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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The Kidron Valley – How Your Burial Can Point to Your Faith

Even after death, we can have a powerful witness to the living.

Have you thought where you’ll be buried? The place where someone chooses to get buried is always significant.

  • A hometown family plot is common.
  • The place where one’s ashes are scattered or stored often holds a special association.
  • Even unknown soldiers who die in battle occasionally receive a prominent interment.
The Kidron Valley with olive trees and graves

(Photo: The Kidron Valley with olives trees and graves. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But in Israel, a burial place often exposed one’s faith. The tombs beside the Kidron Valley bear witness to this truth.

Each one offers a connection to resurrection.

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Learning to Trust God in a New Way

Why does it seem like our trust in God is always starting over?

Have you noticed? We have no problem choosing to trust God with the things for which we already trust Him. But then another situation shows up. And suddenly, it’s like starting over.

Learning to Trust God in a New Way

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

In those times, we’re a lot like Asa, one of the few godly kings of Judah. He once trusted the Lord in a battle in the Shephelah of Judah and defeated an Ethiopian who came against him with an army a million strong (2 Chronicles 14).

But Asa’s greatest test came in an area that hit closer to home—literally. That’s where God tests us as well, isn’t it?

Sometimes it seems like we’re always starting over in our trust of God. Here’s why.

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Pools of Bethesda—God’s Kindness and Our Repentance

What motivates you most isn't fear.

Very few people are drawn to God by intimidation. Instead, the Lord urges us to come to Him by revealing the kindness of His mercy. It’s a tremendous motivation.

Pools of Bethesda—God’s Kindness and Our Repentance

(Photo: Pools of Bethesda and Crusader chapel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Once we comprehend the depth of our imperfections, and the futility of our own efforts to remove them, we are in a position to respond to God’s kindness.

In this post, you’ll read how Jesus revealed this simple truth one day in Jerusalem with an act of mercy at the Pools of Bethesda.

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When You’re Ready—But Nothing Happens

Two reasons may explain why.

You’re ready for a change. You’ve asked God to open a new door in your life, and He has taken years to prepare you for it. Finally, you’re ready. There’s just one problem. Nothing happens.

When You are Ready—But Nothing Happens

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

The plan of God includes preparation and waiting. But why do you have to keep waiting once God has prepared you? What else must you do for God to open the door?

The Apostle Peter experienced something that may explain why your progress is delayed.

After you read this post, you’ll understand what you can do in the mean time.

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How I Got Robbed on the Good Samaritan Road

A Lesson that Cost Me a Lot I’ll Pass Along to You for Free

Jesus chose as the setting for His parable of the Good Samaritan a road notorious for robbers. Turns out, that road still has thieves. Ask me how I know.

How I Got Robbed on the Good Samaritan Road

(Photo: Reading from my iPad on the Ascent of Adummim)

Last week Cathy and I stayed in Israel a few days after the Insight for Living Ministries tour in order to do some filming with my lifelong friend, Scott Wilson. One of the scenes we filmed took place on the Ascent of Adummim—the Good Samaritan Road.

While there, a group of thieves stole from me. But unlike the victim in Jesus’ parable, I wasn’t beaten and left half-dead.

But I did gain a valuable lesson that cost me hundreds of dollars.

As you read this post, you get the lesson for free.

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Touring Christian Rome – and 2 Sites that Make it Matter

Insight for Living Ministries' Pre-Israel Tour to Rome

Yesterday and today the Insight for Living Ministries pre-tour to Israel enjoyed touring Christian Rome—or the part of Rome usually associated with Christianity.

Touring Christian Rome

(Photo: Columns in the Roman Forum)

Much of the past two days also included other standard tourist sites in Rome both modern and ancient:

  • Roman Forum
  • Colosseum
  • Circus Maximus
  • Piazza del Popolo
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Pantheon
  • Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel
  • Arch of Titus
  • the Catacombs

Although these sites alone are worthy of a visit to Rome, there are 2 more that make it even more special for the Christian.

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5 Lasting Lessons from the Lands of the Bible

How God teaches His people to walk by faith.

Biblical geography offers more for us than the maps in the back of our Bibles might imply. I recently shared a talk on how valuable the lands of the Bible can be to our understanding and application of Scripture.

5 Lasting Lessons from the Lands of the Bible

(Photo: Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

This land served as God’s testing ground of faith. It was here, in this land where both personal and national existence were threatened, that Israel’s leaders and people were called upon to learn the true meaning of security and well-being, of trust in the Lord their God. —James M. Monson

If I could boil down the essence of how God used the lands of the Bible to shape the lives of the people of the Bible, this message would come close.

Click to listen as I share these 5 lasting lessons from the lands of the Bible.

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Beersheba—The Last Stop and a Point of Beginning

What God told Jacob there also applies to you.

Just say the name, “Beersheba,” and images come to mind of an old, crusty patriarch leaning on his staff in the dry winds of the wilderness. I imagine Abraham squinting through the head covering that shelters his wrinkled face and thirsty lips. He scans the barren Negev for thieves.

Beersheba —The Last Stop and a Point of Beginning

(Tel Beersheba, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Not for thieves who would take his flocks or possessions, but for those who would steal water—the Negev’s most precious and indispensable commodity.

Beersheba epitomizes the faith God required to live in the Holy Land. Standing in the arid winds of Tel Beersheba, the truth seems both overwhelming and irresistible.

God used this unassuming, barren place to shape some of the most significant lives in the Bible.

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Who You Should Compare Yourself To

A lesson at Tabgha frees you to follow Jesus as yourself.

Someone else’s stuff always seems better. Even their struggles seem better. Have you noticed? The temptation to compare yourself with somebody is hard to sidestep in the Christian life.

Who You Should Compare Yourself To

(Photo: Tabgha statue of Jesus and Peter. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When Peter first met Jesus, the fisherman followed the Master out of a motive for glory and a prime seat in the kingdom of God. Peter wanted to be the “greatest” in comparison to others.

But after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, a single conversation along the shores of the Sea of Galilee at Tabgha changed Peter’s whole frame of reference.

That conversation can also help you not compare yourself with the lives of others.

It can free you to follow Jesus as an individual.

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