Anise and Cummin

Anise and Cummin

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In my last post, I presented a picture of frankincense and myrrh that that I took while walking around the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, I want to show you the seeds of two more spices from that same store. 

In Matthew 23 we read:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
— Matthew 23:23

Anise and cummin were used as spices for the flavoring of foods. This practice is still common today. 

Frankincense and Myrrh

Frankincense and Myrrh

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I love walking through the Old City of Jerusalem. Within the city, there are half a dozen spice shops. These shops allow you the opportunity to see things that it is more difficult to see in the United States. When I was there a few weeks ago, I ran across a couple of bowls which contained frankincense and myrrh. 

Of course, this reminds me of the passage in Matthew 2:9-11:

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Back to Israel

Back to Israel

Well, the time has come for me to head back to Israel. I will admit, this is a bit strange since I just returned from Israel less than three weeks ago. But, I consider myself very, very lucky. Less than a month ago, I had the privilege of leading a tour group and introducing 27 other people to the beautiful land of Israel and connecting that land to the Bible. Today, I have another privilege. I have the opportunity to travel back to Israel with the rest of the team from Appian Media

Last year, we were able to produce five videos about the life of Jesus. Entitled "Following the Messiah", the videos followed the life of Jesus from His birth to the selection of His disciples. We were also able to create a separate video on the ancient Jewish city of Magdala as well as add a large number of resources to our digital library. 

On this trip, we will complete the videos of the life of Jesus, focusing on His miracles, teaching, and of course, His death, burial, and resurrection.  

No doubt, this will not be my last trip to Israel. In fact, I have already been making plans for my tour next year. I have incorporated a couple of small changes to the tour to make the tour even better. 

As we leave today, we ask for your prayers for our success in creating these materials that can be used in teaching others about Jesus.

NOTE: The picture at the top of this post is of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Observe the ruins of the city of Capernaum on the shore of the sea. In Matthew 8, the passage describes how Jesus went to Capernaum after concluding the Sermon on the Mount.

Back Home Again

Back Home Again

This year's tour has concluded. We have all made it back home and are spending the time looking through our pictures and reflecting on the things that we learned and the fun times that we had. 

The folks on the tour were fantastic. They were open to any idea that I had and were ready to learn. And we took advantage of it. We traveled from Dan to Beersheva. We watched the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee. We floated in the Dead Sea. On Sunday morning, we worshiped together. We laughed a lot. And, at some locations, we even shed a tear. 

I was even able to go to a few places that were new to me. I have never looked over into Syria from the top of Mount Bental. Now, I have. I have never been inside the edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulture. Now, I have. And, I have never viewed the Shephelah from the top of Tel Lachish. Now, I have. 

To those who joined me this year, thank you. I enjoyed so much spending time with you. 

For a student of the Bible, traveling to Israel is a wonderful experience. It allows you to "see" the Bible in new and exciting ways because you are walking where they walked. 

I am already looking forward to my next tour in July 2018. If you are interested in traveling with me, please contact me.  You will never regret traveling to Israel.

 

From Galilee to Jerusalem

Wow...we have had a busy few days. So busy, in fact, that I have been unable to write a blog post. But, our group has made it safely to Jerusalem and we are enjoying our time together.

On Thursday, we travelled north up the Hula Valley and visited the sites of Hazor, Abel Beth Maacah, Dan, and Caesarea Philippi. After lunch, we traveled through the Golan Heights and were able to enjoy the view into Syria from Mount Bental. We ended our day by seeing the first 

Friday's stops included Capernaum, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Nof Ginnosar, and an opportunity to step into the sea. We were able to have lunch at a local restaurant to have "St. Peter's Fish". We ended our day by climbing to the top of Mount Arbel and viewing the entire Sea of Galilee. It was a wonderful day.

