The Golan Heights—Are You Sure Your Contentment is in the Right Place?

A lesson from the Golan Heights' bastions, burials, battles, and borders.

In a way, contentment isn’t always a good thing. The Golan Heights illustrate why. A long plateau rises east of the Sea of Galilee, high above the surrounding basins. As the highland stretches north, basalt cones penetrate the landscape, betraying extinct volcanoes below the surface.

The Golan Heights—Bastions, Burials, Battles, and Borders

(Photo: Nimrod’s Fortress in the Golan Heights. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For thousands of years, the Golan Heights in Israel served history in countless ways—from pasturelands to burial grounds, from battlegrounds to borders. It’s no wonder this region has remained the envy of its environs—even to today.

The volcanic soils offer lush pastures for grazing—and spectacular panoramas for the eyes.

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Tel Dan—Worshipping at the Altar of Convenience

In the end, we'll find God far more satisfying.

The spiritual life often asks a lot of us. But Tel Dan offered an alternative. Shady walkways. Cool breezes. Abundant streams. Luxuriant foliage. Tel Dan had everything you could ever want. Except God.

Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan

(Photo: Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In natural beauty, Tel Dan has few rivals in Israel. For the ancients, it had everything necessary for abundant living.

While the Hebrews in the south worshipped in Jerusalem, the natural beauty of Tel Dan in northern Israel offered an irresistible alternative. It was picturesque. It was convenient. It was invigorating.

And it was a complete compromise of God’s will.

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Jesus Shows How to See Yourself through 3 Amazing Truths

The Lord’s Words on the Temple Mount Urge Us to Keep it Real

As Jesus made His way toward Jerusalem for His final Passover, He repeated a principle to His disciples several times. The repetition for them ought to echo in our own minds as well.

Jesus Shows How to See Yourself through 3 Amazing Truths

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

What did Jesus say? Very simply:

The last shall be first, and the first last. —Matt. 19:30; 20:16, 27

The principle rubs against our grain because we want equity with others, and we feel justifiably peeved when someone gets something for nothing or when they elbow their way to greatness ahead of us (20:1-16-24).

Jesus redefined greatness as servanthood—first as last—and used Himself as an example who came to give His life for others (vv. 25-28).

His words continued in Jerusalem.

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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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15 Habits That Can Totally Transform Your Spiritual Life

Habits work off God's hardwiring for success.

You make decisions each day. Make the same decisions often enough and they becomes habits—powerful, God-given gifts to help you walk with God and stay healthy.

15 Habits That Will Totally Transform Your Spiritual Life

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

Imagine if you had to relearn to tie your shoes, drive a car, or find your way to work each day. God designed our brains to search for and create patterns of efficiency—to move into “autopilot” so that our conscious brain can focus on other choices.

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, he notes a researcher from Duke University discovered that more than 40 percent of the actions we do each day aren’t decisions—but habits.

All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits. —William James

I have discovered 15 habits that have transformed my spiritual life. They can do the same for you.

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Why God Seems So Amazingly Inefficient in Your Life

Peter’s journey to Caesarea shows us God’s priority

In getting things done, God sometimes seem amazingly inefficient. He chooses some people to do a job when others are far more competent—or close. Peter’s trip to Caesarea shows us why.

Why God Seems So Amazingly Inefficient in Your Life

(Photo: Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Lord wanted a man named Cornelius to hear the good news about Jesus Christ—that whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. In order to share this wonderful news, God chose what seemed an inefficient way and an unqualified person.

The reason why offers insight into God’s inefficiency in our lives.

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When Finding Favor with God Makes Life Tough

What was true of Mary is also true for you—why that's good news.

It sounds strange, but sometimes finding favor with God makes life tough. When Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God, many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.

When Finding Favor with God Makes Life Tough

(Photo: by Jolanta Dyr. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0-pl, via Wikimedia Commons)

What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an act of God and not an act of passion? Finding favor with God meant she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins.

But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much. It comes from this amazing young woman.

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2 Biblical Gardens Reveal How to Make the Best Decisions

How Eden and Gethsemane still affect you today.

Two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane, provided the settings for two choices that brought opposite results. The Bible wildly contrasts these choices. In fact, you face them today.

Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

(Photo: The Garden of Gethsemane. Notice the city walls in the distance. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In the Garden of Eden, Adam’s choice to commit sin had the potential of bringing condemnation to everyone. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s decision to die for sins provided potential justification to everyone (Romans 5:18).

Adam never would have eaten the fruit had he known the consequences to himself and to his race. But he couldn’t see the results.

All he had was God’s Word and its warning. That’s all we have as well.

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The Wilderness of Judea—The Ultimate Getaway

How this place of escape and seclusion still speaks to us today.

Very few places in the Holy Land still look original. Most historic sites in Israel have some church, or a mosque, or a settlement, or thirty feet of civilization piled on top of them.

Judean Wilderness at sunset.

Photo: The Wilderness of Judea at sunset. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

The places pilgrims come to see today show centuries of scars from the ruins and reconstructions of many faiths and peoples.

But in the Wilderness of Judea, one can see what the ancients saw. Deep ravines. Rocky terrain. Barren grades with scant vegetation. Horizontal lines cut in the hills betray generations of flocks that have worn trails like terraces in the stony slopes. Miles and miles of desolate land, interrupted only by an occasional camel, a shepherd with his flock, or a group of Bedouin tents with satellite dishes.

Bleak, inhospitable, stark, and harsh—the Wilderness of Judea has sat virtually unchanged for thousands of years.

It was the perfect place to escape.

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Ein Harod —How to Move from Fear to Faith

Sometimes what we see seems more compelling than what God says.

Too often, fear keeps us from enjoying what God has promised. We want so badly to have faith in what the Lord says. But fear of what we see seems more compelling than mere words. Gideon knew that.

Ein Harod —How to Move from Fear to Faith

(Photo: Ein Harod (Gideon’s Spring). Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Gideon longed to believe God. But the enemy army before him was enormous. What he saw seemed far more compelling than what God had promised him.

We face the same odds today. And the solution is the same.

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