Bethel Reveals What You Need to Know to Connect with God

There has always been only one way.

There has always been only one way to God—even in the Old Testament. But how? That way is by grace through faith in the object of God’s choosing. Bethel gives us a peek at that way.

Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel

(Photo: Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In his flight from his murderous brother Esau, Jacob spent the night at Bethel, where years earlier his grandfather Abraham had heard God promise that he would receive all the land as far as he could see. There, Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven, and the Lord repeated to him the promises Abraham received.

Shaken, Jacob awoke and said:

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. —Gen. 28:17

Jacob named the site Bethel—“house of God.” The dream gave more than a vision of God’s house.

It offered a foreshadowing of how to get there.

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The Dominus Flevit Church—and a Triumphal Entry that Wasn’t

As I made my way down the Mount of Olives, I couldn’t help think about the day Jesus rode down the slope on the back of a donkey.

His words that day hardly seemed fitting for a “Triumphal Entry.”

The Dominus Flevit Church—and a Triumphal Entry that Wasn't

(Photo: Jerusalem from inside the Dominus Flevit Church, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When Jesus saw Jerusalem, He wept over it:

If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. —Luke 19:42

I pondered the words. Why did He say: “this day . . .”?

The prophet Daniel penned a meticulous prediction of the very day when the Messiah would appear in Jerusalem.

It was that very day.

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Why Our Dirty Hands is the Best Bad News You’ll Ever Hear

How God's Word makes the hands unclean and the heart free

Many people see the Bible only as a book of bad news. After all, it lists everything we do wrong and reminds us how much God hates sin. But bad news is only half the message.

Why Our Dirty Hands is the Best Bad News You’ll Ever Hear

(Photo: Unsplash)

Because nobody likes hearing bad news, we often slam the book shut before we hear the good news that always follows. In fact, without bad news, we have no good news.

The bad news comes only as the essential first step to the best news you’ll ever hear.

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What Did it Mean to Be Unclean?

How an Old Testament Ritual Offers Hope to Today’s Problem

Thumbing through our Old Testament, we often come across references to people or objects being “unclean.” What in the world does that mean?

What Did it Mean to Be Unclean

(Photo by Photodune)

From our perspective, when we come across something unclean we toss it in the dishwasher, clothes washer, or garbage can. And if a person is unclean, they simply step in the tub and scrub away the grime.

Problem solved.

We hear “unclean” and we think of something as contaminated, tainted, or unhygienic. But in the Old Testament, “unclean” had a different meaning—one that affected one’s walk with God.

What did it mean to be unclean in the Old Testament? (And why we should care about it today?)

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How Jesus’ Powerful Personal Hope Can Lift You Up

The movement of the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath Jearim mirrors our hope.

Do you know what one, primary, personal hope drove Jesus’ life? What He looked forward to the most? It’s important we do know, because the same hope should drive our lives.

Kiriath Jearim church statue of Mary standing on Ark of the Covenant

(Photo: Kiriath Jearim church statue of Mary standing on Ark of the Covenant. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As we read the gospels, we see Jesus’ goal was not merely the cross. And even as great as the resurrection was, Jesus still had another hope beyond that.

It’s good news you can apply by the end of this blog post—and then for the rest of your life.

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What I Saw in the Brazen Face of Pharaoh’s Mummy

Seeing the Faces of Ancient Egypt in the Cairo Museum

I saw many amazing sites and new faces on my recent trip to Egypt. But none were as moving as when I looked into the mummified faces of the pharaohs who looked into the face of Moses. The Cairo Museum offered such a look.

Scott and Wayne at Cairo Museum

(Photo: At the Cairo Museum with my cameraman, Scott Wilson)

The Royal Mummies Hall in the Cairo Museum contains glass cases with ten mummies of pharaohs from the New Kingdom. Such kings include Ramses I, Seti I, Ramses the Great, Merneptah, and others.

But three other mummies were the reason I went. These three pharaohs the Bible refers to in connection with the Book of Exodus—and the life of Moses.

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A Lesson from Anathoth: Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

Jeremiah reminds us we never outgrow God

It’s tough to work hard at something, only to see your efforts eventually leak out through life’s cracks. Sometimes, however, that frustration can turn into a surprising blessing.

A Lesson from Anathoth- Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

(Photo: Anathoth looking east toward the wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Standing in his hometown of Anathoth on a wet, wintry day, the Prophet Jeremiah could look east and see grain fields lush with life. But just beyond those fields stretched the bleak and barren Judean wilderness—a land not sown with seed.

The Lord used a similar image when He told the Israelites how they had started out as a devoted people: “following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2), but then had turned from His ways.

The lesson Jeremiah wrote about from these simple elements is one we must never forget.

But too often, we do. Here’s how we can remember it.

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The King’s Garden in Jerusalem: A Lesson in Futility

Solomon’s experience shows us how not to waste our lives.

Some folks love gardening. For them, nothing compares to the joy of creating and appreciating beautiful landscapes and gardens. It provides them hours of relaxation and satisfaction. Me, not so much.

The King’s Garden in Jerusalem-A Lesson in Futility

(Photo: The King’s Garden began in the Kidron Valley beside the City of David. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

I guess it’s because working with plants requires continual maintenance. Mowing, pulling, watering, trimming—then do it again next week. Then again.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love the results of the work. It’s tremendously rewarding. But the results are just so short-lived.

King Solomon had a similar experience. He wrote:

I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. (Ecclesiastes 2:5–6)

After all this work—and many other pursuits—Solomon concluded a few verses later:

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (v. 11)

The King’s Garden in Jerusalem offers us some valuable lessons how not to waste our lives.

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The Golan Heights—Are You Sure Your Contentment is in the Right Place?

A lesson from the Golan Heights' bastions, burials, battles, and borders.

In a way, contentment isn’t always a good thing. The Golan Heights illustrate why. A long plateau rises east of the Sea of Galilee, high above the surrounding basins. As the highland stretches north, basalt cones penetrate the landscape, betraying extinct volcanoes below the surface.

The Golan Heights—Bastions, Burials, Battles, and Borders

(Photo: Nimrod’s Fortress in the Golan Heights. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For thousands of years, the Golan Heights in Israel served history in countless ways—from pasturelands to burial grounds, from battlegrounds to borders. It’s no wonder this region has remained the envy of its environs—even to today.

The volcanic soils offer lush pastures for grazing—and spectacular panoramas for the eyes.

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Tel Dan—Worshipping at the Altar of Convenience

In the end, we'll find God far more satisfying.

The spiritual life often asks a lot of us. But Tel Dan offered an alternative. Shady walkways. Cool breezes. Abundant streams. Luxuriant foliage. Tel Dan had everything you could ever want. Except God.

Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan

(Photo: Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In natural beauty, Tel Dan has few rivals in Israel. For the ancients, it had everything necessary for abundant living.

While the Hebrews in the south worshipped in Jerusalem, the natural beauty of Tel Dan in northern Israel offered an irresistible alternative. It was picturesque. It was convenient. It was invigorating.

And it was a complete compromise of God’s will.

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