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Ancient Samaritan Passover

While living in Jerusalem I had the privilege to observe and videotape the Passover ceremony of the small community of Samaritans. What might have Passover looked like in the First Century? This is a step backward in time to a place where the ancient customs have not changed.

We would like to wish our Jewish and Israeli friends a happy Passover.

The Celebration of Redemption

This Friday, 3 April, is the first night of Passover as well as Good Friday, 
and Sunday we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Over the years, we have celebrated and taught the biblical Last Supper and combined it with the modern Passover traditions with thousands of friends, both in Jerusalem and abroad. This special evening was a full dinner with a traditional Passover dinner set in a biblical times.

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Ron Cantrell teaching during the Passover celebration in Mount Vernon, Washington

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Yeshua and the disciples are reclining around the triclinium table

 

We always had the disciples and Yeshua dressed in biblical costumes seated around a triclinium table.

Yeshua with the disciples around the table

Yeshua with the disciples around the table

The purpose of such an evening was to give people a visual and sensory experience of what it might have been like in biblical times. We do this with traditional holiday foods, colourful decorations, interactive teaching and responsive readings, as well traditional and celebrative songs of thanksgiving in Hebrew. You feel like you are stepping back into biblical times.

The disciples celebrating a song of thanksgiving at the Last Supper

The disciples celebrating a song of thanksgiving at the Last Supper

Celebrating Redemption

The Last Supper that Yeshua celebrated with His beloved disciples was, indeed, a Passover. To understand the historical and religious context of the biblical period Passover brings a rich understanding to this ancient celebration as well as our celebration of communion. Passover was always meant to be a celebration of victory over the enemy’s intentions toward God’s people. Yeshua is our Victor and we worship and celebrate Him.

Carol leading worship

Carol leading worship during communion

 

The gospel accounts of the Last Supper show that disciples and Yeshua indeed celebrated. Even today’s modern Passovers are celebrated with exuberance and singing long into the night. Because of the sacrificial blood of  the Lamb of God, we have much to celebrate. Passover is meant to be a night full of joy…a full week of joy, in fact.

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Ancient Samaritan Passover Celebrations

While living in Israel, we had a chance to visit ancient Samaria during Passover. The Samaritans continue to celebrate Passover as they have done for thousands of years. Their celebration gives clues to how the ancient Israelis would have also celebrated Passover. Below are two videos made by Ron Cantrell during Passover in Samaria.

Ancient Samaritan Passover Video (Part I)

Ancient Samaritan Passover Video (Part II)

Happy Passover

This Friday, 3 April, is the first night of Passover and it will be celebrated for 7 days. Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday happens to fall exactly during Passover this year. If you would like to learn more about the historical and modern traditions and teaching about Passover and other biblical feasts of the Lord, we recommend The Feasts of the Lord, now available in digital version on Amazon.com (click the link below).

The Feasts of the Lord: The Fasts, Feasts, & Festivals of the Bible

The Feasts of the Lord: The Fasts, Feasts, & Festivals of the Bible

If you have an opportunity to celebrate Passover this year, we believe you will find it an enriching experience.

Hag Pesach sameach (Happy Passover) to all of our Jewish and Israeli friends around the world!

The Fast & Feast of Esther

Purim-Fast feast of Esther

Purim, the fast and feast of Esther, begins March 4th.  In light of the ongoing grievous events in the Middle East region, we believe it is good to review the miraculous intervention by God on behalf of His people. We continue to pray for the Christians of the ancient church in Islamic nations presently enduring unimaginable attacks and persecution, as well as the Jewish people facing horrific antisemitic attacks against her citizens and borders. We agree together for the protection and deliverance of God’s people, as well as all the nations under attack in the region, in the face of such evil Haman-schemes. Amen.

Ancient Persia

The book of Esther unveils the ancient and captivating Persian world. The customs and the splendor of the Persian Empire are enthralling. The empire was far reaching in this time period. It encompassed nations such as Egypt, Babylon, Turkey and more. Much like stepping through Alice’s Looking Glass, the book of Esther is a trip backward in time through a Persian, lattice-work window. A plot so dramatic that it remains unrivaled for millennia and comes to life for us in the midst of the most colorful setting.

