Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Beyond Bethany Tours: Baptism at Bethany

Beyond Bethany Tours

Baptism in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized.

Temple within the Church of Mnt. Nebo

Study the Bible & Qur’an:
A Christian Perspective
Teacher Josh has both a Masters of Divinity and Masters in TESOL. 

Have you ever wondered what the Qur’an and Bible have in common? 
Did you know that Jesus, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and many other 
biblical characters are found in the pages of the Qur’an? 
Join Facebook group called “Study the Bible and the Qur’an.” 
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Bible resources: 
  1. Berean Interlinear Bible:
Qur’an resources: 

  1. Corpus of the Qur’an:

Thursday, December 6, 2018

It Is Well With My Soul

The American Colony Hotel Jerusalem 

American Colony Hotel

Horatio Spafford was an American Lawyer and Presbyterian church elder best known for the old hymn he wrote, "It Is Well With My Soul." What many don't know is the story behind this hymn and Spafford's relation to the Holy Land. In 1873, Spafford decided to take his family on a European vacation and chose England because his good friend, D.L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. He was delayed due to business, but sent his wife and four daughters ahead. On November 22, 1873 while crossing the Atlantic, the ship was struck by another vessel and 226 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. Only his wife Anna survived. Upon her arrival to England, she sent Spafford a telegram that simply said, "Saved alone." When Horatio Spafford sailed across the Atlantic to meet his wife in England, he went directly over the area in which his daughters had lost their lives. Heartbroken and shattered, he looked to God and out of his anguish composed the beautiful song we now know today, "It Is Well With My Soul."
Horatio Spafford 

Horatio Spafford

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrow like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin not in part, but the whole.
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Returning to the states, the Spaffords later felt like outsiders among their congregation. How many other Christians have felt out of place in the American church after suffering deep tragedy? The Spaffords left their Presbyterian congregation and began holding meetings in their own home, later naming the group "The Overcomers." In 1881, the Spaffords, along with 13 other adults from this group moved to Jerusalem and set up what became known as the American Colony. The group quickly gained the trust of the local Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities due to their philanthropic endeavors among the people of Jerusalem. They worked with and helped people, regardless of their religious affiliation and without proselytizing motives. Instead, choosing to live out and show the true meaning of love (I Corinthians 13).

Today in Jerusalem, you can visit the American Colony Hotel started by this group. It is a 5-star hotel that was originally built in the 1870's by Ottoman, Pasha Rabbah Daoud Amin Effendi Al-Hussein for his four wives. In 1895, he sold it the group of American Christians who had come over with the Spaffords. In the early 1900's, the building was turned into a hotel. Today, the hotel is located between east and west Jerusalem, and is often the preferred hotel by many diplomats, politicians, and foreign correspondents. Famous guests include Lawrence of Arabia, Bob Dylan, and Tony Blair. Enduring countless challenges, the hotel has always been known locally as a neutral island, remaining outside the turbulent politics that surround it. Owned by neither Arabs nor Jews, but by Americans, British and Swedes, it has always had friends from all sectors of Jerusalem’s mixed society. Unlike any other place in the region, this hotel has become an oasis where Jews and Arabs can comfortably meet, and a favorite haven for international journalists, high-ranking officers of the United Nations, and diplomats from across the world. Is there any place else in the Middle East where these three groups can come together amicably? The American Colony Hotel is now managed by the hotels of Switzerland, but it is still owned and run by the descendants of the original founders.
Horatio Spafford's headstone in Mount Zion
Cemertery, Jerusalem.

The Spaffords also retained their former home in the Old City and used it for charitable purposes, providing care to needy children over the decades. Today it houses the Spafford Children's Center, which runs medical care and infant welfare for local children. Horatio Spafford died in 1888, and today you can visit his grave in Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem, outside the old city walls on the southwestern slope of Mt. Zion which can be reached after passing Jerusalem University College.

