Israel Day 3, Tagbha, Dan, Banyas, Conversion of Saul, & Gedara

Another Fantastic Day in Israel!  We saw & did many things today!  This morning after visiting Tagbha & recounting the feeding of the 5000 we traveled along North to Israel’s  border with Lebanon at the base of Mt. Hermon & enjoyed  the nature along the bountiful springs that form the upper Jordan River. We looked at the extent of Jesus’ ministry in this northern part of the country. We also visited the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Banyas (Caesarea Philippi, Matt. 16), an overview of Lebanon and Syria & looked at the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus & reflected on biblical conversion. We ended the day in the Decapolis looking over the Sea of Galilee studying the Demon possessed man from the Gadarenes. Themes for the day were salvation, assimilation, and the role of Idol worship in Ancient Israel.  Please continue to pray for health & that we will all continue to grow in our faith as we see the many locations in Israel!



Lesson: The Gospel Grows Our Faith, Restores Our Soul: The Boy and Peter

John 6:1–15 (ESV)

1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

I. Gospel-Driven People Grow In Faith Through Action

II. Gospel-Driven People Grow In Faith Through Awareness.

III Gospel-Driven People Grow In Faith Through Acknowledgement

John 21:1–17 (ESV)

1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

I. Gospel-Driven People Are Imperfect In This Life.

II. Gospel-Driven People Are Offered Restoration.

III. Gospel-Driven People Can Be Recommissioned.

Teaching time at the Tel Dan Ruins


Lesson: Idol Worship Ancient and Modern- The History of Dan

“The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, is an expert in inventing idols.” John Calvin

“We discover what our idols are by asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.” Scott Thomas

Three Categories of Idolatry:

1) Approval: I seek from someone or something other than God approval or acceptance and I derive my self-worth from the levels of approval or acceptance I receive.

2) Pleasure: I seek from someone or something other than God happiness as the desires of my flesh are pursued.

3) Comfort: I seek from someone or something other than God a sense of security as I try to control the world around me to try to avoid trouble and pain.

We all choose the things that we love the most, and the more we love them the more we choose them!

We all choose the things that we love the most, and the more we choose them the more we love them!

How do we address idols?

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

Six Ingredients for True Repentance by Thomas Watson:

1) Sight of sin! Luke 15:17

2) Sorrow for Sin. Psalm 38:18

3) Confession of Sin. Psalm 51, 1 John 1:9; Deut. 29:18

4) Shame for Sin. Ezra 9:6

5) Hatred of Sin. Rom. 12:9

6) Turning Away from Sin and to the Lord. Ezekiel 14:6; Joel 2:12; Prov. 28:13

Reaffirmation of the Gospel! Romans 8:1

The Gospel is the only solution to find approval, comfort, and security.

How does the Gospel address our idols?

  • God is gracious-so I don’t have to prove myself.
  • God is good-so I don’t have to look elsewhere for comfort, peace, and joy.
  • God is great-so I don’t have to be in control.

Pan Gates


Lesson: The Confession of Peter: The Reality of The Church

Problem: Roman Catholics use this passage to support their belief in the primacy of Peter, that is, that he is the rock on which the church is built. But Paul said the church is built on Christ, not Peter (1 Cor. 3:11). Is Peter the “rock” in this passage?

Solution: There are different ways to understand this passage, but none of them support the Roman Catholic view that the church is built on St. Peter, who became the first Pope—infallible in all his official pronouncements on faith and doctrine. This is evident for many reasons.

First of all, Peter was married (Matt. 8:14), and Popes do not marry. If the first Pope could marry, why later pronounce that no priest (or Pope) can marry.

Second, Peter was not infallible in his views on the Christian life. Even Paul had to rebuke him for his hypocrisy, because he was not “straightforward about the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14).

Third, the Bible clearly declares that Christ is the foundation of the Christian church, insisting that “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

Fourth, the only sense in which Peter had a foundational role in the church, all the other apostles shared in the same way. Peter was not unique in this respect. For Paul declared that in this sense the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). Indeed, the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [not just Peter’s]” (Acts 2:42). Even “keys of the kingdom” given to Peter (Matt. 16:19) were also given to all the apostles (cf. Matt. 18:18).