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In some scenes, one can almost smell desert jasmine in the air. Like warm, summer nights with stars blazing above, and hot desert days enfold a story of God’s compassion for His people.

The stunning gardens of Persia, carved in stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape, were the backdrop for a drama rivaling the best screen scripts of modern times. The word “paradise”, by the way, is an ancient Persian word for “garden.”

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The Festival of Purim

The Festival of Purim takes place on the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar, around February or March. The celebration is not a Levitical pilgrimage festival requiring the worshiper to come up to Jerusalem as is Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Purim is a microcosm of Jewish history. Here, like many other times in history, we find the Jews in exile and at the mercy of the whims of a local ruler. The handiwork of Heaven is constantly in view. Circumstances draw together in unusual ways that add up to more than just coincidence.

The Story of Queen Esther

In the opening of the story, Ahasuerus, King Xerxes’ Hebrew name, calls for Vashti his Queen to provide entertainment in the midst of a drunken banquet lasting 180 days.

King Ahashuerus

Refusing, the queen is dethroned, and Esther, a young Jewish girl in exile from Jerusalem, is chosen to take her place.

Esther

Esther’s guardian, her uncle Mordecai, coaxes her as he stands on the sidelines, and this story unfolds. Day after day, Mordechai refuses to pay homage to Xerxes’ vizier, Haman,Mordecai an Amalekite descendant. An incensed Haman pleads with the king to destroy Mordechai and annihilate his people, the Jews. The king, unthinkingly, gives Haman authority to execute his plan.

Mordechai, hearing the plan, pleads with Esther to approach the king lest the Hebrews perish.

Esther, with great planning and ceremony, entertains the king for three days in Persian style. On a sleepless night, the king reviews the archival records and discovers that Mordechai had exposed a plot to murder the king.

Irony spices the plot as Haman is appointed to parade Mordechai through the streets arrayed in royal attire to honor him for his bravery. Haman’s family prophesies his downfall from the event. In a surprising plot reversal, Queen Esther exposes Haman for the evil creature he is in the presence of the king and all his court. In great anger, the king then has Haman hanged on the gallows he had constructed on which to hang Mordechai.hamans_sons

In accordance with Persian law, all ten of Haman’s sons are hanged along with him. In ancient times, laws dictated that the sons of a felon were to be hanged along with him.

In the scroll of Esther, the names of Haman’s ten sons appear arranged as a verse of poetry. Tradition dictates that the reader of the scroll in the synagogue roll through the ten names in one breath as if to read through it with more than one breath might be a waste.

God so thoroughly defended the Jewish population that great fear came upon the rest of the population.

The story of Esther stands as a testimony of the power of God to deliver His people against all odds, even in the face of potential annihilation as they cried out to Him with fasting, prayer, and desperation. In this book, where God’s name is not even mentioned, He pervades every chapter and every character. Every twist of plot is orchestrated behind the scenes as if a puppet master were putting on a performance.

Deliverance Will Come!

Scroll of Esther

Photo: an ancient scroll of Esther from Baghdad.

Purim may not be a Levitical feast, but the lesson is worth celebrating: God will deliver us! Some of the other biblical feasts are also celebrations of God’s power in awesome acts of deliverance. This celebration, and other feasts of the Hebrew calendar, remind us again and again that we love a God who thwarts the plots of the ungodly who oppose the people He passionately loves.

We can celebrate ahead of time the victory He is working on our behalf no matter how impossible it may look. We are more impressed with God’s great power and His love for us than anything the enemy could send against us.

The above is an excerpt taken from The Feasts of the Lord: The Feasts, Fasts, & Festivals of the Bible, written by Ron Cantrell, available in paperback and digital formats on Amazon.com.

The Feasts of the Lord: The Fasts, Feasts, & Festivals of the Bible

The Feasts of the Lord: The Fasts, Feasts, & Festivals of the Bible

We are God-Appointed

The words Mordecai said to Queen Esther ring true to us all today (Esther 4:14, HCSB):

Perhaps you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this.

