This is our final day in Nazareth. We volunteered in the morning at Nazareth Village. Several of us worked at cleaning out donkey stalls. It is unmercifully hot, the temp around 95 F with high humidity.
Yesterday was a very interesting day, with stops at Tel Dan, about 10 kilometers from the Lebanese border, Baniass, and Caesarea Maritama.
Tel Dan is an historical site from the time of Jeroboam, with an altar (the high place). It was one of the places that he set up the bronze calves for the people to worship, so that they would not return to Jerusalem, and might politically follow Judah. It is also the headwaters of the Jordan River, and even though this time of year is extremely hot and dry, it was very cool where the river paths were close to the water.
Baniass had a Roman temple, and is also thought to be the place where Peter made his confession of Christ as savior and messiah. Jesus was in the area of Caesarea Philippi and asked Peter, who do men said that I am. After Peter's response, Jesus stated, "You are Peter, the rock, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
This is most important. Today a Jewish man heard us talking English, and asked, "Are you Americans?" After we identified ourselves, he said "Christians should continue to be faithful." When asked if he was a christian, he said, "o no" and pointed to his yarmulke, but said the christian faith is dying in Israel. Christianity has a common element to Jewishness. It has much similarity.
Part of the reason that it is dying in Israel, is the exodus of Arab Christians because of their difficult life. They are being replaced in many former Christian neighborhoods by moslems. Also the extensive settlement development also contributes to this decline. The failure of the church is one of the more significant themes that I have contemplated for some time. Here in Israel, the picture is clearer as to how the church deviated from the Kingdom that Christ announced. Pastor Phil Kniss, (Park View) who is along on the trip purchased some Mustard Seed as a gift, for the congregation in New Orleans that they have been a sister congregation with . The New Orleans church uses Mustard Seed as a symbol of how the Kingdom of God expands.
I will include a picture of the Tel Dan high place and Nimrod's stronghold with Mt. Hermon on the left.