I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I'll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you'll come to understand why a person once wrote, "A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor."
My third message was presented in the ruins of the biblical town of Korazim (biblical Chorazin), located just north of the Sea of Galilee.
The geographical focus of Jesus' three-year ministry was in the northern part of Israel called the Galilee, where the beautiful Sea of Galilee is located.
While at Korazim, we turned in our Bibles to Mark 1. I love Korazim because it's one of the three cities where Jesus focused His ministry. Capernaum, which was Jesus' headquarters, and Korazim and Bethsaida all were where He focused His ministry.
When Jesus left the Galilee for the last time, He put a curse on these cities because they had rejected Him and His ministry, even though He performed His greatest miracles there (Matthew 11:20-24). Jesus said, "If Sodom and Gomorrah would have heard what I preached there, they would have repented, but you did not. So it's going to be worse for you on the Day of Judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah."
The interesting thing about this prophecy is that about 150 years later there were tremendous earthquakes in the Galilee area and those three cities were totally destroyed, all except Tiberius. By the 1800's, critics of the Bible were already writing entire books trying to prove that the Bible is full of myth, legend and superstition. Because the Bible says Jesus spent His ministry in these three towns, which the critics claimed never existed, they concluded the Bible must be fiction.
Two of the towns were later discovered by archaeologists in the 19th Century, and the third — Bethsaida — was discovered recently. Amazingly, there is still argument among archaeologists as to whether or not the discovery of the third is really the actual city. Korazim is legitimate, and it's the place where Jesus ministered and performed mighty works of healing.
Let's read about those healings in Mark chapter 1, beginning with verse 32:
"When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.
Go to verse 39: "And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons." So Jesus healed people and He cast out demons. Jesus had a very, very active healing ministry.
Growing Up a Cessationist
I grew up in a church that did not believe in healing. They held to what's called Cessationist Theology. Cessationist Theology is very common today among most churches. It's a theology that says when the last apostle died, all the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased, and that God's intervention in history ceased, too. It says we are left to cope with life with what God has given us — our minds and the Bible.
The extreme expression of Cessationist Theology is what's called Deism, which was the belief held by some of the Founding Fathers of America. They believed in God, but they believed He was an impersonal God. They did not believe in a God who was personal at all. If you were to tell a Deist you were praying for your wife to be healed of allergies or something, he would laugh at you and probably say, "God is concerned about much bigger things like presidents and kings, not your wife's sinus problems." That was the kind of God I grew up with.
Let me tell you, if you hold to Cessationist Theology, you'll never get excited about reading the Bible, because the Bible is full of stories of people who get into desperate situations. When they do, they reach out to God and God intervenes and does something. If you don't believe God does that anymore, the Bible is totally irrelevant.
I remember when I was about 25 years old. I went to eat lunch with a man and we got to talking about the Bible. Suddenly out of the blue, he asked me a question. He asked, "Do you believe in healing?" I replied, "What do you mean?" He said, "Do you believe that God could supernaturally heal somebody?" I replied, "Well, I don't know." He said, "Has anybody in your family or your church ever been supernaturally healed?" I answered, "Not that I know of." Then He said, "Well, do you think God can do that?" I replied, "No, I don't really think so." And he said, "Then don't ever expect it. God is a gentleman. He's not going to impose Himself upon you. He's not going to force something upon you that you don't believe."
Hearing that was like having some guy stick a knife in me and turn it. I remember one Sunday during a sermon, someone got up and handed the pastor a note which said, "We just got a phone call that sister so-and-so had a heart attack and they have rushed her to the hospital." The pastor then said, "Let's pray." And he prayed, "Lord, help the doctors remember what they learned in medical school. Help them to prescribe the right medicine." And so forth and so on. If he would have simply said, "Lord, have mercy on sister so-and-so and please heal her in the name of Jesus," we would have had five more heart attacks to deal with in the congregation that day! All because he had said the word "heal."
God Never Changes
Over the years since then, I've made two discoveries in the Scripture that I had never heard when I was growing up in the church. One of them was over in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 13:8 it says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." So, He didn't retire in the First Century. He is the same forever. He has not changed. He therefore still intervenes.
Jesus intervenes supernaturally in many ways. He intervenes, for example, by putting judgments upon nations through weather calamities and disastrous acts of nature.
He also intervenes in our life. He disciplines us. Have you ever been disciplined by the Lord? I have. I'll tell you what, He can get your attention. Sometimes He has to hit you over the head with a 2x4 to get it, but He'll get your attention one way or another. It's because He loves you. That's why He disciplines you. God intervenes because He is still alive and active.
God Cares For You
Another Scripture I discovered that really changed my life was over in 1 Peter 5. It's so important. I don't want you ever to forget it. I had been going to church for over 30 years and never once had I heard this Scripture read. 1 Peter 5:6 says, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your cares upon Him." Why? "Because He cares for you."
Christianity is the only religion in the world that has a personal God. In the Islamic world, they do not have a personal God. He's aloof. He's distant. He's arbitrary. Muslims never know whether they have salvation or not. The only ones who think they have salvation are those who die as martyrs. Mohammad himself said right before his death that he had no idea whether he was saved or not. That's because they serve an aloof god. Not once in the Koran does it say their god is a god of love.
But, our God is. Our God is a God who cares. He's concerned about every concern, every worry, and every decision you are trying to make. And, He's a gentleman. He doesn't force Himself on you. All you have to do is reach out like a little child, in faith and ask, "God, help me with this decision. God, please heal." His response might not be the exact response you are looking for, but He will respond in His own way and in His own timing and in a way that is for your best interest.
For example, about ten years ago we were in Korazim praying for people. We had a videographer named Don who was with us the whole trip and who was filming the healing service. After the service, when we had gotten back in the bus, he came running up and asked, "Could you wait just ten minutes?" I said yes because I thought he just needed to go to the bathroom. Ten minutes later he came back and said, "While I was filming earlier, God spoke to my heart and said to me, 'Don, I want to heal you right now.'"
Don hadn't been able to eat anything with wheat in it since he was about ten years old. If he did, he would become physically ill. Don said to me, "David, I went back and prayed, and I believe God healed me. So tonight, for the first time in 30 years, I'm going to eat all the wheat I can."
I told him, "Don, let's talk about this for a moment. I appreciate your faith, but you are the only guy who knows how to operate this camera, and we brought you all the way over here." But, he declared, "I'm sorry, God's healed me and I'm eating wheat tonight." So, I started praying hard! Anyway, he ate the wheat and he's been eating it until this day.
Folks, that healing happened right in Korazim where Jesus healed people. Jesus healed people then, and He's still healing them today.