How I Got Robbed on the Good Samaritan Road

A Lesson that Cost Me a Lot I’ll Pass Along to You for Free

Jesus chose as the setting for His parable of the Good Samaritan a road notorious for robbers. Turns out, that road still has thieves. Ask me how I know.

How I Got Robbed on the Good Samaritan Road

(Photo: Reading from my iPad on the Ascent of Adummim)

Last week Cathy and I stayed in Israel a few days after the Insight for Living Ministries tour in order to do some filming with my lifelong friend, Scott Wilson. One of the scenes we filmed took place on the Ascent of Adummim—the Good Samaritan Road.

While there, a group of thieves stole from me. But unlike the victim in Jesus’ parable, I wasn’t beaten and left half-dead.

But I did gain a valuable lesson that cost me hundreds of dollars.

As you read this post, you get the lesson for free.

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Good Friday Gives Your Shame a Choice

Understand the choice between sin's penalty and sin's remedy.

Good Friday wasn’t so good for Judas. The guilt-ridden betrayer of Jesus hung himself and then fell headlong, spilling his innards. Hence, the residents later named the place where it happened, “Akeldema,” or “Field of Blood” (Acts 1:18-19).

Judas may have chosen this place to die for a specific reason.

Good Friday Gives Your Shame a Choice

(Photo: Monastery of St Onuphrius, traditional Akeldema, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Today, the peaceful Monastery of St. Onuphrius at Akeldema offers no clue to the fact that Judas killed himself at that site—nor does it reveal the Hinnom Valley’s sordid history.

  • Horrific atrocities occurred in the Hinnom Valley during the days of Judah’s kings (2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31).
  • In Jesus’ day, the city dump lay in this gorge. Some suggest that fires continually burned the trash, and so Jesus used the smoldering landfill of Gehenna as an illustration of hell’s eternal flames (Mark 9:43).

Because Jesus compared the Hinnom Valley to hell, one has to wonder if this is the reason Judas’s desperate regret led him to end his life in this ravine.

Like Judas, you have failed. But Judas’ shame doesn’t have to be yours.

Good Friday gives your shame a choice.

Peter shows us why.

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Purim Offers Surprising Reasons Why God Put You Here

How coincidences in the Book of Esther point to your life.

Purim in Israel begins tonight. Purim represents more than costume parties for kids and eating triangular cookies filled with fruit (called “Haman’s Ears”). The holiday remembers the historical event in the book of Esther where the Jews survived a plot to exterminate them.

Purim in Israel—God Has You Where You Are for a Reason

(Photo: Hand-written scroll of the Book of Esther in Hebrew. By Chefallen. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia)

My favorite part of the modern celebration of Purim includes the reading of the book of Esther. Amazingly:

  • Esther is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God.
  • It never speaks of prayer.
  • It has no miracle.
  • And yet it’s Scripture.

The story of Esther is built on a growing series of seeming coincidences, all of which play essential to the story.

God is never seen or spoken of—yet He works quietly behind the scenes, orchestrating His sovereign will.

Just like in our lives.

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Our Holy Land Tour is Over—It is Well with My Soul

Day 9: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

Our Israel tour has come to an end. Hard to believe! It’s been a fabulous tour connecting the Bible and its lands to life. One place in Israel that’s special is the lobby of the American Colony Hotel. That’s right, the lobby.

American Colony Hotel

(Picture: The American Colony Hotel)

The best part of this hotel is that the lobby has framed the original manuscript to one of my two favorite hymns: “It is Well with My Soul.”

I’ve posted a picture of it here. Can you make out the words?

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At the Garden Tomb, Contemplating the Resurrection

Day 9: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

We spent the morning at the Garden Tomb, where hundreds of us gathered in the beautiful gardens that surround the ancient tomb. Chuck Swindoll led us in a communion service.

The tomb itself is not the tomb of Jesus, but the location gives the best place in Jerusalem to contemplate the resurrection of Jesus.

At the Garden Tomb, Contemplating the Resurrection

(Photo: The Garden Tomb)

In my many visits to the Garden Tomb through the years, I have only had one guide tell me the tomb was the tomb of Jesus—and that visit was back in 2000. Since then, each guide has expressed that the Association makes no official claim that the tomb represents that of the resurrection of Jesus.