We have been perfectly positioned, fully equipped, and God-appointed to partner with Him in all He is doing in the nations. Motivated by God’s great compassion, we are committed to pray, and be actively engaged, to see the nations delivered into the full freedoms provided by the Messiah.

Let’s agree together:

Lord of the nations, deliver Your people, once again, from the hands of such horrific evil… for Your glory. May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

(Illustrations by Ron Cantrell)

Egypt, My People!!

Without a doubt you have seen the tragic and disturbing news about the Coptic Christians that were brutally murdered by ISIS in Libya. Our hearts are with the families — and all of Egypt — who are mourning the loss of their beloved ones. God bless each one of them today.

Neighbours and friends of the relatives of Egyptian Coptic men killed in Libya attend mass at a church, as a banner with pictures of the men who were men is displayed on the church wall, in El-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo February 16, 2015. (Photo: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih, EGYPT)

Pope Francis did not shy away from the clear religious motivation behind the mass beheading. “They were murdered just because they were Christians,” he said during a meeting with a Scottish church leader, calling the victims “brothers, who died simply because they professed their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Who are the Coptic Christians?

In Egypt alone there are estimates of 9-15 million Coptic Christians, about 10-20% of the population. The Coptic Church community is one of the oldest in the Middle East. It is thought to believe that St Mark took the Gospel to Alexandria, Egypt shortly after the ascension around 42 A.D.

Ancient Alexandria, Egypt

Ancient Alexandria, Egypt

By the 2nd century, Christianity began to spread to rural areas and the Scriptures were translated into the local language known today as the Coptic language, but then known as the Egyptian language. By the beginning of the 3rd century A.D., Christians constituted the majority of Egypt’s population. You can read more about the history of the Coptic church on wikipedia.

The Ancient Church of the Middle East

It is important to note that the target of ISIS has been the ancient church of the Middle East that has been unconquered by Islam through the centuries— slaughtering Christians of the ancient church of Assyria in Northern Iraq, and the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Islam was unable to completely conquer the Coptic Church of Egypt, and so they continue to this day to persecute, kill them, and burn their churches. There seems to be an intentional strategy of these extreme Islamic radical groups to go after Christians in Islamic nations in particular.

Another of their intentions is to target Islamic nations that have partnered with the West: Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, and even Saudi Arabia.

With the rise of attacks against the Jewish communities in Europe as well, it is clear about the brutal agenda of these radical Islamic groups against Jews and Christians emerging around the globe.

How to Pray

We count it a privilege that God has allowed us to bless these nations where we have traveled and lived and have come to know many friends of the Middle East over the years—Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Iran. One of the things God has put on our hearts as we have been engaged with the Middle East, and Europe, is to pray God’s blessings on these nations. We have also been praying specifically for revival, that they will return to their spiritual roots of faith in Jesus. We have walked these lands and prayed on site in the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities for God’s purposes to be realized.

Pray especially for the Christians of these nations who are facing persecution as believers in Jesus.

Let’s agree together in a prayer for the nations of the Middle East:

Father, comfort the Egyptian families who have just lost their loved ones in this brutal act. We pray you will surround them with Your presence today. Continue to strengthen Egypt so that she will arise to the destiny You ordained for her at this time in history. Bless the church of Egypt – and in particular, all of our Egyptian friends!

Bless the church of Jordan today! Bless the King, the nation, his parliament, the economy, and all those agencies who are assisting the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing ISIS.

We pray for the Assyrian, Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese Christians, in particular, and ask that you make provision for all they need today. Protect them – and pour out Your goodness upon them.

Bless Israel today and surround her borders securely as the mountains surround Jerusalem. Bless the Body of Messiah of Jewish and Arab believers. May they demonstrate Him in creative ways.

Father, glorify Your name through the church of the Middle East today. Comfort the hurting, and provide for the all those who are in need today. May You be revealed as the Messiah and Lord of all. Thank you for all You are doing in these nations that You love.

In the name of Jesus/Yeshua/Yesu3, amen!

