God’s Surprising Tests for You Often Look for One Thing

When the tests come, we can believe what is true or what is false.

God’s tests are most often pop quizzes. You don’t see them coming. If you knew you would be running late tomorrow morning, you’d prepare ahead of time. But that’s not a real test.

God's Surprising Tests for You Often Look for One Thing

(Photo: Shiloh, where Hannah trusted God. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

A real test hits your blindside. It tests the mettle of your theology, and often, it even seems to contradict it.

  • You have walked with God, but a family member suddenly gets terribly ill.
  • Your integrity on the job has been stellar, but someone else gets the promotion.
  • You have worked hard on a project, but the doors for its success stay closed.
  • You get an unexpected phone call with news that chills your soul.

In the end, the pop quizzes we experience usually boil down to one thing.

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What’s Your Motive? There’s Only One Way to Tell

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

What’s your motive? In Jerusalem, one site always begs the question. I find it fascinating that when the New Testament talks about God judging our motives, it uses the metaphor of a burnt house. 

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

(Photo: The Burnt House in Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:

Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3

Their question made sense.

They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.

One question gets to the heart of our heart.

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The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

Finding it is the easy part. The next step is the tough one.

I am convinced God is far more concerned that we know His will than we are. In fact, He has gone to great lengths to help us understand what we need to know. It’s always been this way. Here’s why. 

The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

(Photo: Tel Jokneam, one of the 48 Levitical Cities. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God’s will is found in God’s Word. If we want to find His will, we must read His Word. It’s often that simple—and yet, it’s also difficult. But it needn’t be.

In fact, God has always made His Word accessible to us—today more than ever.

It’s an incredible opportunity for us. 

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How to Insert Your Quiet Time into Your Crazy Life

One discipline more than any other will make all the difference.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the chasm that stands between my morning quiet time and the rest of the day. You know what I mean? At times, there seems such a huge breach between Scripture and the real world.

How to Insert Your Quiet Time into Your Crazy Life

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Drinking deeply of the Word of God in the early morning hours, I express in prayer my love for the Lord, His Word, and His church. It’s all good.

But then I leave the house.

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Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus- How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding (Baker, 2018)

When we read the Bible, we face a huge disadvantage. In the busyness and distraction of our 21st-century Western world, we can stare straight at the words on the page but miss their meaning. Even our Christian worldview can too easily assume a narrow perspective and, once again, miss the rich background upon which the Messiah lived. 

Bridging the gap between then and now is not a new effort. However, few have spanned that gorge in a more readable (and enjoyable) way than Lois Tverberg. Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding helps us understand Christ from His Jewish roots. Because those boring “begats” have a purpose to Jesus, they also relate to our lives. This book explains why the elements that before seemed irrelevant are, in fact, significant. 

When Jesus stepped on to the world’s stage, it wasn’t an empty one. The props were Hebrew—an unnatural perspective to us. Lois gives us a better understanding of the biblical setting, and so offers us a deeper appreciation (and application) of the Bible’s story and its primary focus: Jesus Christ. 

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The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies

Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Baker, 2018)

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies serves as a handy reference to understanding words and names, heroes and heretics, ancient and modern. Both scholars and skeptics find themselves listed in alphabetical order alongside terms from “abomination of desolation” to “Zoroastrianism.” 
 
Concise, fair, and well-written, the little volume would prove more handy with a simple index of names, words, and page numbers. As a “dictionary” it doesn’t require an index, but the reader would benefit from scanning the contents at a glance. 
 

How to Struggle with God and Win

Jacob's brawl at the Jabbok River gives a model of how to do it.

What does it take for God to change you? In the Bible, when the Lord changed Jacob, it took a brawl. Isn’t it often the same with us? But that’s actually good news. 

Jabbok River at Peniel

(Photo: Jabbok River at Peniel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

These times we struggle with the Father represent His grace. It’s never easy, and it often seems rigged in God’s favor.

But Jacob shows us how to win the struggle.

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How to Stop Looking for God in the Wrong Places

The solution to the futility you feel is easier than you think.

The world makes promises it can’t keep. It says the reason we’re unhappy is that we just haven’t found the right whatever yet. But if we keep looking, we’ll find it.

Looking for God in the Wrong Places

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

The right spouse, the right hairdo, the right salary, the right entertainment system, the right church, the right pastor, the right Bible, the right seminar, etc.

Those without God struggle with this, for sure. But even those of us who do believe in Jesus can chase these shadows.

We may not know we’re looking for God. But we are.

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The Plains of Moab—Remember What God has Done in Your Life

Looking back offers some of the best help for moving forward.

The time always seems right to receive God’s blessings. After all, we could use some. But sometimes, we need to pause and remember what God has done already. The Plains of Moab give us that much-needed view. 

Plains of Moab—Remember What God has Done in Your Life

(Photo: Sunset from Mount Nebo, overlooking the Plains of Moab. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When we focus so much on the needs of right now, we can lose sight of the fact that God has already brought us so far. Without that truth firmly rooted, we may miss the right-now blessings in front of us. 

After wandering 40 years in the wilderness, Israel camped on the Plains of Moab, poised to enter the Promised Land. But before receiving the blessings ahead, they needed to remember the blessing that lay behind them.

Here’s how you can do the same.

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Kadesh Barnea — How to Push Your Faith Past the Border of Fear

Two essential decisions will help you move forward.

We come to the line every day. It’s a border. Fear keeps us from stepping over it. What we see feels more compelling than what God has said. Kadesh Barnea was such a place.

Kadesh Barnea — How to Push Your Faith Past the Border of Fear

(Photo: Kadesh Barnea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Two decisions at Kadesh Barnea determined the future. Twice God’s people stood on the edge of their future. The first time, the Hebrews made the decision; the second time, Moses did. Nobody made an announcement of what would happen at Kadesh.

No one knew how significant the transition would be.

As you face the day before you, you have the same two decisions to make.

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