An Ephesus Question: What Comes First in Your Relationship with God?

One thing more than anything is essential.

All Christians long to live pleasing to Jesus Christ. That’s why if Jesus told us He had a criticism for us, many of us would pull out our checklist and grab a pencil.

An Ephesus Question: What Comes First in Our Relationship with God?

(Photo: Ephesus theater and the Arcadian Way. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We’d make our way down the list and ask the Lord:

  • “Should I go on a mission trip?”
  • “Do you want me to pray more?”
  • “Maybe memorize the book of Romans?”
  • “You just name it, Lord, and I’ll do it!”

I have discovered that the weak points in our relationship with God never start with failing in the big things. For example, we would never consider waffling in our morality or our theology. It always comes when we ignore a more basic element.

The church in Ephesus did it. But we don’t have to.

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How God Helps You in Impossible Situations

The only way to experience the joy of God's power

God often puts us in impossible situations. We find it frustrating, sure—but it’s never meant to be. In fact, those circumstances are meant to do just the opposite. God means to encourage us.

Plain of Bethsaida

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

With the Sea of Galilee in view on the Plain of Bethsaida, Jesus pointed to thousands of people and said to His twelve disciples: “You give them something to eat!” (Mark 6:37).

You can hear the frustration in the disciples’ reply: “Should we spend half a year’s wages to feed them?” Forget for a moment you’ve heard this story before.

Think instead of your current problem.

  • Your financial picture is unmanageable.
  • A close relationship has been strained for years.
  • You’ve been unemployed for much longer than you imagined.

Whatever it is you’re facing today, you face one of many impossible situations. Now go back to Jesus’ crazy command to His disciples. His solution for them is also His solution for you.

Let me show you why.

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2 Big Questions to Help You Live Intentionally for God

Jesus' example at Capernaum is a model for strategy.

It’s always easier to react to life rather than to shape it. To go with the flow rather than to dig a new trench. But God gives us help to choose the direction of our lives.

Capernaum synagogue, where Jesus taught

(Photo: Capernaum synagogue, where Jesus taught. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Lord helps us live intentionally for Him. God has given us the freedom to make significant choices in spite of our circumstances.

Jesus’ example at Capernaum shows us what choices to make to live intentionally for God.

Two questions can help us do that.

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When You’re Waiting on God in a Weary Land

How your place of confusion can become a place of refuge.

Sometimes waiting on God feels like you’re dying of thirst. That’s what David thought as he wandered in the Judean wilderness, running from a problem he couldn’t solve.

Waiting on God in a Weary Land

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

Chased by the jealous King Saul, David took refuge in the Wilderness of Judea and prayed, “My flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

This barren land is a picture of our own challenge with waiting on God.

It also pictures the place of refuge God provides for us while we wait.

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Why Our Dirty Hands is the Best Bad News You’ll Ever Hear

How God's Word makes the hands unclean and the heart free

Many people see the Bible only as a book of bad news. After all, it lists everything we do wrong and reminds us how much God hates sin. But bad news is only half the message.

Why Our Dirty Hands is the Best Bad News You’ll Ever Hear

(Photo: Unsplash)

Because nobody likes hearing bad news, we often slam the book shut before we hear the good news that always follows. In fact, without bad news, we have no good news.

The bad news comes only as the essential first step to the best news you’ll ever hear.

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What Did it Mean to Be Unclean?

How an Old Testament Ritual Offers Hope to Today’s Problem

Thumbing through our Old Testament, we often come across references to people or objects being “unclean.” What in the world does that mean?

What Did it Mean to Be Unclean

(Photo by Photodune)

From our perspective, when we come across something unclean we toss it in the dishwasher, clothes washer, or garbage can. And if a person is unclean, they simply step in the tub and scrub away the grime.

Problem solved.

We hear “unclean” and we think of something as contaminated, tainted, or unhygienic. But in the Old Testament, “unclean” had a different meaning—one that affected one’s walk with God.

What did it mean to be unclean in the Old Testament? (And why we should care about it today?)

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How Jesus’ Powerful Personal Hope Can Lift You Up

The movement of the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath Jearim mirrors our hope.

Do you know what one, primary, personal hope drove Jesus’ life? What He looked forward to the most? It’s important we do know, because the same hope should drive our lives.

Kiriath Jearim church statue of Mary standing on Ark of the Covenant

(Photo: Kiriath Jearim church statue of Mary standing on Ark of the Covenant. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As we read the gospels, we see Jesus’ goal was not merely the cross. And even as great as the resurrection was, Jesus still had another hope beyond that.

It’s good news you can apply by the end of this blog post—and then for the rest of your life.

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A Lesson from Anathoth: Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

Jeremiah reminds us we never outgrow God

It’s tough to work hard at something, only to see your efforts eventually leak out through life’s cracks. Sometimes, however, that frustration can turn into a surprising blessing.

A Lesson from Anathoth- Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

(Photo: Anathoth looking east toward the wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Standing in his hometown of Anathoth on a wet, wintry day, the Prophet Jeremiah could look east and see grain fields lush with life. But just beyond those fields stretched the bleak and barren Judean wilderness—a land not sown with seed.

The Lord used a similar image when He told the Israelites how they had started out as a devoted people: “following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2), but then had turned from His ways.

The lesson Jeremiah wrote about from these simple elements is one we must never forget.

But too often, we do. Here’s how we can remember it.

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Why the Best Days Often Start in the Evening

3 Tips for beginning tomorrow morning tonight.

For most of us, our day begins when we wake up. According to our clocks and calendars, however, a new day begins at midnight. But when God created the world, He had something else in mind.

Why the Best Days Often Start in the Evening

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

God actually created the new day to begin at evening—not at morning. Remember?

And there was evening and there was morning, one day. —Genesis 1:5

Odd, isn’t it, to begin the “day” with evening activities like family time, dinner, and—of all things—sleep? This mindset feels totally foreign to westerners, but many Jews still abide by it today.

Honestly, I have no idea why God did this. But I have discovered beginning the day in the evening has its productivity benefits.

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David’s Mind Hack Can Get You Through an Ordinary Day

His one objective in the Elah Valley helps the rest fall into place.

The ordinary days of life far outnumber the extraordinary ones. That imbalance can get discouraging. But as we look at the lives in the Bible, we see the same pattern. Thankfully, they were normal like us.

David's Mind Hack Can Get You Through an Ordinary Day

(Photo: Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Like us, the biblical lives show years of routine interrupted by occasion moments of excitement. But if we look, we see God at work in the ordinary day just as much as in the extraordinary.

David’s fight with Goliath in the Elah Valley is the perfect example.

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