I’ll never forget the images of Mount Carmel’s scorching flames in December 2010. The largest fire in Israel’s history billowed so much smoke that a NASA satellite could photograph it.
In addition to the tragic loss of life—both human and animal—the devastating inferno destroyed 5 million trees.
(Photo: Fires on Mount Carmel in 2010, by יחידה אווירית משטרת ישראל CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
While reading about the fire in the news, I thought about the scenic overlook on Mount Carmel I have visited many times. The name of the place is Muhraqa, which means, ironically, “burning.”
Fortunately, most of Mount Carmel’s beautiful historic sites (including Muhraqa) escaped the 2010 forest fire. Beauty untouched beside utter devastation.
In a land where water is life, the lushness of Mount Carmel came to represent nothing less than the blessing of God.
We all need people to influence us. God made us that way.
From the languages we speak to the character we develop—it all begins with those who surround us in our formative years.
It starts with our environment, but it shouldn’t end there. It cannot.
When it does, it’s tragic. That was the case with King Joash.
But it doesn’t have to be that way with us.
Len Bailey’s book, Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, portrays Holmes and Watson traveling to biblical days to solve biblical “mysteries.”
The time travel is a fascinating aspect to the book, but the mysteries are “solved” simply by Holmes’ keen observation of Scripture. It’s the same premise I learned in Howard Hendricks’ class on Bible Study Methods. In that class, we even read a portion of Conan Doyle’s books where Holmes employs his powers of observation.
Once in this book, Watson asked how Holmes, a critic, could have such faith in the Bible. Holmes replied:
Faith has nothing to do with it, old boy. I’m just a better reader than you are.
The book is creative and entertaining, though sometimes it stretches the bounds of tolerance when Holmes offers Watson long paragraphs of historical background, sounding more like a Bible Dictionary than a detective.
Although each mystery rests on the keen observation of often-obscure passages, most of the conclusions offered are still debatable—answers that have been provided by scholars for centuries.
For example . . .
My dad used to have an old pickup truck I would borrow for odd jobs.
It wasn’t a good-looking truck, but it was faithful. The only glitch in the deal was the gas gauge. It read “almost empty” no matter how much gas you had.
If you had just filled up, it read “almost empty.” If you had half a tank, it read “almost empty.” The gauge only worked when you were out of gas! It would immediately move from “almost empty” to “empty.” I remember once I coasted into a gas station on fumes and a prayer.
I have found one thing in life that cuts the cable from the gas tank to the gas gauge quicker than anything else.
- It drains your relationships with people and dries up your walk with God.
- It blurs your vision, exaggerates your emotions, and takes a healthy, balanced perspective of life and twists it of proportion.
I’m talking about the pervasive and infectious attitude of bitterness.
You can be riding along with a full tank, but bitterness will show you a gauge “almost empty.”
The true value of our hearts is hidden.
But sometimes we reveal its value by how we give—not by how much. That’s the currency God cares most about.
On His way out of the temple for the last time, Jesus sat down in the Court of the Women and observed those who made donations to the treasury. To be sure, this seemed an odd place to pause.
But the Lord had a lesson to teach His disciples.
It’s a lesson on how He values our hearts.
Her name is as well-known as any apostle.
Yet the truth about her life often lies shrouded behind myths, fiction, and flat-out conjecture.
Modern art and bestselling novels paint her as everything from a prostitute to the infamous woman caught in adultery to the wife of Jesus Himself.
But the Scriptures portray Mary Magdalene as a different person altogether.
Surprisingly, she was more like us than we would expect.
For many people, the holidays draw up painful memories.
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.
Growing up, I often felt ripped-off at Christmas.
Because my birthday is December 15, I often heard: “Wayne, this is your birthday-Christmas gift.”
I thought, Hey, gee, thanks.
I wanted to tell the person whose birthday was in August, “Yeah, and here’s your birthday-Christmas gift too.” (Those of you with December birthdays understand.)
As a kid, I also hated getting clothes for Christmas (particularly underwear). Some people just don’t know how to give age-appropriate gifts to kids.
When I read the Christmas story, it seems the three Wise Men didn’t have much experience shopping for children either.
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Because God can stop our pain, we think He should.
So we pray. And pray. But nothing happens.
That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.
From what happened next, I see several lessons to help us reconcile pain and prayer with God’s love.
God had promised a son to Abram. At the same time, God prevented conception.
This is the will of God? Go figure.
(Photo by Daniel Skorodjelow (Own work CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFD), via Wikimedia Commons)
This tension eventually proved too much for Abram’s wife, Sarai. It seemed the only thing worse than the barren land she lived in was the barren womb she bore.
So Sarai pointed to Hagar, her Egyptian maid, and told Abram to provide a child through her (see Genesis 16:1–16). The culture allowed for this custom, but it was never the will of God.
The story is anything but ancient. These are decisions we’re tempted to make every day.
But there’s a wiser choice.