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Mediterranean Sea at Netanya, Israel

Israel Day 1 – Anticipation and Prayer

St. Louis to Chicago to London to Tel Aviv

As this morning begins, my anticipation grows as to what lies ahead. I pray with an awareness of how big the moment is. Since childhood I have wanted to go to Israel. Having a relationship with Christ now over 40 years, I’ve heard, read, and preached countless times the familiar stories in the pages of Bible.

In the early days, our youth pastor Joe Decker would often reflect on his time there with such satisfaction and amazement. As a Bible college student, I heard Dr. Eli Harju in Bible History 1 & 2, Life of Christ, and Life of Paul reflect on his visits to the Holy Land. His reflections made the pages of Scripture come alive. He sounded as if he had lived there with Abraham, tricky Jakey, Ruth, and of course, Jesus and Paul.

As we get started on this short 10-day trip, I desire what those men received. I want to connect the geography, sites, and climate with what I’ve read and imagined. I look forward to experiencing the Jordon River, floating in the Dead Sea, and walking the streets of Jerusalem. Jericho, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Bethany. I want to imagine the feeding of the 5,000, Peter walking on the water, and most significantly the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I expect to be moved deeply over the next days.

Here’s my challenge though as I fly hour after hour: why do I not get up every day with anticipation of meeting with Jesus, experiencing His presence, and growing deeper in the Scripture?

Yes, this trip is big. However, every day is big. God promised throughout the Old Testament that He would never leave us or forsake us. Jesus said that He is with us always, even to the end of the age. Followers of Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Just think about it…we do not have to travel 12 hours by air to experience God. We can experience Him wherever we are, in whatever we do, and with whomever we are. How fortunate for us!

If all of this is true, then why do I not normally wake up with the same sense of anticipation every day?

There may be several reasons, but I’ll reflect on three.

First, my life is full of the familiar, the mundane, and the ordinary. The same streets, buildings, bed, and climate. Similar faces, language, concerns, and clothing. Daily pressures, stresses, and responsibilities. Just the daily monotony of getting up, doing what is necessary, and eventually back to bed. Night follows day. Day follows night. Just another day.

Second, the busyness of life distracts from what is most important. Life is full. Marriage. Children. Family. Friends. Church. Students. Work. Projects. Chores. Conversations. Fun. No complaints here. Life is full because I have filled it. I have said “yes” many times, and for which, I am grateful. However, like so many of you reading, life is full.

Third, many days, with the distractions of the familiar and the busyness of life, there is a simple lack of intentional focus. I wish at times it were not simple laziness, but that’s not always true. In a typical day there are so many important things, not to mention all the simply interesting things. Things distract. The problem begins when I allow these important things and interesting things to keep me from focusing on what’s most important, most interesting, and most helpful.

As this trip begins, I am challenged to make every day more like this day. Prayer, focus, intention, and effort. Jesus is worth the daily effort. I personally will benefit. My family will too, not to mention my friends, church family, and so many more.

What about you? What have you focused on today?

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British Airways 747 from Chicago

From this blog series:
Last post: Traveling to Israel!
Next post: Israel Day 2 – Northern Israel – the Coast and the Jezreel Valley

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