Truths as Lasting as their Settings

At the base of Mount Gilboa in Israel, a spring still flows today as it has for millennia. Green grass, a swimming pool, and beautiful picnic spots surround the spring that takes its name from the valley that spreads before it.

Ein Harod, or sometimes called, “Gideon’s Spring,” represents the place where Gideon selected his three hundred men to fight the armies of Midian. (I always remember Gideon fought Midian because their names rhyme.)

Not surprisingly, the Lord gave Israel a great victory—and strengthened Gideon’s faith.

Years later, a fearful King Saul failed to learn the lesson Gideon had acquired in the same area. On the northern side of the Hill of Moreh, the city of Endor had a resident medium that Saul visited in a frantic attempt for supernatural information. Surprising even the medium, God revealed through the Prophet Samuel that Saul would die the next day (1 Samuel 28).

The army of Israel fought the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, and King Saul and his sons were killed. Their bodies hung in effigy on the walls of nearby Beth-shan until Hebrews from Jabesh-gilead recovered them (1 Samuel 31).

Centuries later, the southern side of the Hill of Moreh saw the Prophet Elisha raise the dead son of a woman from Shunem (2 Kings 4).

In the first century, Jesus raised a widow’s son on the north side of the hill in a town called Nain (Luke 7:11-17). (I keep the location of the sites around the Hill of Moreh straight by remembering a simple alliteration: Nain-north and Shunem-south.)

How interesting that two sets of desperate situations occurred in the same area. For Gideon and Saul, it was tremendous odds in battle at Gilboa. For Elisha and Jesus, it was the death of a mother’s son beside the Hill of Moreh.

In every instance, the lessons pointed to the same principle: God alone provides the necessary strength for overwhelming situations—even in circumstances as crushing as death.

The Harod Valley, the Hill of Moreh, and Mount Gilboa seem as beautiful and ageless today as in the days of the Bible. Geography doesn’t change.

I find it fascinating how the lessons taught in these places offer truths as enduring as the beautiful settings in which they occurred.

Images courtesy of Todd Bolen/BiblePlaces.com.

The God Who Hears . . . and Sees

For Sarai, the only thing worse than a barren land was a barren womb.

So, turning to her culture’s custom, she told her husband, Abram, to give her children through her Egyptian maid, Hagar. But when Hagar conceived, Sarai became resentful and mistreated Hagar, who then fled.

The Bible says that the Lord found Hagar “by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur” (Gen. 16:7). The location reveals that Hagar intended to head back home—to Egypt.

But God told her to return to Sarai and to name the child Ishmael (meaning, “God hears”), “for the LORD has heard of your misery” (v. 11, NIV).

Hagar did so, and she called the Lord El Roi, “the God who sees me.” The well by which she sat received the name Beer Lahai Roi, meaning, “the well of the Living One who sees me” (see vv. 13-14).

The meaning of the names “God hears” and “God sees” would remain constant reminders to Abram and his family. Earlier, Abram had run to Egypt to escape a famine in the land (see Gen. 12). Sarai had turned to an Egyptian to escape barrenness. Hagar had run to Egypt to escape misery. But each effort, apart from God, found them at the same place of having to trust Him all over again.

How often have we traveled the road to Shur toward some Egyptian decoy, running from a chance to trust God? In situations today when we feel like running, may God find us instead on our knees—before a God who hears and a God who sees.

The Lord wants us to learn to turn to Him rather than run to Egypt during what seems inescapable despair. As we wait on the Lord, we have His promise that He waits with us, for God hears our prayers and God sees our needs.

If God told you on the front end how long you would wait . . . you’d lose heart. . . . But he doesn’t. He just says, “Wait. I keep my word. . . . In the process of time I’m developing you to be ready.” —F. B. Meyer

 

Going Places with God- A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the BibleLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible.
• These 90 devotional readings, each based on a specific place in the lands of the Bible, will help you apply the truths of God’s Word to your daily journey of faith.
• You’ll enjoy pertinent Scripture, inspirational quotes, photographs, maps, and a daily prayer.

After going places with God, you’ll never be the same.

CLICK TO GET YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY

Just Returned from Ephesus

Cathy and I just returned from a trip with Insight for Living to a number of biblical sites in Turkey.

The most impressive? Hands down, it was Ephesus.

The apostle Paul devoted three years as a missionary living in Ephesus. Later, when imprisoned in Rome, Paul penned the book of Ephesians to this vibrant church. Paul also would write two letters to Timothy, the church’s pastor. Finally, the apostle John lived there and probably wrote the Gospel of John before his exile to Patmos. What great teaching Ephesus received!

No wonder Jesus commended them as John wrote to them from Patmos (see Rev. 2:1-3). They had stood firm in both their deeds and their doctrine for 30 years. Wonderful!

“But I have this against you,” Jesus continued, “that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).

