A Note From Chris- February 23, 2023

Currently, I’m in Israel with a great group of folks who joined me for a tour of the land where
Jesus walked to take steps personally to grow closer to him.
Many times, seeing the very places and experiencing the surroundings of the location where some of the most incredible things in history happened, our hearts are shaped, and our faith grows.
Later today, our team will head to two very contrasting but powerful locations. Since I can’t teleport our entire church over, I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about these two places as you continue to grow in your faith back home.
Place #1 – Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
In a remote area of Israel in 1947, a young shepherd boy looking for a stray goat found what became one of the most astounding and significant archaeological finds in modern history. Likely due to an emergency exit from the area due to persecution, Bible scholars from 600 B.C. (just before the time of the Babylonian Captivity) hid scrolls of Biblical text and commentary all through caves in the hillside. They were hidden there for more than 2,000 years and have become an incredible encouragement for Bible believers and scholars. The copies of the Bible found at Qumran were over 1,150 years older than the oldest complete Hebrew manuscript found prior to 1947. This find was a huge encouragement to the Christian community, because it confirmed many of the texts in the Bible almost word for word. As the years have gone on, the finds at Qumran have brought more and more confidence to the Biblical text. While no one has lived at Qumran for a couple thousand years, what happened there continues to be life-giving as we remember it today.
Place #2 – Masada
Masada means, “fortress”, and is likely the place King David referred to when talking about God as his fortress (I Samuel 23). Along with Biblical reference, Masada was a fortress built by King Herod for safety. It is most notably a location where 967 Jews who had revolted against the Romans in around 72 A.D. fled and were held up in the mountain fortress. The 15,000 Roman soldiers essentially barricaded the Jews into the fortress but could not breach it. However, as they plotted their eventual assault on Masada, the Jewish families did the unthinkable. Each father would end the life of his family members, 10 were chosen to kill the survivors, and one was selected to kill the 9 and then himself. This plan was executed, and when the soldiers marched in, they found the almost 1,000 residents all dead.
What in the world do these two stories have in common? Well, one is a story of an unknown and unsuspecting series of caves, which for 2,000 years were unknowingly filled with LIFE. The message of the love of God, which gained confidence from these findings, continues today to set people free from bondage, war, and the lure of power. The other, ironically built by a Jewish king for safe keeping, became only a graveyard of death. One is an unsuspecting place that was quietly beaming with life. The other was an incredible and immaculate fortress, which ultimately became a place of death.
All of that to say that despite what we can see, and despite what often seems like a world of power, war, sin, hopelessness and death, life and hope and salvation are awaiting in a cave nearby. God is always moving and working. He is doing so in your life today. Praying for you all from Israel!

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