This morning, we left the serenity of the area of Galilee and headed toward Jerusalem. On the way we made stops at Jezreel, Spring of Harod, Bet She'an, Jericho, and the baptismal site. Our arrival in Jerusalem was met with much cooler temperatures than what we experienced to our north. It was a welcome relief. 

Not only is the group doing great, but they are an absolute joy to be around. Tomorrow, we head towards the Dead Sea.

From One Coast to Another

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Our first full day in the land of Israel saw us traveling from one coast to the other. We started by watching the sun rise over the resort city of Netanya on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. From there, we traveled to Caesarea Maritima. This large seaport city was truly a jewel in the crown of King Herod's building projects. We toured the theatre, palace, hippodrome, and harbor. 

We then climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and revisited the story of Elijah's contest against the prophets of Baal. Our view was very clear and we could see for miles. There are so many locations of Biblical stories that can be seen from there.

After lunch, we toured the ancient city of Megiddo. Once again, the views across the Jezreel Valley were fantastic.

We concluded our day with a visit to Nazareth Village. This first century replica village helps the visitors understand life during the time of Jesus.

We have arrived at truly one of my favorite hotels in Israel, the Ron Beach on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We will spend three nights here touring the land of Galilee. 

The tour group is doing great and everyone is having a great time. It is an honor to travel with them and learn more about the Bible. 

Back In Israel

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We had a couple of air flight delays and some traffic issues going around Tel Aviv, but our tour group is safely in Israel. We are staying tonight in the resort city of Netanya overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. 

Tomorrow, we will head north to Caesarea Maritima and then through the Jezreel Valley toward Tiberius.  

I am happy that we are all doing well and that we are excited to begin our adventure. More pictures and videos coming tomorrow. Now, I am off to bed. Shalom. 

Leaving on a Jet Plane

The reservations have been made. The flights have been booked. And the bags are packed. Tomorrow morning, we will be heading to Israel on another tour of this beautiful land. My tour group will meet in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon and begin our adventure. I can not wait. 

I will be posting here every evening and give you an update on what we have seen, where we have been, and what we have learned. So stay tuned.

For those members of my tour group: Travel safe and Lord willing, I will see all of you in Israel!

NOTE: The picture above is looking east from Tiberias across the Sea of Galilee. 

 

When Paul Left Caesarea

When Paul Left Caesarea

During the first century, the city of Caesarea was the Roman administrative capital for the entire region. King Herod constructed the second largest port in the world at Caesarea. It consisted of two "ports". The outer port is where many of the larger ships would be docked. Transportation to the outer port would take place via smaller boats which were docked in the inner port. 

The steps in this picture are from the inner port dock at Caesarea. During the first century, travelers would have used these steps to climb down from the dock to enter a small ship. This small ship would transport them to the outer dock where the larger ship would be located.

After the apostle Paul used his privilege as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar, he was loaded onto a ship and sent to Rome. It is possible that Paul used these exact steps as he left the city of Caesarea for the final time. 

Well Watered Valley

Well Watered Valley

Looking east across the Jordan Valley toward the Trans-Jordan Plateau. 

Looking east across the Jordan Valley toward the Trans-Jordan Plateau. 

In Genesis 13, we read:

Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. - Genesis 13:8-11

One of the misconceptions by people who have never traveled to Israel is that the entire land is a dry, barren wasteland. And, while there are portions of the land that are very dry (notably, the wilderness areas south of the Negeb), much of the land is green, lush, and vibrant with life. 

In the passage that I mentioned above, Abraham gives Lot the choice of the piece of land he wants to settle. Lot gazes down into the "well watered" Jordan Valley and decides to locate his family in this region. As you can see from the picture, this land is still agriculturally rich and crops are still grown in this region. 

(NOTE: Looking at the picture, you would think that the Jordan River would be visible. In reality, it is not. The river flows through the center of the Jordan Rift Valley, but sits very low and it not visible most time of the year.) 

