It’s finally here. We’ve been planning this for over a year and I can’t it is now time to go. This trip fulfills a promise to Sara after I was there seventeen years ago when she couldn’t go and it was always a dream for her to do so. We decided to take along some of our friends, so tomorrow Sara and i will depart for Israel and join 39 others from around the world for a ten-day tour of Israel. We’ll not just be viewing the sights, but we’ll also be sharing all that God has done here to invite men and women into a growing trust in a loving Father and why it was so important of all the places in the world to do it in the land we know as Israel.
Here God made himself known through the patriarchs and prophets of Israel and then through the Incarnation of his own Son. Throughout the whole story of redemption, God keeps trying to rescue humanity out of the brokenness of a fallen creation and humanity either resists him or continually seeks to exploit him by creating religious rules and rituals that diminish his reality even as they profess to honor him. In that sense Israel is a land of great contrasts. We will be at the tomb where the patriarchs were buried, the caves where David hid from King Saul, the mountain where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, on the Sea where Jesus calmed the storm, the garden where he prayed, and in the prison cell where he spent the night before his crucifixion. But we’ll also see the arrogant, excessive, and soul-numbing intrusion of religion in this landscape, where every religious group in the world seeks to have a presence and in the name of celebrating the God of the universe fight each other with firm resolve. We will see in stark terms the emptiness of religion and the glory of God being revealed in the earth in the new creation Jesus inaugurated when he was here.
And where will we see that new creation best? Will it be at the garden tomb or the Wailing Wall? The Mt. of Beatitudes or along the Jordan. I don’t think so. The new creation makes its way into the world in the hearts and lives of people who are discovering who God is. This new creation will be evident in conversations on the bus, over meals, and in the scores of locations we’ll visit. Knowing those who are coming and the journeys they are on I anticipate the new creation emerging in the relationships that people from four different continents will share over the course of these ten days. New friendships will form, insights and encouragements will be shared, and God will make himself known in the diversity of people he brings together affirming the wider work he is doing in the world that includes us all.
I wish everyone reading this could join us, but that would have taken a really, big bus and been completely unmanageable. Honestly, I’ve put off doing this for years because I didn’t know if I knew enough people who could afford the time and expense of going. I’m glad these were able to pull it off, some having saved for years just for such an opportunity. I hope all of you find a way to come sometime. It’s more than you’d ever dream. God is no more present there than he is in your home, but to actually stand where some of the major events in God’s redemptive history took place will change something in you and help your understanding of Scripture come alive.
You can follow our itinerary here. We’ve got some gifted photographers along and we’ll try to share some of those photos on this blog and on the Lifestream Facebook Page when we get a chance. That depends, of course, on time available as well as wi-fi access.
People are already asking if we’re planning to do this again next year and my answer today is I don’t think so. My daughter is already pressing for me to do it again when her kids are a bit older and she can go, but I don’t want to be that guy that leads an Israel tour every year. I’m much more interested in helping building up the church all over the world where people are learning to live in his life. But you never know. If this turns out to be a powerful time helping people make connections that bear the fruit of his kingdom, I’ll may consider doing another one somewhere up the road.
I do enjoy watching God draw lines of connection and relationship in his body, especially internationally. That’s a lot of why I do the travel I do. So as we celebrate these days with a small slice of the church, we will be thinking of that larger body that is emerging all over the earth as people learn to live in the love of a gracious Father.