The Prophet’s Dance

Prophet Isaiah (Drawing by Ron Cantrell)

Prophet Isaiah (Drawing by Ron Cantrell)

The prophet sat in a daze with that thousand-mile stare of one seeing beyond the shadowlands of the physical world. Isaiah’s scribe knew the look, and immediately took up pen and scroll ready for what was coming. He was a trained scribe—God’s secretary—recorder of the timeless world of a holy throne room.

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Isaiah rose, lifted his hands, and began to move about the room almost in a dance, looking first toward the north, then the south, and not neglecting east and west with his intent gaze and squinted eyes as if trying to make something out in a haze. Circling and circling, the prophet moved until he was finally spinning so that his robe responded to the centrifugal force in a great circle. Dust rose from the stone floor and Isaiah’s growling other-worldly voice began repeatedly pronouncing,

“Mitzraim, Mitzraim, Mitzraim…..!”

His countenance turned toward the south in the direction of Mitzraim (Egypt)—Israel’s southern neighbor—who had at times been a friend, at other times a foe.

The words were tumbling forth now, painting the vision for the hand armed with pen and scroll.

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The great and mighty nation’s woes spilled out of the prophet’s mouth like a waterfall. Isaiah spoke like a thunderstorm in another voice, a perfect voice filled with authority and majesty colored by Heaven. The scribe shuddered. It seemed that the prophet controlled the atmosphere in the room like a mighty storm so that the everyday objects of the palace faded into a shroud of the dark prophecy.

The very God of Heaven rode down on Isaiah’s words to touch Earth in His fire.  “Kings . . .” and “war . . .” spilled out; “brother against brother”; “terrors…” and “devastation…” darkened the room. Depression swirled in the circle with Isaiah’s flowing robe. There was no time for emotional paralysis—the words were coming in a rush. The hand hurried to keep up; the swift scrawling letters imprinted matched the urgency of the prophet’s message.

Then Isaiah stopped; his head tilted as if to hear something more clearly. A light seemed to break through the dark clouds of the prophetic flow reflecting in the prophet’s face. His lips began to slowly, silently, form another word,

“Sun . . . sun . . . the sun . . . Heliopolis will speak Hebrew,” the prophet whispered.

The city, named for the sun god of the Egyptians, would speak Hebrew? The scribe shifted in his seat, sitting more uprightly . . . more was pouring forth from Isaiah’s mouth.

“It will be a sign to the Lord of Hosts . . . “

Isaiah bent at the waist, groaning as if giving birth. Tears spilled as he began slowly spinning again. For awhile, no words came, just the dance: the bent stature, the spinning in silence. Then Isaiah stopped abruptly.  “Come, Yuval . . .”

Isaiah hurried out of the palace toward the stables. He didn’t speak a word as if on pause between segments of a download from Heaven. He merely gestured to the stable boy—two horses. Yuval managed to quickly gather up his inkpot and scroll but hoped the prophet’s words would not flow on horseback. He would have to try to remember them.

From the palace they traveled west and moved to the ridge road that connected Jerusalem with Bethlehem. Turning south they rode in silence; Isaiah’s face set like a flint. Determined, yet not harsh, was the prophet’s appearance. In the distance the hill rose where the southern military armory was located at Talpiot. A smaller path led up the hill eastward to the armory. Isaiah guided his horse east and upward. Upon arrival, they skirted the armory to the east and turned the corner to the south side and a long promontory that seemed to end in space, high above the deep valley that separated Jerusalem from Bethlehem.

There, Isaiah stopped, dismounted, and stared southeast. As if in a dream, he spoke to no one in particular,

“The King’s Highway.” He stroked his beard, “Oh God! My God!” the words escaped his lips on a soft breath, not pleading, rather in wonder.

He lifted a hand as if tracing the route of the King’s Highway that traversed the far ridge of mountains on the other side of the River Jordan.

The King's Highway, Jordan

The King’s Highway, Jordan (photo: Jordan Travel)

“That’s the highway . . . Right there it is,” turning slowly southward his hand changed history tracing the highway toward the border of Egypt. “There . . . there . . . Yuval, do you see it? There will be a memorial pillar to the LORD, and beyond, in Heliopolis, an altar. He will rescue them from themselves.

