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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How to Deal with Overwhelming Odds through Your Powerful God

Michmash shows us the power of God in our lives.

When the Bible includes geographical references, they appear as more than throwaway statements. Often they play a vital role in our understanding and application of the Bible.

Michmash—Overwhelming Odds and Your Powerful God

(Photo: Cliffs near Michmash and Geba. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For example, geography bears importance as to how Jonathan and his armor-bearer—only two men—could help rout the entire Philistine army.

The geographic descriptions given in 1 Samuel 14:4-5 describe two steep crags on either side of a great ravine separating Geba on the south from Michmash on the north. Here Jonathan and his armor bearer scaled the crags for a surprise attack on the Philistine garrison at Michmash.

Because geography does not change, these natural elements remain for us to easily imagine the story.

As well as its application.

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How to Keep Going When You Can’t Keep Going

Remember that any victory presupposes a struggle in your life.

You’re not stuck. If God has you in a place where your gifts are not fully utilized, or if you feel set aside in God’s grand plan, or if those around you have marginalized you, trivialized you, or flat-out rejected you, I understand how tough that is.

Mount of Beatitudes hillside

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

But you’re not stuck. God isn’t done with you.

The victorious Christian life is not a life without struggle or pain. (If so, Jesus missed it.) Remember that victory presupposes a battle.

Here’s how to keep going.

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