By Gail Flynn
I am traveling back to Israel because I want to see God.
Not my comfortable American God—Jesus with children on his lap, familiar Father who provides for my needs when I call for help on icy roads or in the middle of a feverish night. I love the God I know, the God of grace who comforts and saves, but I seek to know him more deeply.
Being in Israel compels me to shift my perspective of God who called Abraham to leave his home and travel to a land promised to him and his descendants. Physically being in this place today exposes details—sights, sounds, connections—that arouse unexpected understandings about God which are impossible to realize any other way.
Traveling through Israel’s southern desert, I saw the dry, thorny bushes in a grey dusty landscape where Hagar laid Ishmael and called out to El Roi (the god who sees) to save her son. Why should Abraham’s god hear the voice of a female slave?
It’s here that I was overwhelmed by the mercy of the God who saves us even in the midst of our mistakes, failures and sin. El Roi reaches out to us today, even when we are in desert places in our lives. On this trip, we will ride Bedouin camels into the desert to see God from a new (and old) perspective.
It’s here that I was overwhelmed by the mercy of the God who saves us even in the midst of our mistakes, failures and sin.
From the Dead Sea and the desert to the green northern forests and waterfalls of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus walked and thousands followed after him. At the Sea of Galilee, I visited little towns and sat on the hillside where Jesus multiplied loaves and fish, healed, and taught the people to see true blessings. In the crowds of pilgrims gathered at these places today I could see the people who pursued Jesus seeking hope and healing.
When we travel to Israel this spring, we will see crowds—taking pictures, praying, singing—and realize that people still yearn to draw close to Jesus and feel his love. In the quiet and in the crowds you will feel his presence in this place.
You can also almost hear his voice on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem. Climbing these uneven steps at the southern entrance to the Temple, I saw how they were designed to slow the progress and focus the minds of the thousands who entered this holy place singing the Psalms of Ascent.
I will remember those psalms when we visit these ancient steps, and I’ll hear singing in languages of today’s pilgrims from around the world. I will add my prayers to theirs as I touch the stones where Peter spoke and the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, and where he still moves hearts today to reveal God in unexpected ways.
There is so much more that I want to see in Israel, so much I don’t have time to mention here. But I have to tell about Daniel, a Jewish man who led our group in Nazareth Village on our last trip.
He talked about coming to faith in Jesus and through him I came to a new understanding of the incredible joy and excitement of Jesus’ disciples, who were willing to face rejection by their culture and to leave their homes because the truth they had discovered spilled out from them in words and miracles.
When we go to Israel in May, we’ll meet Christians in Jerusalem who take Muslim children who need heart surgeries to Jewish doctors who help to heal them. These Christians of Shevet Achim go into Iraq, Jordan, and even Gaza to demonstrate Jesus’ love and mercy to people who don’t know him. We will have the opportunity to talk with them, hear their experiences, and ask questions about the people they visit.
These Christians of Shevet Achim go into Iraq, Jordan, and even Gaza to demonstrate Jesus’ love and mercy to people who don’t know him.
There is so much to hear about Israel, so please come to the Flynn home on Sunday, January 18, 4pm, to find out more. And if God is moving your heart, please join us on our pilgrimage to Israel in May. If you want to see God you will, it’s his promise: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13
You can check out the itinerary at http://www.pilgrimtours.com/groups/stlukeisrael.htm