When we signed up for the journey to Israel, I had one specific thing I was hoping for and today my hope was realized. After waking early and eating a similar breakfast to yesterday we walked outside of our hotel and headed only about 50 yards to a newly found set of ruins, the village of Magdal. Maybe you recognized the beginning of Magdalene, Mary of Magdalene. Only in recent years did they uncover the village’s synagogue, fish market, homes and bath house. The guide was spectacular the teaching was inspiring, but my mind kept skipping forward to what I knew was coming next. We climbed on our tour bus and headed to Capernaum where Jesus no doubt walked the streets and within a few hundred yards fed the 5000. Again the teaching was inspiring and moving but my mind kept looking out over the Sea of Galilee with anticipation. Finally our guide told us we had 30 minutes to get to the boat on the sea of Galilee, I was elated.
We arrived at a small Jewish community with a boat pier sticking out into the water about 200 yards. The wind had picked up and the water was raging with large white caps. Drops of rain pelted our jackets as we walked towards the a traditional wooden fishing boat. The design of the boat went back to the first century, however the engines, the sound system and electronics had been updated to 21st century standards. Gretchen and I stepped out onto the boat and found a seat among our counterparts and immediately my skin stood on edge, the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention and emotion began to well up in my entire being. I was on the water, the same water Jesus walked on, the same water Peter walked on, the same water Jesus told to be still, I was there. I felt for a few moments like I was in a state of literal shock as the rest of our group filed on to the boat. The captain announced our departure and as we shoved off he began playing the song, Great are you Lord. That was all it took, my eyes filled with tears, my heart was beating out of my chest, I was shaken to the core. This feeling wasn’t foreign to me, the presence of God was very real and yet different, stronger, deeper, and life transforming. I found myself unable to react, to move or to respond. I simply sat still with my arms in the air and tears exploding out of my eyes.
Jesus was right next to me. His presence was so tangible. I expected everything to stand still, the wind, the waves, the people, the music, everything. For me, time stood still for the next few moments and my mind moved through the miracles of my savior on this very body of water. His presence was so strong I actually looked out across the water half expecting Him to be walking towards us. He reminded me as I sat still, “yes Doug, I did all those things here, but I was just starting my move. I am still here, I am still with you, I’ve always been with you. I will never leave you or forsake you.” I know this so well, yet somehow, hearing this again was like a warm blanket wrapped around me on a cold night. The comfort of His presence was so revealing and revelational. He is with me, He loves me and this will never change. My response was simply gratitude and giving Him, Jesus, glory. I only wanted to worship Him, I only wanted to sit and hear more from Him. And again, He spoke, “I will always be next to you, I will always guide you, and again, I have always been right here.” I could only say, “thank you Jesus. I love you.” I could sense the warmth of His loving smile over me.
Even as I sit here tonight pounding away at the keys of my computer, there’s no doubt, He is right here, He loves me, and He will always be with me. Not only for me but for everyone. He is with us, He will never leave us or forsake us. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded that He is right next to us, He loves us and He is keeping us. I only want to respond with love, with obedience, with continuing in the acknowledgement of His presence. How amazing is our God! This God who was with me on the Sea of Galilee and also with everyone of us wherever we are, whatever our call, whatever our situation and circumstance. At the moment you read this, He wants to remind you, He loves YOU. He is with YOU. He will never forsake YOU. He will never let you down. Respond to His presence, you will know how, respond wherever you are. Sit still and let Him pour His love over you.
PS. I will be writing more about the first two areas and being baptized in the Jordan river in my next blog.