When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, saying “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said unto them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And also say unto you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16: 14-17)

“And I heard the voice of the LORD, saying “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?  Then I said, “Here am I send me.” (Is. 6:8)

Dear Friends of Israel:

Some thirty miles north of the Sea of Galilee and perhaps a good three-hour drive north of Jerusalem, lies the ruins of Caesarea Philippi.  This is where Philip, the son of Herod Antipas established his palace.  It was strategically located at the base of Mount Hermon and near the principle trade route to/from Damascus (all the better to collect taxes). Overlooking Philip’s fortress and built into a high cliff was the ancient shrine of Pan.  There were fourteen pagan temples that were once built here, to celebrate & worship Pan, the Greek god of shepherds and of nature.  Every kind of sexual sin, prostitution, and demonic activity was practiced here.  Blood sacrifices were made at Panias, and then their remains thrown into the mouth of a gigantic cave, in which a swift flowing stream emerged from the depths of the mountain-side.  The pagans of the time, believed that the fertility god Pan was born in this cave, thus they would beseech him with offerings in hopes of achieving a good harvest.  The cave was known as being the entrance to hades or the underworld.  It was also called “the gates of hell” or in Hebrew “sheol,” (the abode of the dead). 

Banias (Arabic for this place), is an Israeli national park today, and a place where I have been with lots intercessors many times.  It lies in a peaceful location, hidden somewhat from the main highway.  Numerous springs, are found here, and a small river winds its way through the park.  You can hike its length and also visit what remains of Philips palace.  Banias is in ruins, its temples destroyed by numerous earthquakes and Islamic conquerors.  The once fearsome pagan cave is dry now, and stone niches where the idols were displayed are empty.  The temple of the dancing goats is gone too as is most everything else.

Why bother to go there then?  Because, it is one of the few identifiable locations that Jesus visited.  I imagine though the disciples were both mystified and shocked as they were observant Jews and were now led into this den of iniquity and pagan worship.  And yet here, in the midst of this demonic stronghold, a place where goats were worshiped and fed to an underworld idol, the LORD God gave Peter a stunning revelation as to who Jesus was.  He was the long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one, and the true Son of a living and ever-present God. It was here at this pagan shrine, Peter (petros: a little stone) heard Jesus say that upon this rock (petra: a massive rock, a sure foundation, the chief cornerstone, the rock of ages), he would build his church or ecclesia as it is written in the Greek.  Ecclesia means: “the called-out or chosen ones.” As disciples, we are through the great commission, “called out” into this world, and the gates of hell (whatever hell throws at us) will not prevail against what he has called us to do for him.

You can visit Banias on YouTube.  Here is a link, I’ve found with Pastor Todd Fink, narrating:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYnUR_OxWKc Perhaps one day after COVID bows its knee and tourism again reopens in Israel, you may find yourself there.  Each one of us though, must have a personal encounter with Jesus, whether it is near the gates of hell in our own lives or perhaps even at the foot of his cross.  Here too, we must be like Peter and declare to our Lord: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And like present day Banias, hell’s fury and demand for blood sacrifices has been overcome by the blood of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.  Jesus, himself holds the keys to death and hades (the spiritual underworld) and we as his disciples, his called-out ones, must encourage ourselves in knowing this and in obedience by going forth and following our Lord.

Here I am LORD, send me

I have also been watching/listening to Simon Khorolskiy on YouTube.  He is a masterful singer, a worshiper and former Russian immigrant who lives in Camas Washington.  The visuals on his worship songs are amazing.  Here is the link:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_402FDIG_Y   This link will lead you to his song: “Holy is the Lord.” Please listen to it.  Khorolskiy takes Isaiah’s vision of the seraphim and then brings us to the LORD’s call: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us.” (Is. 6:8)   It’s a call from heaven for this hour.  I believe we, as Jesus’s “called out ones” are the verge of seeing a mighty great revival.  A revival of souls who are desperately hungry and thirsty for Jesus’ life-giving words.  It a call that Isaiah answered.   “Here am I send me.”  It is a call during this pandemic that we must pray: “Here I am Lord, send me!”

Green Passport

Israel despite a nationwide vaccine program has inoculated only about 1/3 of its population leaving still millions susceptible to catching COVID.  The problem is that many citizens are wary of taking this two-shot miracle drug, and prefer to take their “chances.”  The Israeli Health Ministry though is instituting a “Green Passport” as an incentive to “take the vaccine.”  With this internal passport, Israelis can prove they are inoculated and thus are given permission then to enter into hotels, malls, gyms, and other businesses.  You can then supposedly go about your life with a “measure of  normalcy” (www.jpost.com 2/19/21). Do without the COVID vaccine and the government will restrict your activities to pharmacies and grocery stores.  Green passport monitors will soon be stationed at every business throughout Israel to check your “green passport” or scan your digital QR code on your phone ..  Avoid the COVID vaccine and you will need to take a COVID test every 48 hours to be permitted inside your workplace or business.  It remains to be seen if international travelers will be admitted in the future without some kind of COVID vaccination certificate.  Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport currently remains closed in an effort to avoid admitting COVID-19 positive travelers, who might be infected with mutant viruses

Revelation says that “No one can buy or sell except the one who has the mark or the name of the best or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:17).  We are rapidly getting closer to the last days before His coming.

A Winter’s Storm

Snowfall is rare in Jerusalem but not unknown.  When it happens, usually the rest of the nation takes an opportunity to visit Jerusalem’s parks and go “sledding” (on flattened card-board boxes) or just throwing snowballs.  (The COVID pandemic has severely restricted this tradition).  Last week’s mid-week’s storm, saw about four inches of it, fall on the city accompanied by high winds.  Most of it was gone by Thursday morning (Feb 18th).  Even so, many were “pleased” to see their city coated in white.

Shabbat Shalom

Gene and Marylois/House of Peace