“Three nations, Yuval, three nations . . .”

Ancient King's Highway, Jerash Jordan.

Ancient King’s Highway, Jerash Jordan.

The prophet bent again as if giving birth. He groaned deeply. He sank to his knees both hands extended upward.

“On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. Assyria will go to Egypt, Egypt to Assyria, and Egypt will worship with Assyria.”

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Yuval could hardly write . . . What could the prophet be saying? What? Had he lost his mind? 

Isaiah now turned northeast, and with hands still extended he uttered,

“On that day Israel will form a triple alliance with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing within the land. The Lord of Hosts will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”

Looking from the mountain ridges of Jordan along the King's Highway route into Israel, "The Beautiful Land."

Looking from the mountain ridges of Jordan along the King’s Highway route into Israel, “The Beautiful Land.”

Isaiah ceased speaking. It was a good thing . . . Yuval sat stunned. In his years with the prophet, he had never known him to be wrong, but this . . . Yuval could not speak. He merely stared with Isaiah at the eastern horizon where the highway lay—that famed ancient trade route connecting so many nations of the world.

The ancient King's highway through the southern wilderness of Jordan (photo: Jordan Travel)

The ancient King’s highway through the southern wilderness of Jordan (photo: Jordan Travel)

This, the prophet had uttered, is where hundreds of thousands of feet had previously tread a world-renowned trail would one day be a highway of holiness unto the Lord of Hosts. Enemies would embrace one another in the fear of the Lord.

Google earth image of the "King's Highway."  (Photo image from netours.com)

Google earth image of the “King’s Highway.”
(Photo image from netours.com)

The King's Highway begins from the Port of Aqaba at the Red Sea

The King’s Highway begins from the Port of Aqaba at the Red Sea

A tear fell from Yuval’s cheek.

In stunned silence Isaiah rose, gathered himself together, and mounted his horse, awaiting his scribe to do the same.

The sun was sinking in the west and the color embraced them in golden hues as they made their way back to the city of the Great King—where history was fashioned by the hands of a servant of the Almighty, the Most High and Holy God.

Jerusalem of Gold. (Photo: A scene from National Geographic Entertainment's “Jerusalem.” NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENTERTAINMENT.)

Jerusalem of Gold.
(Photo: A scene from National Geographic Entertainment’s “Jerusalem.” NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENTERTAINMENT.)

(Based on Isaiah 19.)

Tale of Ten Cities

Little did Carol and I know we were on the trail of a massively demon-possessed man. He was a real poster-child of what some might call “multiple-personalities” in the modern psychology world. From a reliable documented source of a Roman “legion”, we can conclude that perhaps as many as 6,000 demons inhabited his body.

BORDER OF ISRAEL

Carol and I wound our way around the rolling hills and valleys of northern Jordan searching for the ancient church sites.

Our first stop was the border of Jordan and Israel which is high up the mountain overlooking the south part of the Sea of Galilee. There we prayed over the entire region. It was from here, no doubt, the demoniac would have gone down the mountains to meet Yeshua and His disciples as their boat crossed the Sea of Galilee to the “other side.”

Ron pointing toward the south part of the Sea of Galilee on the Jordanian/Israeli border in the north

Ron pointing toward the south part of the Sea of Galilee on the Jordanian/Israeli border in the north

israel-jordan northern border

Carol blessing the northern part of Israel and Jordan at the borders

PELLA

We wound our way down the mountain to locate a very small village called “Pella” with ancient churches. This journey proved to be quite challenging with a limited map and no GPS but we loved the adventure – and the gorgeous terrain.

The hills of northern Jordan

The hills of northern Jordan

We finally hired a taxi to lead us to the the area which now is a Palestinian refugee camp/city. Finding the ancient church site on the highest part of the city we prayed and proclaimed over the land that was once Christian – calling back the inheritance of the region.

Looking over the ancient site of Pella - site of some of the most ancient churches of the Decapolis. This may have been the area where Legion would have called home.

Looking over the ancient site of Pella – site of some of the most ancient churches of the Decapolis. This may have been the area where Legion would have called home.