Amazing—this church had received three books of Scripture and two resident apostles! While other churches struggled against heresy, Ephesus had guarded their deeds and doctrine. Yet they had failed to maintain their devotion. Moreover, they had left it.

During our tour of Ephesus, I stood at the end of the Arcadian Way. The silting of the harbor had removed the city’s economic influence. Even today the Aegean Sea sits miles from the ruins.

I began to relate that silting to the spiritual life—the silting of the heart, not the harbor. Grain after grain of busyness, year after year of neglected devotion to Jesus, had finally reduced a church of such doctrinal strength to devotional attrition. The Ephesian Christians had lost their first love by allowing the silt of spiritual indifference to accumulate over the years. It can happen to anyone. Even to you and me.

We can wake up after a number of years and discover that our lack of passion for Jesus has gradually silted Him five miles away from our hearts.

Our hearts begin to silt when we content ourselves with maintaining a level of godliness that makes cultural Christianity our standard. In other words, compared to most Christians, like Jim or Susan or Pastor Ted, our spiritual life meets the standard. We seem in great shape. Our challenge has become spiritual maintenance rather than spiritual growth. And our hearts fill with silt without our knowing it.

But the pattern for the Christian life has never been other Christians—it is Christ. How easily we can forget that. Do we strive to be- come like Him or like our Christian culture? Do we give our all to Him—or do we just give what’s necessary to keep up appearances?

It takes guts to answer those questions honestly. It takes even more courage to change.

Walking in the Footsteps of JesusLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ.

• Enjoy an engaging, inspiring, and humorous travelogue that mingles the life-changing truths of Jesus with a walking tour of the Holy Land.

Experience the Holy Land through the sights, sounds, and tastes of this personal travelogue, and discover how these sacred places influenced the lessons Jesus taught.

You will discover lessons Jesus has for your life.

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Wayne’s Interview on Moody Radio’s "The Land and the Book"

I recently had the privilege of participating in an interview on Moody Radio’s broadcast, The Land and the Book with Dr. Charlie Dyer.

We discuss traveling to Israel, my Jerusalem Post articles, and my books about the lands and lessons of the Bible.

I have selected only my portion of the broadcast for this podcast.

Holy Land from Above

A few years ago, I flew in a helicopter over Israel to film a number of sights. I felt like I was flying over a map–seeing for the first time in my life the Holy Land from above.

A friend of mine recently blogged about a new video project that took aerials of the Holy Land. I’ve copied their trailer below for you to watch. The quality is marvelous and offers you a taste of what it’s like to fly over a map.

Maybe this is how God sees Israel?

The Tabernacle Metaphors and Messiah

Today marks the “official” first day of summer. But it’s been hot here in Texas for years.

I grew up in San Antonio, a city with the same latitude as Timna Park, Israel, which is just north of Eilat and the Red Sea. Hundred-degree Texas days bullied me like the kid across the street, but the Arabah Valley of Israel throws a harder punch. Especially from the Dead Sea south to the Red Sea, this valley burns hotter than any Texas summer I remember.

As I gulped water from my CamelBak in Timna Park, drinking seemed as useful as pouring water on the ground. What a place. Scrubby acacia trees scattered around offered no shade; they reminded me of the thorny, leafless mesquite trees of Texas. Large, steep sandstone formations interrupted the otherwise flat desert, jutting up red and dark as if burnt from exposure above ground. And did I mention the forecast? Hot.

A Baptist organization had constructed a scale model of the Tabernacle that Moses carried around in this same wilderness for 40 years. Once in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I saw another scale model of the Tabernacle, but that fiberglass structure looked more like a piece of modern art. The one in Timna Park looked like the real thing.

Skeptics have come to inspect the dimensions of the Tabernacle model at Timna only to find that it faithfully reproduces the proportions given in Exodus 35–40. But reading the description in Exodus can’t compare to standing outside what looked like the Tabernacle itself—and in the same wilderness! I felt as if I had walked through a doorway of history.

Even though this Tent of Meeting offered a great glimpse of biblical history and could potentially attract a greater number of tourists, Israeli park information and most tour books mysteriously omit the Tabernacle’s presence in the park. Why? Probably because the Baptists are quick to point out to Christian tourists how the Tabernacle foreshadowed Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews does the same (see Heb. 9:8-12).

A soft-voiced college student walked our group to the front of the model. Dressed in period costume with Velcro sandals, he explained the history of the Exodus in such slow detail that some of us grew concerned for the elderly who stood in the heat. Beads of sweat formed on foreheads, water bottles opened and emptied, and people clustered in bits of shade as if sharing an umbrella during a downpour.

As I watched the white curtains billowing around the perimeter of this Tabernacle, the ropes stretching out, staked to the unspoiled desert where the original tent stood—one event dominated my thinking.

Christmas.

Matthew and Luke record the stories we read each December, but John’s account states the event so succinctly that no Christmas play could use it as its text: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory” (John 1:14). The three-part crescendo begins with the inconceivable miracle of the virgin birth (really, the virgin conception): God became man.

