Colossae – Finding the Freedom to Forgive

3 lessons linger from Paul's letters to the Colossians and Philemon

I had the privilege last week to walk atop the empty tell of ancient Colossae—and to open the letter written to the saints who lived on the soil I stood on. While there I remembered a crucial lesson on forgiveness.

Colossae tell with sign

(Photo: Colossae tell with sign. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Colossae offers little in the way of excavations, but a few tooled blocks of stone peer up from the ground like tombstones. The outline of an ancient theater shapes the hill on one side of the tell. Standing tall in the beautiful valley, the site reminds us of the lives and struggles of the people who lived there—most notably, of Philemon and his runaway slave.

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to a master named Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave whom Paul had met in Rome. Paul’s letter takes us not only all the way from Rome to Colossae, but it mirrors our own journey with God—from condemned to forgiven.

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself in Making the Right Decision

We need to remember that our spiritual life IS our life.

How many times have we made what we thought was the best decision—but it turned out to be the worst? Lessons learned from such blunders we remember and regret all of our lives.

Sunrise over Dead Sea

(Photo: Sunrise over Dead Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We make knee-jerk decisions that we think will benefit us financially, or relationally, or vocationally, or physically.

But what about spiritually? Lot failed to ask that question, and he lived with the regret.

But we don’t have to be like that if we’ll ask ourselves 3 questions.

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The Incredible Value of Solitude with God

Saint George's Monastery in the Judean Wilderness reminds us to get away with God.

In our lives busy with people, it’s tough to appreciate the value of solitude with God. But Saint George’s Monastery in the Wilderness of Judea gives us reason to pause and ponder the priority of time with God.

Saint George's Monastery—The Value of Solitude with God

(Photo: Saint George’s Monastery. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As I scanned the monastery’s blue domes and white arches that dot the colorless canvas of the wilderness, I marveled at the time and ingenuity it would have taken to build and rebuild these structures.  

I found myself wondering, Why would ANYONE want to live way out there? A friend of mine wondered if the monks in the monastery thought the same thing about us.

Sometimes in our hurry, it does us good to contemplate the value of solitude.

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How You Walk on the Appian Way Each Day

Paul's walk into Rome mirrors our journey through life.

Often roads get built for one reason, but God uses them in our lives for another altogether. The Appian Way of Rome proved it so in the life of the Apostle Paul. I walked the road recently.

Wayne walks the Appian Way

(Photo: Walking the Appian Way)

The Roman official Appius Claudius took the initiative to build a road in 312 BC as a means of transporting troops and supplies to and from Rome. In time, the road took his name and helped secure a Roman victory in the Second Samnite War. The Appian Way proved a huge success and eventually extended 350 miles southeast to the port of Brindisi. It served as Rome’s primary highway for centuries.

The restoration of the ancient Appian Way today allows both locals and tourists a beautiful walk in the footsteps of history.

When I walked the road recently, I thought about Paul who traveled along the same path.

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How Your Physical Struggles Can Energize Your Spiritual Life

The One who set eternity in our hearts created in us a hunger that space and time cannot satisfy.

When we struggle with physical needs, we want one thing more than anything else. Relief. Physical struggles scream at us like a hungry child, and nothing feels as pressing as removing the distraction.

Why God Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Sunset over the Judean Wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Scriptures are full of people who struggled with physical needs. In fact, the superscription of Psalm 63 notes how David prayed the psalm in the wilderness of Judah, either while fleeing from King Saul or, later, from David’s rebel son Absalom.

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. —Psalm 63:1

The “dry and weary land” that David described also mirrored his own physical needs, and the lack of water around him served to surface an even deeper thirst. At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God.

Our physical needs are connected to our spiritual lives for that very reason.

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The Roman Forum and God’s Surprising Ways in Your Life

Paul’s experiences in Rome mirror the Lord's leading our dreams.

