The Surprising Secret to Greatness We Need to Discover

What the original team of rivals can teach us about true greatness.

God never promised us the Christian life would shield us from the temptation of popularity, greatness, or admiration. In fact, don’t we often toy with getting what we want out of life just like the world does?

The Surprising Secret to Greatness We Need to Discover

(Photo: The road up to Jerusalem from Jericho. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

On His way up to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus once told His followers that greatness is a fine goal to pursue. In fact, He applauded it.

As long as we understand what true greatness is.

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Paul’s House Arrest in Rome and Our Home Isolation

What do these unusual days make possible?

These unusual days in which we find ourselves homebound reflect, in a way, Paul’s days under house arrest in Rome. Our home isolation amounts to a couple of months. But Paul’s incarceration lasted two years.

Paul's House Arrest in Rome and Our Home Isolation

(Photo: Insula in Rome by Lalupa/Public domain)

In Rome today stands an apartment from the 1st-2nd century, roughly the time of Paul’s first imprisonment in the city. These types of quarters, called insula, were literally everywhere in Rome. This insula offers an example of the “rented quarters” Paul would have lived in during his two years of house arrest.

The book of Acts refers to Paul’s time under house arrest as amazingly productive.

His time also offers us a example of our own unprecedented opportunity during these unusual days of home seclusion.

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How to Choose a Contagious Hope

Jesus' Miracle in Bethany Gives Context to Our Current Fears

What an unusual time we’re living in. Less than two weeks ago, much of America still stood in the dark as to the potential of the coronavirus. Many (including me) saw its threat as mostly media hype.

How to Choose a Contagious Hope

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

But now, America and other countries find themselves in quarantine mode—with grocery stores struggling to stock the basics, airlines flying near-empty planes, and social distancing keeping us from connecting face-to-face.

Kind of sounds like the book of Revelation, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not (at least, not yet). But the events of these days do remind us how global our issues have become and how easily the Lord could engage end-times events should the Rapture occur today.

Remember Jesus’ great miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany?

The story gives great context (and hope) to our current fears.

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Ephesus – Redeeming the Time You Have Now

How the Ephesian Agora illustrates Paul’s principle of focus in your life.

What if God inspired 3 books of Scripture for your church and also sent two apostles to live and minister among you for years? Ephesus got both. And much more.

Ephesus commercial agora

(Photo: Ephesus commercial agora. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

On his third missionary journey, the apostle Paul lived for several years as a (literal) tent-making missionary in Ephesus. He may have even sold his tents in the city’s agora, or marketplace.

The commercial agora of Ephesus served as a real-world illustration for an intensely practical principle Paul would later write to the church at Ephesus.

It’s a principle of productivity we can (and must) apply today.

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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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