Every Christian who takes a journey to the Holy Land experiences life change—especially if they prepare for the tour. I don’t mean we learn some secret that stops our struggling. The change occurs another way.
A Holy Land tour exposes us to the context of the Bible in a way we never imagined. We gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Word of God. And God uses Scripture to change us.
We face the stack of bills. The yard that needs mowed. The bloated inbox at work. And our luggage has two weeks’ full of dirty laundry. Suddenly, the benefits of your trip to Israel get shoved to the back of a full plate called “life.”
You’ve invested a lot in your Holy Land tour—both in finances and in time—far too much to lose those benefits to the tyranny of the urgent.
After taking and leading many trips to Israel, I have discovered these 7 ways to keep the benefits of a Holy Land tour.
I am excited about serving as a Bible teacher on one of the buses for the Insight for Living 2014 Israel Tour. We’ll also have an optional pre-tour extension to the Red Sea and southern Israel. See the details below and plan to join me in Israel.
Your pastor likely has never seen the places he preaches about each week: the holy city of Jerusalem, the waves on the Sea of Galilee, the rocky slopes of the Judean wilderness.
To him, these names may be mere words on the pages of his Bible—places he’s experienced only in his mind’s eye through pictures, Bible atlases, and travel videos.
(Photo: Me standing on Kypros in the Judean Wilderness. Pic by James Foo)
To be sure, many truths in Scripture we have to accept by faith. But the lands of the Bible are still there to see. The places where Jesus walked, taught, and healed haven’t moved—nor are they inaccessible. They stand ready to offer a greater understanding of and love for the Word of God.
I know, because it happened to me.
I was a senior pastor when my wife and I first journeyed to Israel. The experience radically opened my eyes to Scripture, and to my surprise, I discovered it greatly enhanced my pastoral ministry. I decided to research whether or not my experience was unique.
What I discovered amazed me. Here’s why you should send your pastor to Israel.
We live in an age where avoiding obstacles, traveling great distances, and finding something to drink no longer prove a challenge.
With a transportation system that requires little more than a basic understanding of road signs and airline gates, our world gives little attention to the importance of geography.
But think about the times you visit a place you’ve never been before. It’s all strange.
(Photo: Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee)
The unfamiliar landmarks, the sudden turns, and the unexpected potholes are impediments to your progress. It’s the same with Bible study.
Those of us who seek to understand the meaning of the Bible strongly believe in interpreting a passage in its context. But context is more than words. When one reads the Bible, it becomes clear how geography is the stage on which the redemptive narrative takes place.
The land God chose was not arbitrary, for He designed even the land itself to develop the spiritual lives of His people. The land was never intended to be just a place to live.
It wasn’t the beauty of the Jordan River that inspired centuries of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to include it in their verses.
Its significance began as a simple geographic barrier, which—practically speaking—represented a border (Joshua 22:18-25). In fact, the serpentine river still represents a border between Israel and the nation of Jordan.
In Scripture, however, the river’s presence on Israel’s eastern edge stood as an enduring metaphor of transitions.
Oddness just comes in different flavors. They’re called “traditions.”
Jews pray with their heads covered; we take our hats off.
Their prayers are public and loud and showy; ours are private and quiet and restrained.
They rock back and forth and mumble from a book; we bow our heads, close our eyes and utter unrehearsed words.
It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.
Blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling or jumping—with no personal relationship with the true God, and it’s totally pointless.
Maybe we Christians should open our eyes during prayer for a change.
You’ve finally decided to take a spiritual journey to the Holy Land—to the land of the Bible. I can promise you, you won’t come home from Israel the same!
But there’s something else you need to know.
(Photo: the aqueduct at Caesarea)
You already realize you are investing a lot of money this trip, and you want to make the most of your time. But you will get twice as much out of your Holy Land tour if you’ll also invest some time preparing for it.
Here are some ways that will help you maximize your trip—by preparing mentally, practically, physically, and spiritually.
Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, we pulled off Highway 1 into the parking lot of the Elvis American Diner (a.k.a. “Elvis Inn”). I exited the motor coach and looked up beneath the 16-foot-tall bronze likeness of The King. (Elvis was Jewish, I’m told.)