Fifth, there is no indication that Peter was the head of the early church. When the first council was held at Jerusalem, Peter played only an introductory role (Acts 15:6–11). James seems to have a more significant position, summing up the conference and making the final pronouncement (cf. Acts 15:13–21). In any event, Peter is never referred to as the “pillar” in the church. Rather, Paul speaks of “pillars” (plural), such as, “James, Cephas, and John” (Gal. 2:9). Peter (Cephas) is not even listed first among the pillars.

Sixth, many Protestant interpreters believe that Jesus’ reference to “this rock” (Matt. 16:18) upon which His church would be built was to Peter’s solid (rock-like) testimony that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). But even if this rock has reference to Peter (Petros, rock), which is certainly a possible interpretation, he was only a rock in the apostolic foundation of the church (Matt. 16:18), not the rock. Nor is he the only apostolic rock. Even Peter himself admitted that Christ is the chief rock (“cornerstone,” 1 Peter 2:7). And Paul notes that the other apostles are all part of the “foundation” (Eph. 2:20).

I. The Foundation of The Church Is The Person Of Christ.

II. The Formation of The Church Is The Response To Christ.

III. The Fellowship of The Church is The Community of Christ.

Ekklesia only used twice in the Gospels..Here and Matt. 18:17

IV. The Future of The Church is The Victorious Christ.

Stephen Olford writes,

Literally that should be translated, “And the gates of Hades (or the unseen world) shall not prevail against it.” The idea behind the expression “the gates of Hades” is that of death; and behind that, despair; and behind that again, sin. Neither sin, despair nor death shall prevail against the church of Christ. The reason why these three terrible and mysterious facts of the Universe cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ is that Jesus Himself has conquered sin, hopelessness and death. The gospel tells us that “Christ died for our sins and that he was buried,” but as the true Samson “he rose again the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3–4) and carried away the gates of hell, and so triumphed once and for all.”

Damascus Road (Runs Northwest in Picture)


Lesson: The Conversion of Paul

I. The persecution from Saul (Paul). Acts 9:1–2

ἐμπνέω ἀπειλῆς: (an idiom, literally ‘to breathe out threat’) to express dire threats—‘to threaten strongly, to make firm threats.’

In the Greek construction, the case in which these words are marks them as the cause or source of the “breathing;” breathing hard out of threatening, and murderous desire.- Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Ac 9:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Acts 9:13 (ESV) 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.

Acts 22:4 (ESV) 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,

Acts 22:19 (ESV) 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you.

Acts 26:10 (ESV) 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.

Acts 26:11 (ESV) 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

1 Corinthians 15:9 (ESV) 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Galatians 1:13 (ESV) 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.

Philippians 3:6 (ESV)6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

1 Timothy 1:13 (ESV) 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.

II. The conversion of Saul (Paul). Acts 9:3–9 (ESV)

1. God’s initiative in conversion. Acts 26:14 (ESV)

1 Corinthians 9:1 (ESV)1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?

1 Corinthians 15:8 (ESV)8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Galatians 1:16 (ESV)16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;

He was converted by the truth, and so are people today. There are non-genuine, spurious conversions. They pass away. But all true conversion is a result of the work of this same Jesus Christ who knows his sheep, “calls [them] by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). Christianity does not rest on a foundation of sand. It rests on the work of God, as is demonstrated in the conversion of Saul.- Boice, J. M. (1997). Acts : An expositional commentary (154). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

The story of Saul’s spiritual transformation ought to remind us never to write anyone off as being beyond the love of Christ. We may do so with relatives whom we know have heard the Word for years without response, or a sinner who has gone to a crass level of depravity, or someone who has gone into a cult or is propagating false doctrine. But Scripture is clear—God can reach anyone!

The workings of the divine hunter are subtle and profound. As Saul set out on his bloodthirsty hunt, he, unknowingly, was the hunted. The Hound of Heaven was tracking him down just as surely as the persecutor was tracking down God’s saints. God was still at work.- Hughes, R. K. (1996). Acts : The church afire. Preaching the Word (127). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

2. Paul’s condition before conversion.In spite of his great learning (Acts 26:24), Saul was spiritually blind (2 Cor. 3:12–18) and did not understand what the Old Testament really taught about the Messiah. Like many others of his countrymen, he stumbled over the Cross (1 Cor. 1:23) because he depended on his own righteousness and not on the righteousness of God (Rom. 9:30–10:13; Phil. 3:1–10). Many self-righteous religious people today do not see their need for a Saviour and resent it if you tell them they are sinners. -Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Ac 9:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Ephesians 2:5 (ESV) 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