Ron singing the ancient Aaronic benediction

Ron singing the ancient Aaronic benediction in Hebrew inside the church

Ron standing between the ancient Roman columns near the churches of Pella

Ron standing between the ancient Roman columns near the churches of Pella

As we left Pella we returned north and realized that the region we had been in that day was called Gedara. It was then that Carol and I both realized at the same time, “This is the place region where “Legion” was from!”

After the deliverance of Legion, Jesus helped him put on clothes and they sat together quietly. What would they have talked about? Perhaps Jesus renamed him at that time by giving him his true name — the name the Father in Heaven knew him by. No doubt it would have displaced the name he was known by up to that point: “Legion”— one demonized by thousands.

His new name would have included His God-given purpose on Earth: one who bears the testimony of Jesus.

“Let me follow you where you are going, Yeshua!” Legion implored as he walked alongside of Him holding tightly onto His robe.

“No, Legion. I have a much more important task for you to do,” Yeshua responded tenderly. Taking ahold of both of his shoulders and looking him deep into his eyes Yeshua instructed him, “Return home to your people and tell them all the good things God has done for you.” With that, Yeshua threw back His head and laughed a deep belly laugh. Legion laughed too— as did everyone with him. You could feel the joy explode into the atmosphere. Satan’s kingdom had just been plundered inside the Decapolis. Legion had been personally commissioned by Yeshua to return home and establish God’s Kingdom throughout the region.With this commission, Legion was now Spirit-empowered to bring the mandate of Jesus back to his hometown with the Good News of Isaiah 61.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed” (Isaiah 61:1, NLT).

The Decapolis was completely evangelized by this one man’s testimony, and we were seeing the tangible evidence of it.

RIHAB: OLDEST CHURCHES EVER FOUND

The next day we were searching for a small village called Rihab where an underground cave had just been deemed the “oldest church” found in the world. We ran across the London Telegraph article with its photo as we planned our itinerary of our upcoming visit to Jordan. Our interest was peaked as we had planned to visit and pray at the ancient churches of Jordan, and Rihab was added to our “must see” list. The cave “church” had discovered under the ruins of Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD.

When all the evidence is in, it may mean the earliest known place of worship outside Jerusalem has been discovered. Abdul Qader al-Husan, head of Jordan’s Rihab Center for Archaeological Studies said,

“We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the 70 disciples of Christ.”

A mosaic found in the church describes these believers as “the 70 beloved by God…” The archaeologist believes they fled persecution in Jerusalem. It seems the Jewish believers fled to this region across the Jordan River. We would be visiting one of the oldest places of worship for Jewish believers! We printed off the Google Earth maps of these ancient sites that we hoped would give us clues as we made our way with our rented car through Jordan.

Our little map of Jordan was not adequate to fully navigate to these off the road archeological sites on our itinerary. We got lost several times but it became a fun part of our adventure to inquire of villagers along the way. After several dead ends and traveling in obvious circles this particular morning, many questions for directions of the villagers, and ogling bedouins harvesting olives just as they would have 2,000 years ago in villages, we finally arrived in a little town with a round-about.

I almost shouted, “Carol, this is it! Look!!!” as I handed her the satellite photo/map. “Here’s the roundabout — just like on the map!” Sure enough, we had found the ancient city of Rihab.

We pulled up to a coffee kiosk and parked our car. It appeared that the elders of the village had gathered outside of this kiosk/coffee shop to catch up on village news and socialize. They were sipping cups of steaming Turkish coffee.

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Some of the village elders

“Buy us some Turkish coffee!” Carol suggested.

With that, I walked up to the kiosk window and ordered our coffee “to go.” Seeing the elders and others gathered at the outside “cafe” I asked them in Arabic about the ancient churches of Rihab. With much gesticulation and a few Arabic phrases we were able to communicate what we needed. They communicated that the site was closed–and locked. We were a bit disappointed at this news but this was a God-adventure and He had only good things in store for us. I was determined to find the site, however, and at least look at it. The man making our Turkish could have won the world prize for S-L-O-W. I was chomping at the bit as I waited for the coffee. We had much to accomplish that day but we definitely were not leaving without seeing the most ancient churches of Rihab!

