Another blessing our church provides her Pastors is recognition on significant milestones in their ministry. One of my fellow Pastoral Staff Members celebrated 35 consecutive years of ministry on staff at our church this past year. As an expression of love for him, the church family gave him and his wife a trip to Israel. Down through the years, the two of them have been blessed to take several mission and/or ministry trips; but the Holy Land is one place they have never been. For this reason especially, I am excited for them.
Because a trip to the lands of the Bible will forever change the life of a believer, I encourage any and every person to go. Having made such a trip myself on several occasions, I can attest to this truth. The Scriptures will come alive as never before. Moreover, having completed the journey, the lands of people of the Bible will stay in one’s memory throughout life. And every time one opens the Bible to read it again, these visual components will continue to inform the text and give deeper and richer meaning to its many stories.
Of course, not everyone can make such a trip. Understandably, some have limited financial means and simply cannot afford it. Others have health and other concerns which limit their ability to travel. This is another reason why I am thankful for the blessings of today’s digital world. Because of today’s technology, it is possible to experience the lands of the Bible in a virtual manner. I would like to devote today’s post to a few resources that serve that very purpose.
The first is a basic overview of Biblical sites presented in a DVD format. It is a six part Readers’ Digest series titled: The Christian Traveler, featuring many of the “must see” sites of Jesus' times and the journeys of the Apostle Paul. According to the Editorial Review...
“The Holy Land of old comes alive as you witness firsthand the paths of Jesus travels from Bethlehem to Nazareth, Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee, from Capernaum to Jericho. Finally Jesus returns to Jerusalem, is betrayed and crucified. Apart from Jesus Himself, no person shaped the history of Christianity like the Apostle Paul. Follow Paul to Antioch, Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Malta and to Rome where he was executed for the faith he once denounced. It‘s all here, from Jerusalem to Egypt, to Athens and Rome a pilgrimage that will touch your life as it has millions of others. “
One wonderful bonus is that the narration is by noted actor Richard Kiley, who was an American stage, television, and film actor who twice won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, as well as three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards during his fifty year career. Even if you do not recognize the name, you will certainly recognize his "sonorous baritone" voice, which was featured in the narration of a number of documentaries and other films (including Jurassic Park).
The shortcoming of this series is that it is not so much designed to increase one’s devotion as much as it is to increase one’s knowledge.
Another Multimedia DVD source is titled: What the Bible Is All About Holy Land Tour DVD: A Life-Changing Visit to the Holy Land (part of the What the Bible Is All About Bible Study Series) by Jack W. Hayford, the Founder and Chancellor of The King’s College and Seminary, and Director of The JWH School of Pastoral Nurture. He is most widely known as Founding Pastor of “The Church On The Way”, where he was senior pastor from 1969-1999. He served as President of the Foursquare Church from 2004-2009. He has authored 52 books and written more than 600 musical works (including the classis “Majesty”), and serves on various international and interdenominational committees and councils.
In this series, Hayford offers “insightful and historically grounded teaching” to help viewers put each place in scriptural context. He does so by utilizing Henrietta Mears’ classic Bible handbook What the Bible Is All About to help readers understand how Jesus Christ is revealed in every book of the Bible, by letting individuals and groups can see for themselves where Jesus’ earthly life and ministry unfolded as they journey to the Holy Land to see such sights as “the top of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the ancient, holy city of Jerusalem, to the Kidron Valley and Jericho, to Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem and the site of His garden tomb, and to many more places of biblical significance”.
The third is a much more lauded and in depth DVD series with Biblical principles taken from various sites in the Holy Land. It is tilted: That the World May Know: Faith Lessons with Ray Vander Laan. You can read more about this series at: http://www.faithlessons.net/. For those unfamiliar with this Ray and his work, here is a quote from the Editorial Review on www.Amazon.com:
You may be wondering, who is Ray Vander Laan and what does he have to do with me? Well, if you haven't heard about Ray and his new Faith Lessons DVD series then you need to keep reading. Ray Vander Laan has created an instant sensation in his Faith Lessons DVD's in which he explores different Biblical topics from on-site locations in Israel. Why is a series like this necessary? Not enough Christians understand the context of various key Bible stories. Once they understand the history behind the words, the Bible really comes alive for them as never before.
Using this series in Sunday school, Christian School, home study groups or for self-study you will learn the historical, cultural and geographical context of many of the great and inspiring narratives found in the Scriptures. And this knowledge will bring into a deeper knowledge of our LORD and his call on your life. Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries.
Ray has been a teacher for more than 30 years, and is currently the religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Western Michigan. Ray holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the Christian Reformed Church. Since 1977, he has hosted more than 5,000 people on educational trips to the Middle East. His immense background in teaching, as well as his numerous trips to Israel, makes him the perfect guide for the Faith Lessons Series.
Lastly, let me point out a wonderful web site by Dr. Wayne Stiles. Wayne lives in north Texas and attends Stonebriar Community Church. He holds degrees from the University of North Texas and Dallas Theological Seminary and works at Insight for Living, the Bible-teaching ministry of Chuck Swindoll.
Wayne is absolutely passionate about the lands of the Bible. For those wanting a simple but meaningful approach to the lands of the Bible, Wayne has a insightful blog that is devoted to “Connecting the Bible and its Land to Life”. It is a wonderful devotional site that helps to inform both our understanding of God and His Holy Word. You can find it on the internet at: http://www.waynestiles.com/category/bible-lands/devotionals-for
On Wayne's web site, he also has available a superb eighteen part series titled “A Pictorial Library of Bible Lands”, containing more than 17,500 High Definition photographs from nine different countries in the ancient Mediterranean world. these include more than 1500 photos of Jerusalem, more than 1500 photos of Judah and the Dead Sea area, more than 2300 photos of the areas of Galilee and Samaria, and thousands of other photos from Turkey, Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Jordan, where man of the stories of the Bible also unfolded.
The series is produced by www.BiblePlaces.org, and along with other such resources, is also available on their web site. There, you will find yet another insightful blog as well. The various contributors discuss numerous topics related to the study of Biblical ands and peoples.
Lastly, for those who still prefer to learn from the printed page, numerous books are available on the lands of the Bible. In fact, they are so numerous that they hard to list. I would recommend going to www.Amazon.com, as well as any of a number of Christian booksellers such as www.ChristianBook.com, and keying in such search terms as “Bible Atlas” or “Bible Geography”. There will be much to choose from. Along the way, check out Zondervan Publishing’s The Archaeological Study Bible (available in both King James and New International Versions). For a single volume work, it is amazing how much information is contained in the notes about the lands of the Bible.
I leave you with the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RR_dYM4jJA. ENJOY!