My Top 10 Posts of 2014

I’m always surprised at the most popular posts on my blog each year. Both in 2012 and in 2013 I listed the Top 10 posts. But 2014 surprised me.

My Top 10 Posts of 2014

(Photo by Photodune)

The popular posts range from the practical “how-to” to the rich, devotional emphasis the lands of the Bible offer us.

Here are the Top 10 posts from 2014. And just for grins, I’ll also include the Top 5 posts of all time.

Is there another one you would include?

5 Ways You Can Read More Books Next Year

Last year I tried something I had never done before. I tried to read 50 books by the end of the year (and amazingly, I did). But I wondered if my strategy would work again this year.

5 Ways You Can Read More Books Next Year

(Photo by Photodune)

I thought perhaps last year was a fluke, so I tried it again this year. Guess what? It still works.

Because your life, like mine, is busy, I’d like to share with you 5 ways I’ve found that you can read more books—and 5 ways you can even find some free ones.

(If you’re curious, I’ll also share the 50 books I read—and tell you my favorite.)

Augustine on the Mystery of the Incarnation

For years I have loved this quote by St. Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation (quoted from his Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany):

Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. . . .
In [the Father] He remains,
From [His mother] He goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless;
filling the world, He lies in a manger;
Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant,
but so that His greatness is not diminished by His smallness,
nor His smallness overwhelmed by His greatness.

From the Stiles home to yours, Merry Christmas!

Question: What fascinates you most about the Incarnation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

(Photo: By Wolfgang Sauber. Own work. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus—God’s Ultimate Missionary

Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.

Jesus—God's Ultimate Missionary

(Photo: The Moscow skyline, by Dmitry Azovtsev)

The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).

But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)

The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

On a wintry day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade—the long, covered, columned portico on the east side of the Temple—overlooking the Kidron Valley.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

(Photo: Solomon’s Colonnade lay along the eastern wall of the Temple. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The conversation Jesus had that day occurred at Hanukkah—a celebration the Jews referred to as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22).

The feast had historical significance, which heightened the passion of those in Jerusalem. They encircled Jesus to ask Him a simple question.

His reply gave them more than they bargained for.

Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.

3 Wise Men and Age-Appropriate Gifts

Today is my birthday, and I’ll be honest. Growing up, I often heard: “Wayne, this is your birthday-Christmas gift.” I thought, Hey, gee, thanks. December birthdays are tough on kids.

3 Wise Men and Age-Approprite Gifts

(Photo by Photodune)

As a boy, I also felt a little disappointed getting clothes for Christmas (though now I love it). Some people just don’t know how to give age-appropriate gifts to kids.

When we read the Christmas story, it seems the three Wise Men didn’t have much experience shopping for children either.

What to Do When It’s Not Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.

(Photo by Photodune)

(Photo by Photodune)

Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.

During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).

David felt very alone.

His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.

Exchanging Bethlehem Shopping for Bethlehem’s Story

I’ll never forget my first visit to Bethlehem. In the city of Jesus’ birth, we spent the bulk of our time shopping. Sounds like Christmas, doesn’t it?

Bethlehem olivewood shop

(Photo: Bethlehem olivewood shop. By ecjones)

Gold jewelry set with opals and diamonds sat alongside bowls, oil lamps and other imitation artifacts. Olivewood statues filled the interior of the large establishment, coloring the whole room light brown.

Name any biblical character or animal, and there was an olivewood statue for you! Favorites included:

  • Samson pushing the pillars.
  • David slaying Goliath.
  • And, of course, Nativity scenes of every shape, size and price—from a few bucks to a few thousand.

And the tourists fell upon the plunder.

One wooden figurine caught my eye, a bust of Elvis Presley, and I had to grin. Elvis in Israel? I called over the owner, a proprietor who can smell a tour bus a mile away, and asked him my question.

He corrected me and told me who it really was.

5 Reasons to Get the Best Training for Ministry You Can

Years ago I devoured the massive autobiography of Billy Graham, entitled, Just As I Am. Near the end of the book, Billy wrote one sentence I’ll never forget.

5 Reasons to Get the Best Training for Ministry You Can

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In a section of the book where he lists his regrets, he wrote:

I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more. —Billy Graham

When I was young in the ministry, I resisted furthering my training. After all, I already had a ministry position. So why would I pursue more education and training? I’m done, I thought. Better to get busy making a difference.

Then one verse in the Bible hit me square between the eyes.