We have more to do in life than wake up, work hard, and come home only to rinse and repeat. Life amounts to more than a stack of paychecks and a few laughs. God wants so much more for us than that. The Roman Forum offers us a picture of this truth.

Basilica Julia, where Paul was condemned

(Photo: Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Apostle Paul was about 50 years when he penned his letter to the Christians in Rome. In fact, Paul held quite a portfolio in his hands:

  • 3 missionary journeys under his belt
  • Many churches planted
  • 6 books of Scripture to his credit
  • Thousands of people impassioned for God

If Paul’s career had stopped right there, no one would have protested. Everyone would have given him a standing ovation. Some might even urge him to start slowing down. But nothing doing. Paul dreamed of doing much more!

But not even he could fathom that his dreams would turn out with him standing in the Roman Forum.

Our lives and our dreams are the same.

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How to Deal with Overwhelming Odds through Your Powerful God

Michmash shows us the power of God in our lives.

When the Bible includes geographical references, they appear as more than throwaway statements. Often they play a vital role in our understanding and application of the Bible.

Michmash—Overwhelming Odds and Your Powerful God

(Photo: Cliffs near Michmash and Geba. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For example, geography bears importance as to how Jonathan and his armor-bearer—only two men—could help rout the entire Philistine army.

The geographic descriptions given in 1 Samuel 14:4-5 describe two steep crags on either side of a great ravine separating Geba on the south from Michmash on the north. Here Jonathan and his armor bearer scaled the crags for a surprise attack on the Philistine garrison at Michmash.

Because geography does not change, these natural elements remain for us to easily imagine the story.

As well as its application.

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Praying for Rain in Your Searing Life

How the land of Israel offers encouragement to our parched lives.

Summer. August. Texas. Stir those together and you get blistering days, muggy mornings, and sizzling evenings like a heat lamp over cheap pizza. But Wednesday morning, something amazing occurred.

Wilderness of Paran

(Photo: Wilderness of Paran. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The forecast showed no rain at all. None. So I prayed something crazy. I told the Lord I knew He could make it rain in a Texas August with zero chance of rain. If He was willing, He could do it. I asked Him to make it rain.

The next day thunder clouds rolled in, and Wednesday morning it rained—more than an inch. Happy trees. Happy grass. Happy house foundation. Happy lakes. Happy water companies. Happy me. But for more than the water.

I thought of the parched lives we lead and how the land of Israel offers encouragement.

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How God’s Promised Land Gives You Hope Here and Now

Abraham walking the real estate put reality in his hope.

Day after day of life demands we have faith in God. Lots of it. After all, so much of what God promises us is future. And honestly? It seems most of what we live for is a hope that never seems to arrive. God knows that.

Area of Ai, near where Abraham and Lot parted

(Photo: Area of Ai, near where Abraham and Lot parted. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Thankfully, the Lord also gives us tangible encouragement here and now to push us along toward that elusive, untouchable future we long for.

Abraham needed that same encouragement, and God gave it to him in an unusual way. He told him to take a walk—and to look around.

We need to take that same walk.

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When God Surprises Your Life with a Hard Left Turn

The crossroads we would never choose are often God's best gifts to us.

I recently heard that God is the God of hard left turns. So many of us began life headed one direction and ended up in a place we never thought we would. I bet that happened to you, didn’t it? Me too. And to the apostle Peter.

When God Surprises Your Life with a Hard Left Turn

(Photo: El-Araj, one possible place of Peter’s hometown. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For Peter, it was a long, long way from Bethsaida to Rome—from his birth to his death. It’s the same in the changing courses of our lives.

So many of us grew up in certain towns or earned degrees for a particular field, but we find the Lord has led us in a completely different direction.

I went to college to study music theory and classical guitar. (Exciting, I know.) But nowhere in my wildest dreams could I have imagined today my profession would have me leading real tours and virtual video tours to the Holy Land. That seems to have little to do with music theory and guitar, you know?

Why does God lead us with hard lefts?

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