Beth Shean—When God’s Blessings Seem Too Hard to Hold

What to do when they seem to slip from your grip.

Sometimes the blessings God gives you seem hard to hold. In some cases, the difficulty urges us to abandon the blessings. Beth Shean gives us a great example.

Beth Shean excavations

(Photo: Beth Shean excavations. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Lord provided Beth Shean for the Tribe of Manasseh. But the excellent location proved to be a double-edged sword. Because the spot was so good, every nation wanted control of Beth Shean. And whoever held it always seemed to contend with those who would wrench it from their grasp.

Perhaps its strategic location gave Beth Shean its name, “House of Security.”

But security only works when you trust in God.

Click to continue reading »

The Promised Land and God’s Amazing Provision for Your Life

If God will provide, why do our means seem so meager?

The tension is nothing new for us who believe in God. It’s just that most days it seems we never have enough. Between the bills, the home upkeep, and the car repairs, it’s tough just to stay afloat. Often, amazingly, God rigs it this way.

In fact, an unusual custom gives insight into why our means seem so meager.

If God Will Provide, Why Are My Means So Meager?

(Photo: Wheat field near Bet Guvrin, Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After settling in the Promised Land, God allowed His people to work the land. But every seventh year, God said, “the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord” (Lev. 25:4) and lie fallow.

  • This Sabbatical Year allowed for the forgiveness of all debts, and any food that grew went to the poor and to the wild animals.
  • Then every 50 years, on the year of Jubilee, the land not only rested but also returned to its ancestral owners. And all slaves walked free.
  • However, in 586 B.C., after God’s people failed to observe the Sabbatical Year for 490 years, God exiled them for the 70 special years they failed to give the land (2 Chron. 36:20-21).

All this was to show that the Promised Land belonged to God, not to those who lived on it (Lev. 25:23). Although they worked the land, they believed God will provide, and He made them stop working to prove He would.

For even when they rested, God supplied (Ps. 127:2).

Here’s why the same is true for us.

Click to continue reading »

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.

Click to continue reading »

Where is God in All the Chaos?

2 Helpful Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

These days the news can seem downright depressing. Whether it’s a pandemic sickness or political agendas, it can seem tough to see God working in the world. Our personal struggles feel the same. Our days are filled with hard work and little harvest.

Wheat harvest combine on Mount Arbel

(Photo: Wheat harvest combine on Mount Arbel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We seldom ask the questions out loud. But we all think it: Where exactly is God working in this fallen world? Why does He seem so silent—and even distant?

We know the answers in our heads. The Bible gives us good ones:

  • God allows evil so that we may choose good. Yep. Got it. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9).
  • God uses evil for His good purposes. Yes, of course. God is sovereign (Rom. 8:28).

These answers give an explanation for what we see. But what about what we don’t see?

How come there seems so little of God’s work in the world? Jesus told us why.

Click to continue reading »

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.

Click to continue reading »

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.

Click to continue reading »

Ein Kerem—Waiting on God’s Promise a Long Time

God has something special planned for you.

When we think of the Bible’s Christmas couple, of course we picture Joseph and Mary. But there’s another couple in the Christmas narrative. In fact, they appear even before Jesus’ parents do.

Ein Kerem terraces

(Photo: Tradition places the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth at Ein Kerem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God had been silent for 400 years. No additional Scripture. No more prophecy. No visions. Just waiting for the Messiah. 400 years! Then, God spoke to an old man in Jerusalem. God had been silent to Zacharias and Elizabeth as well. They were elderly and had no children. They prayed for years. But nothing.

God’s Word makes the point that they were righteous in God’s sight—blameless in God’s Law. In other words, their childless home wasn’t because of their unfaithfulness.

Times of waiting on God can even come to a point of what seems impossible. Most times of lack are like that.

Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. (Rom. 8:24, The Message)

God had something special planned for them. And for you.

Click to continue reading »

4 Promises of God to Give You Hope & Security

In a world that disappoints us, we need to cling to the One who never will.

There’s not much we can be sure of today. We live in a world of broken promises, broken families, backstabbing friends, and personal failures. And that’s just at church. The church Paul wrote to in Rome felt the same.

Roman Forum

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

The Roman Christians needed to base their lives on truth rather than on circumstances that seemed to challenge truth.

We’re the same aren’t we? After a lifetime of disillusions, we’ve come to expect little else. We often hope for nothing in hopes we won’t be disappointed. It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of hopelessness. It happens because we live in an a culture that keeps God at arm’s length, one that claims His name but declines His Lordship.

God is a package deal. And when we refuse all of God then we miss all of what He has to offer.

In refusing all of God we’re forced to fill those gaps with substitutes that disappoint and fail us. But the Sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe, offers true hope—and here’s why: He is the only one able to make good on His promises.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and shared 4 promises of God that also give you hope when you need it most.

Click to continue reading »

The Arch of Titus and Your Amazing Eternal Security

God Has Promised a Future for His People in Spite of Today’s Setbacks

It seems wrong to say it, but sometimes God’s promises in our lives seem sort of thin in light of current events. But the Arch of Titus in Rome gives us occasion to look beyond today’s bad news to our eternal security.

Arch of Titus

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

For almost 2000 years, this massive arch has stood in its spot in Rome, Italy, beside the famous Roman Colosseum. The two structures have a historical connection, both related to Jerusalem and the Jews.

These Roman landmarks stand as more than tourist stops in the Eternal City. When we consider their original purpose and compare them to Scripture, we have a reminder of hope, love, and eternal security.

Against the dark background of the Arch of Titus, we see hope for God’s people.

Click to continue reading »

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.

Click to continue reading »