Finally, after waiting more than 15 minutes I was handed two Turkish coffees, and simultaneously a young man who spoke English arrived. He held up the key to the ancient archeological site. Success!! We were thrilled. We bid the elders and kiosk owners goodbye with lots of laughter and hand shaking, and off we went with Ahmad, our young tour guide, piled into our rental car.

When we arrived at the ancient church site, we met up with two muslim women who worked for the Ministry of Antiquities. They were very happy to finally have tourists and were excited to show us all around the church and church grounds. They brushed away the protective sand on the floors which revealed the beautiful mosaic floor.

Rihab mosaic floor

Ancient church mosaic floor of Rihab

Next we were taken to the newly discovered cave dated from around 40 A.D — shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. They told us that those from Jerusalem had fled to these villages to escape persecution. It was then that we realized the Jewish believers in Jerusalem would have been safe from the Jewish leaders seeking to jail or kill believers in Yeshua. Imagining those believers in Yeshua who lived and worshiped in this place, and the cost of giving up life as they knew it to do so, was overwhelming.

cave church of Rihab

Carol inside the ancient cave church of Rihab

Rihab cave church

Ron inside the ancient church of Rihab

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Carol standing under the one skylight inside the ancient church of Rihab where believers in Yeshua escaped from Jerusalem in around 40 A.D.

Our Muslim tour guides were glowing at our excitement. Then they shared something more, “In this area alone, there are 70 other churches like this one.” We were stunned. It was then that we realized that the “demonaic of the Gerasenes from the Decapolis” had been here too. This area too was also a part of the Decapolis in ancient times.

JERASH

The final day we visited the center of eastern part of Jordan.

The famed city of Jerash in the center of northern Jordan is one of Jordan’s key tourist sites as well as the site of a nation-wide Jordanian festival. Jerash, according to Jordan’s tourist bureau, comes from another name “Gerashe” and is also considered another town of the demonaic delivered by Jesus.

Jerash

Jerash (photo: Jordan tour site)

Carol and I noted before entering the archaeological site of Jerash that most likely there would be a church there even though the main attractions are the temples of Zeus and Artemis. Why did we think this? Because everywhere we had gone throughout the country of Jordan, scores of churches had been uncovered from ancient times! With its close proximity to Israel across the river, it was clear that present-day Jordan was a thoroughfare of Israeli’s, and many other nations, along the King’s Highway.

Jerash - ancient roman road

Jerash – on the King’s Highway ancient Roman road

garish ancient main road

Carol standing on the ancient main road at Jerash

Not only did we find one church at Jerash, but eleven churches ringed the temples of Zeus and Artemis right on the archaeological site. The Cathedral, the Church of Theodorus, the Church of Cosmos, Damian, John, George, Marian, Peter and Paul, Bishop Genesuis, Bishop Isaiah, and the Church of Propylaea…just to name of few (these are not just names, but actual churches).

jerash - ancient churches

Jerash – site of ancient church

It was a joy to discover on our trip that Jesus was worshiped throughout the land of Jordan. Though it is now veiled in a cloak of Islam, the cloak is not theirs. Our mandate is to call back their heritage in Jesus.

DELIVERED TO DELIVER OTHERS

We marveled that although we do not even know the real name of Legion, it appears his testimony helped to plant more churches than any others who were commissioned by Yeshua. We traveled through northern and central Jordan in awe of a shadowy figure from the pages of the Gospel who was not allowed to follow after his Beloved Deliverer and Savior, but instead, was commissioned to deliver thousands of others into freedom drawing on the power of his own deliverance.

The presence of the testimony of Jesus is alive and well in Jordan even today.

Sing to the Well

Sing to the Well

Carol singing to the ancient well of a Byzantine church at Madaba Jordan.

 

Our first stop was Madaba en route to Mt Nebo. This is an ancient Moabite city mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9. We discovered ancient Byzantine churches there from the 2nd century. In the archeological site they had several wells and we were struck with the fact that believers in Jesus once worshiped here. It was holy ground.