3. Paul’s response to conversion. (the contrast of physical and spiritual blindness) Saul rose another man: he had fallen in death, he rose in life: he had fallen in the midst of things temporal, he rose in awful consciousness of the things eternal: he had fallen a proud, intolerant, persecuting Jew; he rose a humble, broken–hearted, penitent Christian. In that moment a new element had been added to his being. Henceforth—to use his own deep and dominant expression—he was “in Christ.” God had found him; Jesus had spoken to him, and in one flash changed him from a raging Pharisee into a true disciple—from the murderer of the saints into the Apostle of the Gentiles. It was a new birth, a new creation. As we read the story of it, if we have one touch of reverence within our souls, shall we not take off our shoes from off our feet, for the place whereon we stand is holy ground?- Farrar, F. W. (1879-80). Vol. 1: The Life and Work of St. Paul. (199). London; New York [etc.: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & co

John Newton was born July 24, 1725 in London to a godly mother and an irreligious, sea-faring father. His mother died when he was six. Left mainly to himself, Newton became a debauched sailor—a miserable outcast on the coast of West Africa for two years; a slave-trading sea-captain until an epileptic seizure ended his career; a well-paid “surveyor of tides” in Liverpool; a loved pastor of two congregations in Olney and London for 43 years; a devoted husband to Mary for 40 years until she died in 1790; a personal friend to William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon, Henry Martyn, William Carey,

John Wesley, George Whitefield; and, finally, the author of the most famous hymn in the English language, Amazing Grace.[1] He died on December 21, 1807 at the age of 82.

He found a Bible and got help from Luke 11:13, which promises the Holy Spirit to those who ask. He reasoned, “If this book be true, the promise in this passage must be true likewise. I have need of that very Spirit, by which the whole was written, in order to understand it aright. He has engaged here to give that Spirit to those who ask: I must therefore pray for it; and, if it be of God, he will make good on his own word.”[17]

He spent all the rest of the voyage in deep seriousness as he read and prayed over the Scriptures. On April 8 they anchored in Ireland, and the next day the storm at sea was so violent they would have surely been sunk. Newton described what God had done in those two weeks:

Thus far I was answered, that before we arrived in Ireland, I had a satisfactory evidence in my own mind of the truth of the Gospel, as considered in itself, and of its exact suitableness to answer all my needs. . . . I stood in need of an Almighty Savior; and such a one I found described in the New Testament. Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing: I was no longer an infidel: I heartily renounced my former profaneness, and had taken up some right notions; was seriously disposed, and sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safe through so many dangers. I was sorry for my past misspent life, and purposed an immediate reformation. I was quite freed from the habit of swearing, which seemed to have been as deeply rooted in me as a second nature. Thus, to all appearance, I was a new man.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am” – John Newton

Those transformed by the saving grace of God cannot stop speaking about it (Acts 4:20), and Saul was no exception. After a few days of fellowship with the saints, he immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues. To the shocked Christians, surprised by his conversion, can be added the shocked Jews, who were expecting him to take Christians prisoner, not preach Jesus Christ in their synagogues. From the beginning he felt that courageous compulsion that later caused him to exclaim, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” – (1 Cor. 9:16). – MacArthur, J. (1994). Acts (274). Chicago: Moody Press.

III. The Transformation of the Gospel. Acts 9:20–22 (ESV)

Principles for Spiritual Transformation (Conversion):

1. It is immediate. εὐθέως: a point of time immediately subsequent to a previous point of time.

2. It is verifiable. “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”.

John 15:8 (ESV)

8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

3. It is progressive. “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee- Jesus Casts Demons Into The Pigs


Lesson: The Gospel Is Our Strength For Spiritual Battle

I. Gospel-Driven People Recognize Christ As Lord Over Darkness.

Luke 8:26–39 (ESV)

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. 34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38

The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

II. Gospel-Driven People Put On Christ As Their Armor

Ephesians 6:10–20 (ESV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

III. Gospel-Driven People Realize The Reality Of Warfare And Resist.

1 Peter 5:5–11 (ESV)

5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

James 4:1–8 (ESV)

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.


About George Ross

I am a pastor, church planter, husband, and father of four.
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