Water from Mount Carmel

Water from Mount Carmel

During the first century BC and AD, the coastal city of Caesarea served as the Roman Administrative Center of the province of Syria. Even today, Caesarea Maritima displays any number of the massive building projects overseen by King Herod. Form the theatre, the praetorium, the hippodrome, and harbor, all still have the identifiable thumbprints of King Herod all over them. 

From an engineering perspective, one of the most awe-inspiring projects is the aqueduct system which transported water into the city. Having a population of over 100,000 people, water was a necessity. King Herod built an aqueduct that stretched eight miles from a spring at the foot of the Carmel mountain range to the city of Caesarea. Much of this aqueduct can still be seen today.

The picture at the top of this post was taken from the top of the theatre in Caesarea looking northeast. The range of mountains you can see in the distance is the Carmel. This was the source of the fresh water which was brought into the city of Caesarea.

Often, we have the tendency to think about the people in ancient times as being uneducated or somehow intellectually less than we are. That is not true at all. It may have taken them a little longer to accomplish a task, but they got it done. And often, the task was completed in such a way that is far superior than what we are capable of today.

(Note: People who have visited Caesarea Maritima will notice the miniature model of the city under the covering in the bottom-right hand portion of the picture. Visitors often stop at this model to better understand the ruins that they are seeing.)

The Jordan River

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Beginning at the foot of Mount Hermon, the Jordan River travels through the Hula Valley before entering the Sea of Galilee. At approximately 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee is the lowest fresh water lake in the world. After exiting the Sea of Galilee, the river twists and turns its way about 70 miles before emptying into the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on the face of the earth. 

The Jordan River is mentioned many times in the Bible. The Israelites crossed this river as they began their conquest of the land of Canaan. Elijah and Elisha crossed this river. Naaman was told to wash in this river to cure his disease. In New Testament times, Jesus was baptized at a site very near the Jordan River. 

Because the Jordan River serves as an international boundary, access to the river is not easy. This picture, taken just south of the Sea of Galilee, is one of the few places where the public can access the water's edge.

Fishing on the Sea of Galilee

Last June, I was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and was able to catch a picture of this gentleman fishing in the lake. Obviously, in the first century, fishermen used nets as opposed to a rod and reel. But, it is still very interesting to see that even today, people still love to fish this beautiful area. 

A View of En Gedi

Earlier this week, Melanie Lidman wrote an excellent article that was published in Times of Israel about the declining water in the Dead Sea. I have written about this situation a number of times in my journal. I even briefly mentioned it in Episode 3 of Appian Media's "Following the Messiah" series when we visited the traditional baptismal site of Jesus. 

In the article Ms. Lidman references the changes to Highway 90, which runs along the western side of the Dead Sea. About three years ago, potholes developed around the bridge near En Gedi. Repairs to the bridge pillars were attempted, but the damage to the surrounding ground was too severe. The road was eventually rerouted and roundabouts were inserted. 

I have driven over this new road a number of times. But, last June, I was able to climb up above En Gedi and see the whole area for myself. The picture at the top of this post was my view from that vantage point. I have put a red circle around the bridge that was mentioned in the article and which is no longer in use. The En Gedi Visitor Center is in the bottom left and if you look carefully, you can see the new road as it leaves the shore of the Dead Sea and bypasses the bridge. 

The other interesting feature of note is the presence of trees and shrubs in the picture. This is the result of water that continually flows through the valleys of the Judean Wilderness. This water is collected and drains through this area, feeding the local vegetation. It is no wonder why David ran to this area while he was being pursued by King Saul. He needed water...and that could easily be found at En Gedi. 

Appian Media Videos - Following the Messiah

Wow...it has been a long time since I have posted. I apologize for that. I will try to do better. But, for the past several months, I have been busy working on another project.

About a year ago, I was contacted by a couple of Christians in the Indianapolis area. They wanted my help in creating some Biblically-accurate videos about the life of Jesus. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. Last June, six of us traveled to Israel and recorded the video for the first five episodes of a series entitled "Following the Messiah". These episodes cover Jesus' life from His birth to the selection of his apostles.