THE WELLS

I was also reminded of the biblical account when the Israelites wandered the desert and how many times they were in desperate need of water. As the tribes of Israel moved into the land of Moab, they needed water—again. But interestingly, this time, they did not react violently towards Moses or Aaron or with unbelief towards God. Apparently, they decided that returning to Egypt was not an option anymore.

From there they went to Be’er, the well the LORD told Moses about, “Gather the people so that I may give them water.”

Then Israel sang this song:

Spring up, well—sing to it!…(Numbers 21:16-18, HCSB)

Instead of grumbling and complaining about what they did not have, the Israelites chose to trust God – and their leaders. They chose to sing to their provision—in joy!—with the expectation of an answer to their need.

And God provided so miraculously—enough water to care for all the tribes of people, cattle, etc…in the middle of nowhere, from an unexpected source. That’s our God. His provision is always more than enough.

While visiting Jordan, our prayer declaration was to call forth this region back to its heritage in Jesus the Messiah. So I sang to all the ancient wells: “Spring up O well!! Refresh this land with Living Waters!”

Spring up O Well!

Spring up O Well!

Sometimes you have to do an act in the physical to represent what God is doing in the Spirit.

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Ron staring into the well

We can peer into the past and know that God is restoring His people back to their heritage, their inheritance — back to Himself. That is true with the church of the Middle East.

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Ron and Carol peering into the deep well

Jesus, the Light of the world, is rekindling the fire of His passion and love to His Bride in the Middle East.

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Alabaster windows of the ancient churches

The corridors of the archeological site at Madaba.

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corridors of the church site

We are walking on ancient stones where once His people worshiped. If these stones could talk.

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Walking the ancient paths of Madaba

Our prayer as we stood on this ancient site:

God, strengthen the church of Jordan with the passion of Your love, all for the glory of Jesus. Amen.

 

How Does God Speak?

Tiffany Peacock

Stained glass peacock by Tiffany

How does God speak? A couple of weeks before leaving for Jordan  I nearly hit a peacock in the highway as I was driving to church. Turning on a secondary street toward church I nearly hit another peacock. What???? This definitely got my attention.

Then, as Carol and I arrived at the San Francisco Airport to leave for Jordan, the San Francisco Museum of Art was doing a major exhibit by Tiffany, the famous stained-glass window artist. The main advert for the exhibit is a 12-ft.-high peacock in Tiffany stained-glass. Peacocks? again? This caught my full attention. I pay attention to such things as they become sign posts along our way.

On our journey through Jordan, Carol and I spent about 2 hours searching for the small ancient village of Rihab–site of the oldest church ever uncovered in the region. Driving around the hills of north Jordan, we decided to stop for coffee. To our surprise, the man making our coffee took about 20 minutes. But we have learned to relax with such delays and have come to appreciate the perfect timing of God’s leading.

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I began to inquire of the village elders sitting in the coffee shop sipping their hot steaming cups of coffee about the ancient church ruins. One of the elders made a quick cell phone call and soon a young man arrived at the shop. He was the only one in the village with the keys to the gate! 

We arrive at the site just the short time span in which two archaeologists were showing three people around the ruins. Had we come earlier–even 5 minutes–we would have missed them.

Ministry of Antiquities guides

Ministry of Antiquities guides

One of the archaeologists  stooped down to the sandy ground and brushed away the layer of protective sand spread over a beautiful mosaic floor and uncovers two peacocks. Peacocks?? What?? I began to laugh and tell the story of how I almost hit the two peacocks on the road near my home.

One of the ladies standing by began to cry and she began to tell her story. God had always used peacocks — in some way– to tell her how much He loved her. At this testimony, Carol took her in her arms and began to minister to her the Father’s deep love. More weeping.

Mosaic floor of a church at Rihab Jordan

ancient Mosaic floor of the church with peacocks at Rihab, Jordan

The day was timed perfectly by God, but we were unaware of the carefully orchestrated details He had planned out.  What a glorious day of God’s perfect leading!

Watch for signposts of God confirming your way.

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