Beyond the geographical, biblical, spiritual, and historical lessons, our last trip to Israel was a weather tutorial as well. We arrived on a beautiful December morning. That night in Bethlehem it snowed 6-10 inches. Over in Jerusalem the snowfall totaled more than 20 inches. So, we were landlocked for a couple of days as we waited for the temperature to rise and melt some of the snow. We were witnesses to a one-hundred year snowfall in Israel. Awesome.
On our first travel day we went down to a relatively new baptismal site on the Jordan River, opposite Qumran. There I was privileged to baptize a large group of our pilgrims and Pastor Mike Rucker baptized me. It was the coldest I'd ever been in my 68 years. The water was freezing, the wind was blowing, clouds hung overhead threatening some kind of precipitation, and we were all bare-footed, wearing those flimsy little baptismal robes provided by the site operators. Poor Alice Caldwell slipped on the Jerusalem stone and broke her collarbone (PS, she's a trooper and never missed a second of our experience for the remaining eight days). As we were traveling toward Jericho the two rainbows pictured above stretched across the Jordan Valley. It's not a great picture, taken with my iPhone. But, it was a special time for our group. From that moment on our seventh trip to Israel was about God's promises.
At the time I was reflecting on thirty-four years of pastoral ministry and thinking about the next chapter God had planned for me in retirement. Every precious Holy Land site was a reminder of God's faithfulness and the assurances of His promises to those he has called. Years before I had studied God's many promises and had often been encouraged and equipped by them, especially in some difficult times. During those ten days, however, five of His promises became the impetus for my final year of pastoral service. Regardless of our destination those five promises were the backdrop of the most significant biblical lessons of our previous times in Israel. Let me share them here, again. My prayer is that they will give both of my readers the endurance to finish the course He planned for His called ones, whatever their assignment---
1. God is always working in our lives
My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.
John 5:17, NIV
2. God is always working for our good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28, NIV
3. God is always working His purpose in in us.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good
Philippians 2:13, NIV
4. God will complete what He started in us.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on
to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6, NIV
5. God works in us so people will be in awe of Him.
I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking
from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him.
Ecclesiastes 3:14, HCSB
Maybe it was just me, but the busy-ness and pace of ministry often overshadowed the powerful promises He had made to those He called to spiritual leadership. The rainbow over the Jordan Valley that day was an immediate reminder of the love, providential care, and guidance He lavishes on those of us seeking to answer His call and serve His kingdom purpose. Even more, that rainbow, such a vivid symbol of His promise, was the final piece of knowing His next chapter for me.
Life is often perplexing and hard, and spiritual leadership demands more than the limits He built into us mere humans. But, there He is standing guard over His people, covering us with His great and precious promises.
Peter wrote this about His promises---
His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through
the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He
has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may
share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of
2 Peter 1:3-4, HCSB
Remembering that strategic rainbow keeps those promises in clear view.