Monday, June 19, 2017

I'm Still Here, So I'm Not Done (This is long today -- so much to tell you about!)

Our first stop yesterday was the Mount of Olives where our Lord ascended into heaven. Before I left home in Texas, I sensed I needed to get all my documents together and in order should something happen to me while I was in Israel -- specifically, if God wanted to ascend me directly to heaven from the Mount of Olives, I was ready to go. LOL! But, I'm still here, so I'm not done. God has work for me to do and this pilgrimage has inspired me so much, I'm chomping at the bit to spread the good news of our Lord's life and all He did for our salvation.

This first photo is Rimon, our amazing tour guide. Yesterday he was sporting a Texas A&M ball cap and today it was Texas Longhorns. He aims to please his Texas pilgrims -- LOL! Those from New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas are still waiting to see what he has for them!

There isn't a specific spot identified as the place of Jesus' ascension, except that it was from the Mount of Olives. Our tour guide, Rimon, gave us this scripture from Acts 1:10-11 "He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him. As they strained to see Him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” There are three religions that dominate this country: Muslim, Jew, Christians. And each of them are looking for the Messiah to come, but we know our Messiah died, was buried, arose and ascended into heaven. Our Lord is risen and He sits at the right hand of the Father. How reasuring it is, that He was one of us, understands us so well, and now, and one day will take us home to be with Him forever.

The Lord's Prayer was in tiles all around this church in 164 languages. We sang "The Lord's Prayer" from our hearts of thanksgiving. Then we walked to the area where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We were shown the Dome of the Rock, the Eastern Gate, the Russian Church, and the mosque that was built after the temple was destoryed. It was in that temple that Jesus, at age 12, amazed the priests with his knowledge of the Word. Ramone led us, then, in a walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. This was my favorite spot today. Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew Word for Olive Press.

Gethsemane is where Jesus took the same witnesses of His transfiguration on Mount Tabor, Peter, James and John, to the garden with Him to pray. Their spirits were willing but their flesh was weak, and couldn't stay awake. The gorgeous Sanctuary of Gethsemane (Church of the Nations) enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. (Mark 14:32-42). It was so humbling to kneel before that rock, place my hand on it and know this was the beginning of Christ's ultimate price for my salvation.

To say we were touched, puts it mildly -- that our Lord knew what was ahead for Himself and those He loved and served just couldn't stay awake for Him. You can see in the photo below how so emotionally taken these two men were with this experience. We were amazed that there are trees in Gethsemane that are still in the garden from when Jesus was here.

It was lunchtime and we loaded up in the bus, but we had a short and sweet stop before lunch. The owner, Moses, of the Inspiration Tours in Houston's 92-year old father, Gabriel, lives here in Jerusalem and every tour that comes here, he wants to meet and give gifts. He blessed the two priests with us with a Jerusalem stole and wooden Jerusalem cross and he had special medals made, that were unlike anything in any store, and gave one to each person in our group. The medal has 2 fish on it from Jesus' miracle of feeding the 5000+ and 5 crosses like the Jerusalem cross. He said, "Keep it close to your hearts to remember to pray for the Christians in the Holy Land."

He was precious and said: "Thank you for coming to this spot. This is where early pilgrims came and reached the top of this hill -- the city wall of old Jerusalem. Joy filled their hearts as they recited Psalm 122 "I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up—the tribes of the Lord to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you. ”For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity." He went on to say, "Thank you for having the courage to come to this spot of the world in spite of what you've been seeing in the news. Thank you for putting your trust in the Lord. Remember to pray. Prayer means PEACE. Receive a PIECE of the Lord and receive the PEACE of the Lord. Elohim (God) is in Jerusalem in all these holy places. An empty tomb is here to prove He is alive. Now, you say "The empty tomb and I have Him alive in me!" Gabriel certainly blessed us with his love and generosity.

We headed to the restaurant owned by our tour guide's uncle (his father's brother), Askadinya Restaurant. It was delicious -- lots of salads and chicken and rice! We have been fed so well!

After lunch we went to the chapel of the Franciscans for our Mass and communion. It wasn't the Upper Room, but we celebrated as though it were. The Upper Room is where Jesus and His disciples had their Last Supper together and that is when Jesus' instituted communion for us. How sweet was God's presence today. We were encouraged to renew our commitment to our Lord, and without hesitation, I'm quite sure we've been renewing our commitment every time we enter these holy places.

Then we went to the Dormition Abbey, a German Roman Catholic Church and Benedictine Abbey that is dedicated to the place where Mary, Mother of Jesus, passed away.

Then we went to The Upper Room, but in reality, no one really knows exactly where that is, but this is the agreed upon most acceptable location. We celebrated that the Upper Room is where Jesus showed Himself to be the greatest servant of all.

Our pilgrimage then took us to the Saint-Peter-in-Gallicantu Church which is built in the slopes of Mount Zion. According to tradition, this was the place of the palace of high priest Caiaphas, where Jesus was brought to jail after his arrest. Its name (Gallicantu, means the cock's crow) is given after the story of Peter's triple denial of Christ and the cock crowing twice.
Here it was that Jesus was dragged and flogged 39 times from Gethsemane to here. Our tour guide showed us what that looked like in these photos, and lastly they dumped him into this pit and continued to flog and beat him. I scarce can take this all in as I have watched movies of Christ's torture and death, but to be here where it happened, is overwhelming. You'll see the steps here that Jesus had to take. How befitting that we sang, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Tomorrow, we will arise at 4:15 am to go to the Via Delorosa -- the path to Calvary. My heart is full of love for my Lord and Savior. Indescribable, uncontainable love -- He put the stars in the sky and was willing to suffer and die for me.

Thank You Lord for my salvation.