“The important thing is,” they always point out, “the tomb is empty.” I couldn’t agree more.

There is no better oasis in Jerusalem than the Garden Tomb to contemplate the central truth of Christianity’s faith—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

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The Israel Museum, the Holocaust Museum

Day 8: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

We spent the morning in Jerusalem at two magnificent museums. Both reflect a history of the chosen people that we must never forget. We toured the Israel Museum, which houses the original Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book. We also saw a number of wonderful archaeological finds we saw that connect directly with Jesus and the Bible.

Israel Museum

(Photo: The Israel Museum. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But the most moving museum was Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, which remembers the more than six million Jews who were murdered during WWII simply because they were Jews.

The museum’s path led our group before disturbing scenes suspended on pale walls. Life-sized murals of living skeletons stared at us. Corpses lay piled after mass-executions in photo after photo. Hundreds of discarded shoes lay under a glass floor. In another area, a recording read aloud the names of children and their ages at death. Chilling . . . and so very sad.

The Hebrew phrase Yad Vashem means, “a hand and a name,” an idiom from Isaiah 56:5 that refers to a memorial. How could anyone forget such horrific events?

But the museum has its rays of light as well.

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The Jordan River, Ein Gedi, Masada, and the Dead Sea

Day 7: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

Today we descended from Jerusalem into the warmer Jordan Valley. In fact, it’s the lowest elevation on the planet! We began with a worship service beside the Jordan River, the very site where tradition says Jesus was baptized.

Jordan River

(Photo: Jordan River baptism site, where Jesus was baptized)

On the west shore of the Dead Sea, we toured several places:

  • Masada—where first-century Jewish patriots committed suicide rather than surrender to Rome.
  • Ein Gedi—where a young David hid from a jealous King Saul (1 Sam. 23:29; 24:1).
  • Several brave souls chose to float in the Dead Sea, but once was enough for me!

And we toured Qumran—by far the most “boring” site of the three . . . and yet its significance for the Bible stands far above the others.

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In Jerusalem! Where Jesus Walked (Literally)

Day 6: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

No matter how many times I come to the Holy City of Jerusalem, the first view never gets old. I’ve never lived here, but it still feels like home. That’s probably because Jerusalem repesents so much of what we Christians love about the Bible. And we’ve seen a LOT of Jerusalem in the past two days.

Finally in Jerusalem! Where Jesus Walked (Literally)

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Southern Steps Excavations)

Our Sunday morning began with a worship service on the steps of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount! How great is that?

Fewer places give the sense of the time of Jesus like the Southern Steps excavations. In fact, because it is forbidden to dig on the Temple Mount itself, this area immediately south of the mount offers important archaeology to help unpack the history of the Temple Mount during the first century.

We sat on the 200-foot wide flight of stairs that represent both original and restored steps from the Second Temple period—the time of Jesus.

Jerusalem: City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and the Pool of Siloam

Day 5: Insight for Living Ministries Israel Tour

When people picture the city of Jerusalem, they usually think of the historic Western Wall, or the Old City, or the Temple Mount crowned with the Golden Dome of the Rock. But people on our tour were surprised to learn that the original city of Jerusalem lay just south of the Temple Mount on a small spur of land that encompassed about only ten acres.

City of David

(Photo: City of David at right, and Kidron Valley)

Crammed with houses and punctured with archaeological digs, the original area of Jerusalem looks much different today than it did three thousand years ago when King David conquered it.

Today, this part of Jerusalem retains the name, “The City of David,” and offers a number of archeological interests that relate to the monarch. The best way to view the area is to ascend the stairs just inside the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and stand atop the observation platform.

Check it out from Google Street View. Go ahead and click around:

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Kidron Valley and Jerusalem Walls

I snapped this photo of the Kidron Valley beside the Old City walls of Jerusalem. It’s impossible to fathom the history that occurred simply in the space of this photograph. Not the least of which is Jesus and His disciples crossing the Kidron Valley to enter the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1).

Sometimes it’s enough just to ponder a photograph.