After many months of hard work, the videos were officially released on Saturday. To celebrate the occasion, we had a public showing of two of the episodes at a wonderful theatre in Indianapolis.

I encourage you to view the videos. As I said, they were shot on location in Israel. They can be used in Bible classes, family devotionals, or any number of ways. They are all about 25 minutes in length are free to download. They can be accessed via the Appian Media website.

Please watch the videos and give us feedback! We would love to know what you think and what else you would be interested in seeing.

Rare View of Mount Hermon

dsc_2564 I have been lucky enough to travel to Israel several times. But last June, when I was traveling with the team from Appian Media, I was able to see something that I have never seen before. While we were staying in Tiberias, it was clear enough so that I could see Mount Hermon from the lake. The picture at the top of this post was one (of many) that I captured. Most of the time, there is too much haze in the Hula Valley to see the mountain from this distance.

The above picture was taken late one afternoon. You can clearly see Mount Hermon and the location where the Hula Valley (with the Jordan River at its base) empties into the Sea of Galilee.

Mount Hermon sits about 60 miles north of the Sea of Galilee on the modern-day borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon. It rises over 9,000 feet in elevation. Since the Sea of Galilee sits approximately 700 feet below sea level, the top of the mountain is nearly 10,000 feet above the location of this photograph. The Old Testament city of Dan and the New Testament city of Caesarea Philippi sit near the base of the mountain.

In the 4th century, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem suggested that since many of the activities in the lifetime of Jesus happened around Mount Tabor, therefore he preferred that site as the probable location of the Transfiguration. Consequently, that site has been recognized as the traditional location of the event since that time.

However, many recent scholars prefer the location of Mount Hermon for the Transfiguration. Just prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. This is told to us in Matthew 16:13, when Jesus discusses who they believe He is. Peter responds by saying that "Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God." Then, six days later (Matthew 17:1), Jesus took Peter, James, and John onto a "high mountain". While it would have been possible to travel from Caesarea Philippi to Mount Tabor (a distance of about 70 miles) in six days, it seems more logical that the "high mountain" that was mentioned in Matthew is referring to Mount Hermon, especially since they were already in the area. I agree with this assessment.

Walking Like Jesus (Ascent to Adummim)

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NOTE: This is the final article in a series of posts as we have looked at places where Jesus walked. If you would like to go back and look and some of the previous posts, they covered the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a Roman Road in Galilee, the hills of Samaria, and on the Sea of Galilee.

Luke tells us:

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. - Luke 19:28

This verse comes toward the end of Jesus' life here on earth. After visiting the city of Jericho, Luke tells us that Jesus left the city and went up to Jerusalem. The picture at the top of this post is of the hills west of the city of Jericho. A road known as the Ascent of Adummim goes up these hills.

Jesus walked here.

As the crow flies, the distance between Jericho and Jerusalem is about 12 miles. However, over that 12 miles, there is an elevation gain of about 3500 feet. The road is desolate, barren, and travelers are totally exposed to the sun.

I have hiked a good bit in the Smoky Mountains. One of the things that you quickly learn while hiking is that it is very difficult to talk and walk at the same time. You need to use as much energy as you can to keep walking. So, you end up doing a lot of thinking.

Jesus probably did the same. He probably spent a good deal of time thinking. What did He think about? Honestly, I do not know. But, I can guess. He probably thought about:

1) How hot and dry it was. It would not have been an easy walk. 2) The week that was ahead of him. He knew what He was going to have to go through. 3) He was probably thinking about you...and me. He knew that if He did not walk up that road and go through the trials of the next week, we would have no hope.

So, what lesson can we learn from Jesus walking up this road? We can learn that we need to be willing to make sacrifices for others. What Jesus did for all of us is the single, most important sacrifice that has ever been made.

