What to Do When It’s Not Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Lonely holidays are the times to draw close to God.

The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.

(Photo by Photodune)

Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.

During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).

David felt very alone.

His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.

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An Amazing Truth: We Worship What We Think We Need

Are people elbowing God out of your life?

Some people can make us feel good. They attract us. Like a sunflower in a sunny field, we long to face the source that keeps us satisfied and meets our needs.

We Worship What We Think We Need

But we tend to worship what we think we need—whether it’s God, money, or even people. And whom we worship, we will also obey.

That’s why worshipping people—or using them to get what we think we need—can leave us enslaved to them.

God offers a better alternative.

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Are Your Big Dreams as Big as Your God?

Paul's letter to Rome challenges your dreams to match God's desires for you.

Life gets fueled on dreams. Without big dreams or a purpose, we wither and die. As Christians, we have more to do than get up, work hard, and come home for a few hours of TV—only to rise and begin again.

Are Your Big Dreams as Big as Your God?

(Photo: Paul’s letter came to Rome. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

If that’s all we do, we will wake up one day and realize life has amounted to a stack of paychecks and a few laughs.

God wants more for us than that.

Paul’s letter to the Romans models how your dreams can be as big as your God. 

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How to Avoid High Places if You’re Looking for God

We need one thing more than anything in our spiritual climb.

You started strong. Determination and strength came easily. You reach a summit in your day (or Christian life)—only to find life in high places has let you down.

Mount Tabor

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

We followed the rules. We stayed in line. We walked the straight and narrow. So what happened?

The path we followed led to a false summit. A huge distraction. 

It happens when we forget this one thing.

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5 Reasons to Get the Best Training for Ministry You Can

The question is, how effective do you want your ministry to be?

Years ago I devoured the massive autobiography of Billy Graham, entitled, Just As I Am. Near the end of the book, Billy wrote one sentence about training for ministry I’ll never forget.

5 Reasons to Get the Best Training for Ministry You Can

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

In a section of the book where he lists his regrets, he wrote:

I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more. —Billy Graham

When I was young in the ministry, I resisted furthering my training. After all, I already had a ministry position. So why would I pursue more education and training? I’m done, I thought. Better to get busy making a difference.

Then one verse in the Bible hit me square between the eyes.

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Israel’s International Highway—A Picture of Your Influence

Always ask yourself: Who is influencing whom?

Where God places us is no accident. Throughout biblical history, the land of Israel sat in an amazingly strategic position as the only intercontinental land bridge between the superpowers of the ancient world.

The most important international highway of the Fertile Crescent ran the length of the land of Israel.

The Via Maris Highway—Israel's Picture of Your Influence

(Photo: The Via Maris ran beside ancient Tel Hazor. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call this international highway the Via Maris, or the “Way of the Sea.” Any nation coming to or from Egypt, or traveling from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aqaba, had to go through Israel. For many years, Israel remained the crossroads for international imperialism, war, and trade.

It’s hard to believe at first, but this highway offers a practical principle for our daily lives.

It’s all about influence.

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Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre Shows Our Need for a Savior

How the site demonstrates the need for the place it hallows.

One of the biggest surprises to Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem occurs when they step inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection falls short of the expectations of many Christians accustomed to Western worship.

Gold drips from icons. Chanting fills the spaces. Incense rises between cold stone walls. Six sects of Christendom betray jealous rivalries over the goings-on within. Territorial fistfights even occur on occasion.

The Holy Sepulchre's dome covers Christ's tomb

(Photo: The Holy Sepulchre’s dome covers Christ’s tomb. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Without proper mental preparation, a Christian pilgrim may see only the distracting depravity of religion that has affixed itself to this site like barnacles on sunken treasure.

But if we look past today’s traditionalism to history’s tradition, we find an unbroken connection to the central event of all time—the redemption of the universe.

For in this place, Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again.

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How to Cope When God Conceals His Progress Bar of Time

As much as we’d rather know when, God has determined we only need to know what.

I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.

Why God Doesn’t Show His Progress Bar

(Photo: Zach Vega. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.

Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”

Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?

Then it struck me. We do the same with God.

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The Temple Mount in Jerusalem—An Ordinary Hill Made Holy

There's only one thing we can give our God who has everything.

Abraham saw the acreage. David bought the lot. Solomon built the house. Nebuchadnezzar tore it town. Zerubbabel rebuilt it. Herod the Great expanded it. Titus flattened it.

Before these temples stood on Mount Moriah, it was nothing but a hill used for threshing wheat. Hardly worth noticing.

The Temple Mount—An Ordinary Hill Made Holy

(Photo: the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But today, the Temple Mount remains the most precious piece of real estate in the world. And the golden shrine that graces its crest has become the icon for the Holy City of Jerusalem itself.

How did this ordinary hill become holy? Not through battles or land bartering or by popular vote.

God chose it. It’s the same with us.

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Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Wall Give a Lesson from Archaeology

Scripture is supported by what we can dig out of the ground.

The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

(Photo: Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah.

Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God. How does it strengthen your faith to see the Bible in archaeology?

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