The term John uses for “dwelt” stems from a word meaning “tabernacle.” In other words, God became a man “and tabernacled among us.” The beloved apostle clearly compares the wilderness Tabernacle with Jesus’ life in the flesh. John climaxes his statement by saying that the same glory that filled the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the same presence of the Lord, also dwelt among men in the Man, Jesus Christ—still fully God but now also fully man.

Jesus camped with us. And I stood in front of the perfect metaphor.

Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), p. 20-22. Used by permission. Tabernacle photos courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.
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You Are Not Alone [Podcast]

If we’re honest, we have to admit that we guard our privacy and isolation.

We withdraw from transparency in relationships. What lethal commitments to the spiritual life!

Wayne Stiles Podcast

The example of Jesus and the early church was to live in relation—not isolation. To grow to full potential, every believer needs real relationships on levels beyond the surface.

Acts 2:42

Listen now:

Avoiding Hooks

Rough water. Cold and blustery. Hardly anyone there. Five bucks for night crawlers. Lines snag the weeds. Worm guts under my fingernails. A hook pierces my thumb.

After an hour of catching no fish, a voice announced: “Daddy, a stocked pond might be more fun.”

We fished the lake with worms, hooks, and bobbers while nearby a man cast his lure with a rod . . . and reeled in a nice bass. Hey, that’s just great.

I looked up the term “lure” and discovered the word “tempt” in the definitions. The probable origin of “lure” stemmed from the German, Luder, which means, “bait.” The connection between bait and temptation intrigued me. Later our family talked about it over dinner.

“What does fishing teach us about how Satan tempts us?” I asked. Various answers shot back:

“Satan is patient.”
“Quick pleasure with ongoing regret.”
“Different bait for different fish.”
“The bait hides a hook.”

The first time Satan cast his lure at humanity revealed his technique: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).

Satan muddied the water by directly contradicting God’s Word. What’s more, he cast doubt on God’s goodness by suggesting the Lord was keeping them from their full potential: “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4–5).

With both God’s Word and God’s goodness in question, the woman had nothing to base her decision on except her own common sense. And she took the bait. Hook set.

One of the lasting lessons of Eden is that even perfect people had the potential to make a stupid decision if they base it on their own wits apart from God’s Word. How much more vulnerable, then, are you to deception?

God never created you to choose for yourself what is right for you. (The fact is, you don’t know what’s best for you.) He never intended you to determine what is right or wrong. Rather, He created you to choose to do what is right or wrong.

Important difference.

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image from http://www.handmadefishhooks.com/

Free to Obey

Just as God miraculously delivered Israel from the Egyptians in a land of bondage, so God would deliver His people from the Canaanites in the land of promise.

But with the winning also came a warning: “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst” (Exod. 34:12).

God had delivered the Hebrews from slavery, but the responsibility to remain faithful, in spite of God’s persuasion, lay squarely with God’s people.

God’s timeless warning to watch ourselves speaks not only to the temptations this world offers but also reminds us of our vulnerability to them (2 Cor. 6:14).

The same weaknesses that bound us to sin in the old life we bring with us into the new. God delivered us from sin’s slavery in order to obey Him, not so that we would submit ourselves again to sin’s shackles (Gal. 5:1).

We can all look back and say, after recoiling from the results of foolish decisions, “If I had only known, I never would have done it!”

God warns us for this reason, so we’ll know the path of wisdom. But if we refuse to walk God’s path, even as believers, experience will teach us what we refuse to learn through instruction.

Thankfully, Jesus’ death on the cross has freed us from sin’s power to control us (Rom. 6:14). The bad news is that when we sin, we have no excuse! God set us free so that we may be free indeed to obey Him . . . even in a land of snares.

The Lord so desires our devotion as to say He is “jealous” when we look elsewhere. His Word builds a wall around our wandering hearts to warn us of our inclinations to sin and of the world’s inclination to tempt us. His jealousy both warns us and woos us to worship only Him.

Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality. —C. S. Lewis

Going Places with God- A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the BibleLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible.
• These 90 devotional readings, each based on a specific place in the lands of the Bible, will help you apply the truths of God’s Word to your daily journey of faith.
• You’ll enjoy pertinent Scripture, inspirational quotes, photographs, maps, and a daily prayer.

After going places with God, you’ll never be the same.

CLICK TO GET YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY

What it Takes to Enter Heaven [Podcast]

Mark 10:13-31

What it takes to enter heaven is given by God, not earned by men. Forgiveness of sins is free to the one who believes. It is a gift you receive by faith, not one you earn by works. Not only that, if you as a Christian are trying to keep God’s favor through the spiritual disciplines, you never know when you’ve done enough.

You can rest from your worry like a child sleeping in his bed at night because all the work is done for you in Jesus.