Do you want to walk like Jesus? Then walk up the Ascent to Adummim and be willing to make true sacrifices for others.


How would you like to travel with me to Israel and see many of these places that I have mentioned? I am leading a tour next June and I would love to have you join me. For more information, see my website. Do not let this opportunity pass you by!

Walking Like Jesus (On the Sea of Galilee)

Walking Like Jesus (On the Sea of Galilee)

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NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of posts about Walking Like Jesus. The previous posts were about the southern steps of the Temple Mount, the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a Roman road to Capernaum, and the hills of Samaria.

Matthew tells us...

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” - Matthew 14:22-33

The picture at the top of this post is of the sun rising over the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus walked here.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "Barry is going to tell me to go walk on water!" No, not really. But, I do want us to consider what lesson we can learn from what Jesus did here. The lesson we can learn is this: We need to try the impossible.

Satan has many weapons in his arsenal. One of his most powerful lessons is doubt. How often have you said, "I can't do that!"

As soldiers of the cross, we should be willing to do whatever we needed to do to tell others about Jesus.

Perhaps you do not think that you could ever teach a Bible class. Give it a try!

Perhaps you do not think that you lead a prayer in public. Give it a try!

Perhaps you do not think that you would know what to say to someone who is struggling. Give it a try!

You may think that those things are impossible. But, you never know, you might find out that they are really possible. And, not only that, you might actually find that you are good at them. Consequently, people will learn more about Jesus.

Do you want to walk like Jesus? Then do the impossible and try to walk on the Sea of Galilee. In doing so, you might find that the things you thought were impossible are actually possible.

Walking Like Jesus (Hills of Samaria)

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Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” he woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” - John 4:1-15

The picture at the top of this post is of the hills in the region of Samaria.

Jesus walked here.

What lesson can we learn from Jesus as He walked through Samaria? We can learn that we should spend time with people who are different than we are.

Walking through Samaria is not easy. The seemingly unending hills and valleys would have been very tiring. If I were to walk through this region, I know how I would react. I would get thirsty. And, I would be looking for someone to give me some water.

As Jesus nears Sychar, He is thirsty and approaches a Samaritan woman and asks her for some water. She even questions Jesus' actions as she knows that Jesus (being a Jew) normally would not associate with her (being a Samaritan). But, Jesus was willing to overlook those cultural differences because He had more in mind than water. He wanted to talk with her about God.

Do you want to walk like Jesus? Then walk through the hills of Samaria and find someone who is different than you. Once you have found them, talk to them about Jesus.

Walking like Jesus (Road through Galilee)

roman_road (NOTE: This is the third in a series of posts on "Walking like Jesus". In previous posts, I discussed the locations of the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount and the Shores of the Sea of Galilee.)

Luke tells us:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. - Luke 4:16-31

The picture at the top of this post is of the remains of a road built by the Romans in the first century. The Romans were known for many things. One of which was their impressive system of roads. Many of their roads ran through this area of the world. This road runs between lower Galilee and the lake.

Jesus walked here.

What lesson can we learn about Jesus walking here? We can learn that we should not let spiritual discouragement get you down.

Jesus had just visited his hometown, the town that he grew up in. He entered the synagogue and spoke the truth. As a result, the people rebuked Him and threatened to kill Him. These people were His friends and His neighbors. Surely, this would have been very discouraging to Jesus. But He did not let it get Him down. He left Nazareth and went to Capernaum to continue the work that His Father had given Him to do.

Being a Christian is not always easy. Many things that happen that can cause us to be discouraged. Sometimes even other Christians can get us down. How do you handle those type of situations? It is easy to just throw up your arms and say, "Forget it...I am not doing this any more!" But that is not the right response. We need to be willing to put those times behind us and keep focused on what we need to do for God.

Do you want to walk like Jesus? Then walk down this road in Galilee and do not let spiritual discouragement get you down.