What I enjoy about Caesarea Philippi is the abundance of living water. Water literally comes out of the rocks. The pictures below give you an idea.

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At the time Jesus and His disciples visited Caesarea Philippi it would have been a city filled with temples to a variety of pagan gods including those of the Greeks and Romans. Only the ruins of some of those temples and others built later remain today.  See the photos below of some images of the ruins and the cave of Pan.

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Temple of Pan

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Caesarea Phillip (1)

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Caesarea Philippi (2)

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Caesarea Philippi (3)

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Caesarea Philippi (4)

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Cave of Pan (Caesarea Philippi)

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a lone tree
clings to the banks of the raging river
leaves tossed
boughs bent
daily tested by the elements

its roots dig deeper
holding the tree to the shore
security sought in the deep rich soil

how the barren tree during the storm
its leaves blown off

how ugly the tree
its bark patched
its branches twisted

but the clouds disperse
the sun greets the little tree
coaxing it heavenward

by the time the warmth of Spring arrives
the tree is covered in green buds
a promise of many leaves and much fruit

References:
Psalm 1:3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

Job 23:10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
Copyright MaryBeth Mullin

 

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For He has rescued us and has drawn us to Himself from the dominion of darkness, and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Colossians 1:13 (AMP)

Sometimes the short verses can pack a big wallop. Colossians 1:13 is such a verse. As I unpack it, I find

Rescue
He rescued us. It is a completed work. But why was it necessary? Because we were in danger. We needed help. We couldn’t save or help ourselves.

Relationship
He didn’t stop at pulling us out of the mirey clay, back from the abyss. He drew us to Himself. He sought closeness with us, relationship with us. This, I would suggest, is the heart of God. He desires to be in relationship with us.

Relocation
He didn’t leave us where we were. God relocated us. He took us from the dominion of darkness–where we were threatened–to the Kingdom of His Son (Jesus). In the kingdom of His Son, our sins have been paid for. In the kingdom of His Son, I am an adopted son, I am grafted in to a rich history with God and a future that has no end.

Hallelujah!

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So you know you have a fabulous tour guide when you get into a site that isn’t open to the public yet.

We were able to get a brief look at the Pilgrim’s Passageway in February of this year. The passageway is being excavated under a street in an Arab neighborhood close to the city of David. There is quite a stir and much excitement among archaeology and Bible history buffs about this discovery.

The Pilgrim’s Passageway leads from the pool of Siloam up to the Temple. Pilgrims coming to give their sacrifices would have made their way along this paved road in the 1st century. It would have been a route that Jesus could have taken when coming into the city and making His way to the Temple.

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Pilgrim’s Passageway Jerusalem

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It is clear in the pictures that the ceiling had to be braced with steel brackets. Above the passageway are homes and a street. In the picture above, you can see the small booths that lined the passageway where vendors sold their goods to pilgrims entering the city.

The project has been slowed recently because a large portion of the passageway was gone and either needs to be restored or other provisions made before the site can be opened to the public. Despite all that is going on in the world today, in Jerusalem and all over Israel, the past is coming to light.

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4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

It is in times of trouble we most need a reminder to rejoice. It is more natural to rejoice when things are going well, when we are being blessed, experiencing success, and healthy. It is far different and more challenging to rejoice when we are afraid, isolated, or sick.

But God in His wisdom has commanded that we should rejoice in the Lord always. We are not rejoicing in the trouble, but in the One who is able to protect us and guide us through the trouble.

Rejoice Always
Does always really mean always? Yes. But we are not just rejoicing–we are rejoicing in the Lord. He is always good and always sovereign. He is always with us.

Paul repeats it. Because it is worth repeating. It is a super truth. It is a truth that stands the test of time and circumstance. It is a truth that is virus-proof.

Be Gentle
He goes on to say that we should let our gentleness be obvious–visible to others. We should be known as gentle. They should see Jesus in me, gracious, gentle, unselfish, merciful, tolerant and patient just to name a few of His character traits. When everyone else is falling apart, panicking, self-seeking, self-preserving and out for their own interests, we should be visibly and audibly gentle.

Let Nothing cause You to Lose Faith
Paul tells us, “be anxious for nothing.” Does he really mean nothing? Maybe if he were here with us watching this virus take over nations, crush healthcare systems, take lives, he might said something different . . . No he wouldn’t.

We are to be anxious for nothing because there is no real threat to us. Nothing that can separate us from the love of God. There is no person, no principality, no circumstance, and no illness or disease that can separate us from the love of God. And if the Ruler of the Universe loves you and me, what is there really to worry about. He spoke it all into existence, and He can surely take care of us. We need to banish fear. We need to feed faith. We need to do all to stand in this day.

Prayer is the cure. By prayer and supplication and making our requests (and our fears) known to God, we engage in the great exchange. We give our concerns to God and He gives us peace–a type of peace not available in the world–the peace that passes understanding–peace from God. This peace that God gives us will protect us. It will protect our minds. It will allow us to grow in faith. It will allow us to stand.

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In the tall cliffs above the Salt Sea (aka the Dead Sea) there are openings in the cliffs barely visible from the road passing below. The openings lead to caves. In the caves, the members of an ancient Jewish community, hid scrolls on which were written portions of the Hebrew Bible as well as extensive writings about the life in the religious community.

The scrolls, the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible, were discovered in the 1940’s right around the time Israel was being established and Jews were returning to Israel from all over the world. The discovery of the scrolls at this time was more than mere coincidence. The writings reinforce the claims of legitimacy of the Jewish people in the land. The writings further confirm the authenticity of scripture for Christians as well as Jews.

The photos above give you an idea of the geography of Qumran. These photos are taken in the wetter part of the year, and yet there is little greenery. The only fresh water in this area comes from the ravines which bring water from the north of Israel after the rains. The openings in the rocks evident in some of the photos are caves similar to and in which the scrolls were found.

The photos above are from the excavations of the Jewish community near the base of the cliffs where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. They appear to have been a religious group. This conclusion is based on the finding of several Mikva’ot (plural of Mikveh). The Mikva’ot are used for bathing, part of the Jewish practice of ritual purification. The occurrence of several in a community speaks of the important of ritual purity to the group. In addition to the Mikva’ot, remains of very large cisterns, used to collect and store water for the long periods without rain-water run off, have been excavated.

In the photos above, you can also see part of the water system which has been discovered which provides further support for the importance of water to their religious practices as well as their experience with collecting and storing water because of the geography and lack of nearby fresh water sources.

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Isaiah 65

Read Isaiah Chapter 65
1. Who is God talking about in Isaiah 65:1? How do you know?

2. What do you learn from the following verses?
□ Romans 9:24-26, 30
□ Romans 10:20
□ Ephesians 2:12-13
□ Deuteronomy 32:21

3. Who is God talking about in Isaiah 65:2-5? How do you know?

4. What did Jesus have to say to people similar to those described in Isaiah 65:5?
□ Matthew 9:9-13
□ Matthew 23:13-38

□ Mark 7:1-13

□ Luke 18:9-14

5. To whom is God speaking in Isaiah 65:6-7? What is He promising?

6. What is God promising in Isaiah 65:8-10? To whom?

7. Who is God speaking to in Isaiah 65:11-16? What is He promising them?

8. What is being described in Isaiah 65:17-25?

9. What do you learn from the following verses?
□ 2 Peter 3:13

□ Revelation 21:1

10. Copy Isaiah 65:24 here. Meditate on this verse. What comes to mind?

 

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