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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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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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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Finding Hope in Surprising Places around You

The Judean Wilderness illustrates the greener grass we envy.

Why does the grass often look greener in the lawn of those who don’t walk with God? Finding hope to look away from envy’s pull on our emotions requires help. Thankfully, God gives it in surprising places.

Finding Hope in Surprising Places around You

(Photo: Grass in the Judean Wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

By pointing to the land around him, David offers us the secret of finding hope for those seasons when we envy the wicked. The Judean Wilderness sprouts a beautiful green carpet in later winter, but its grass vanishes with the heat of the sun.

David draws from his days as a shepherd in this wilderness and offers an essential lesson in finding hope:

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart. —Psalm 37:1–4

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus likely referred to David’s confidence that “the humble will inherit the land” (v. 11; Matthew 5:5)—a reminder that the Kingdom of God holds for us all that we desire. Finding hope in our certain future keeps us focused when envy knocks.

How essential we take the long view of life and refuse to take shortcuts that deliver longterm regrets.

Tell me what you think: What helps you find hope with the long view in mind during moments of envy? To leave a comment, just click here.

How to Follow God’s Will in the Chaos of Your Life

Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane shows us how.

Finding and following God’s will for our lives often feels like a game of chance. But if we know God’s methods of revealing His will, we will see it—even when life feels full of chaos.

How to Follow God’s Will in the Chaos of Your Life

(Photo: Garden of Gethsemane olive tree. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Jesus modeled a life that followed God’s will without hiccups. His example at many points reveals how to stay on course.

His night in the Garden of Gethsemane shows us how.

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Learning to Trust God in a New Way

The Central Benjamin Plateau gives us a lesson about who owns our hearts.

Have you noticed? We have no problem choosing to trust God with the things for which we already trust Him. But then another situation shows up. And suddenly, it’s like starting over.

Learning to Trust God in a New Way

(Photo: Central Benjamin Plateau. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In those times, we’re a lot like Asa, one of the few godly kings of Judah. He once trusted the Lord in a battle in the Shephelah of Judah and defeated an Ethiopian who came against him with an army a million strong (2 Chronicles 14).

But Asa’s greatest test came in an area that hit closer to home—literally. That’s where God tests us as well, isn’t it?

Sometimes it seems like we’re always starting over in our trust of God. Here’s why.

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Jesus Shows How to See Yourself through 3 Amazing Truths

The Lord’s Words on the Temple Mount Urge Us to Keep it Real

As Jesus made His way toward Jerusalem for His final Passover, He repeated a principle to His disciples several times. The repetition for them ought to echo in our own minds as well.

Jesus Shows How to See Yourself through 3 Amazing Truths

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

What did Jesus say? Very simply:

The last shall be first, and the first last. —Matt. 19:30; 20:16, 27

The principle rubs against our grain because we want equity with others, and we feel justifiably peeved when someone gets something for nothing or when they elbow their way to greatness ahead of us (20:1-16-24).

Jesus redefined greatness as servanthood—first as last—and used Himself as an example who came to give His life for others (vv. 25-28).

His words continued in Jerusalem.

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3 Timely Galilee Reminders from Jesus to Empower Your Life

The Lord's words can take us way beyond information to life transformation.

When Jesus taught, His content came across like no other teacher in history. He taught with authority and compassion, but His words gave more than information.

3 Timely Galilee Reminders from Jesus to Empower Your Life

(Photo: Sower’s Cove by the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Galilee gave stage to Jesus’ life—from His early years in Nazareth to His latter years in Capernaum. During His ministry these places also played a role to offer several timely reminders.

Jesus’ teaching did much more than dispense facts. He taught to empower us with truth that could transform our lives.

Here are 3 examples.

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