Israel by Hannah Walters

Last February I had the chance to go to Israel. Experiencing new cultures and seeing different landscapes is something I love. However, Israel was never on my list of places to visit. I grew up hearing about Israel in the bible and as an adult I read about Israel in the news. It didn't appear to me as a beautiful tourist destination or even a safe place to take a journey. I'm not Jewish and I'm not a pastor so the religious significance didn't draw me in either. However, an opportunity arose to travel to Israel with a group of friends from church and I decided it would probably be fun. Little did I know how much my time in Israel would impact me.

During our week long adventure in Israel we traveled by giant tour bus all over the country. We had the most phenomenal guide who knew more about His country and biblical/historical sites than I thought was possible. Our days were filled to the brim with the most incredible opportunities including standing on the Mount of Beatitudes imagining Jesus teaching to a multitude of people, taking a sunset boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, watching Jewish women pour their hearts out in great emotion at the Wailing Wall, spending time in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and floating on the Dead Sea on a scorching afternoon. I went to sleep beyond exhausted and yet completely refreshed every night.

People have asked what my favorite place or part of the trip was and for the life of me I cannot narrow it down. Each day held a moment where I was brought to tears or had a revelation about God or His word. A sight that brought significant insight for me personally was Caesarea Philippi. The history behind it is full of unimaginable darkness and evil. A cave we glimpsed from a distance was the spot young girls (age 3-4) were sacrificed to appease false gods. It was referred to as the “gates of hell" and in Matthew 16 Jesus brought his disciples there. (Which is an incredible reminder that Jesus enters into dark places. But that's another conversation.) Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter responds that He is the Messiah and Jesus tells him, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.” (Matt 16:18) Now, after visiting and understanding more background of this passage I see Jesus full of confidence and authority pointing to that cave and saying, "I'm not scared of that. I've come to overcome that evil." And then dropping the mic and walking away. Jesus knew how to make a point. I was fired up and excited after my time in Caesarea Philippi because I realized that same authority lives in me as a believer. I do not need to walk in fear. I will not be overcome.

Now that I am back home I find myself reading the Bible or listening to sermons and truly understanding them better. It makes more sense to me now. I can picture the places I am reading about because I've been there. I understand cultural references and religious laws/rituals better because I immersed myself in the culture for a week. Honestly, the best way I know how to describe it is that I was reading the Bible in black and white and now it's alive in vibrant colors. What a life changing trip. I believe it's a journey any Christian would experience growth from. In fact, I pray that I get to return one day again. It was that good. It was that special. Please, let me encourage you to pray about joining the next group traveling to Israel. I am confident you will not be disappointed.

You can get more information about the next trip to Israel at lifepointnow.com/israel

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