Down through the ages, Horatio Spafford's faith and endurance continues to live on every time we sing his beloved, inspired hymn. This family went on to build a legacy, showing love and care to people of all religious backgrounds, building a bridge of peace in one of the most explosive countries in the world. May it serve as a reminder to us, how God can use the darkest moments in our life to launch us into our greatest destiny and change the world. Truly, it is well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Holy Land Devotional: Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi
Ein Gedi, which translates from Hebrew to “spring of the kid (goat)” is the largest oasis located near Masada and the Qumran Caves. Ein Gedi is watered by four springs. The fresh water makes this a fertile place and has been since ancient times. It provides a cool and refreshing refuge in the Judean Desert. When you stand at Ein Gedi, surrounded by lush greenery and waterfalls, you will also see the dry and desolate desert surrounding, and the salty waters of the Dead Sea about a mile away.

Ein Gedi has sustained jungle-like greenery for thousands of years and it was a prominent location for multiple events of the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis and all the way to Song of Solomon. Perhaps the most well known story of Ein Gedi can be found in 1 Samuel when David fled to the strongholds of Ein Gedi for protection from Saul (1020 BC). Ein Gedi was a place of refuge and rest.

1 Samuel 23:26-24:2

26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Ein Gedi. 1 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Ein gedi.Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats' Rocks.

Rewinding a few decades (1400 BC), Ein Gedi is listed in the book of Joshua as a city of the Tribe of
Judah. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they were condemned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience. If you have visited the wilderness, you know how vast, empty and depressing it would have been to be stuck there for forty years. 

But then a new leader was chosen to lead the next generation into the Promised Land. The book of Joshua begins with God calling Joshua to lead the Israelites, and then spends the first 12 chapters detailing their conquests. Beginning in chapter 13, he divides the conquered land among the 12 tribes of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. The tribe of Judah, from which will come the lineage of Jesus, was apportioned much of the southern region of Israel which included Ein Gedi.

An otherwise colorless landscape, Ein Gedi is a vibrant patch of green and therefore came to symbolize not only beauty, but also that which stands out as unique. David's son Solomon mentioned it "a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi." Solomon 1:14

Throughout ancient times, the oasis of Ein Gedi has offered relief and refuge to the weary travelers, and still today to the locals and tourists. The surrounding desert has struggled to support life since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Ein Gedi has continued to produce water, lush greenery, and life for thousands of years as a testimony to God's grace. Often God does the same thing in our own lives doesn't He? Out of life's destruction and barren deserts, He always offers a place of refuge, an oasis of hope, and eventual relief from the dryness of the desert.

By: Nannette Cropsey
*Material from Wellington Church Devotional, Kentucky.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Holy Land Devotional: The Jordan River

The Jordan River today.

Jordan River

The Jordan River is perhaps one of the most significant rivers for Judaism and Christianity. The river is 156 miles long and flows north to south, through both the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. Israel and the West Bank lie on the west side of the river, and Jordan and the Golan Heights border the east.*

In the Old Testament, the Jordan River was the point of crossing for the Israelites as they were lead from the wilderness into the Promised Land. The Jordan River has often been referenced as a metaphor for freedom. It is also considered a place of healing, a place of anointing, and the start of new ministries. In the New Testament, it was in the Jordan River that John the Baptist was baptizing and preaching of the coming Messiah. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist there on the east side of the river, which is in modern day Jordan. You can visit the actual baptism site and even be baptized.

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.[a]” So John agreed to baptize him.16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were
What is believed to be the actual baptism site of Jesus in Jordan.
opened[b] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

It was also in the Jordan River the military leader, Naaman washed in order to be healed of his leprosy, as instructed by the prophet Elisha (880 BC).*

II Kings 5:11-14

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Finally, we can deduce the Jordan River was a special place to God, because it is also where Elijah was taken directly to heaven in chariots of fire and where Elijah's mantle (anointing) was turned over to Elisha. You can see the general area where this happened when you visit the Baptism site in Jordan.

II Kings 2:2-13

2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel.” But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel. 3 The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.” 4 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Jericho.” But Elisha replied again, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together to Jericho. 5 Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?” “Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.” 6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.” But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together. 7 Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. 8 Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground! 9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I
Baptism in the Jordan River.
am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.” 11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress. 13 Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. 14 He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

Something to Think About:

1) What makes the Jordan River significant in the stories above?

2) What makes the Jordan River significant today?

3) Does the Jordan River have any spiritual significance for you?

4) Have you visited the Jordan River? Share your pictures and stories with us.

*Taken from the Holy Land Devotional from Wellington Church, Kentucky.