Did You Know There was a Peace Offering for Thanksgiving?

For many people, reading about the sacrifices of ancient Israel is a real yawner. But as we approach Thanksgiving, one sacrifice rises from the ashes of antiquity to offer encouragement.

Did You Know There was a Peace Offering for Thanksgiving?

(Photo by Photodune)

In the days of ancient Israel, a special offering, different from the ones required for sin, allowed a person to give God thanks for something the Lord had done.

Rituals are apparently irrational acts which become rational when their significance is explained. —Northrop Frye

Hidden behind the veil of ritual and strangeness are principles of timeless value for your life.

17 Lessons I’ve Learned My First 25 Years in Ministry

I have been in fulltime Christian ministry for 25 years. (Hard to believe.) I have served as a music minister, a senior pastor, a writer, and as a leader in a parachurch ministry.

16 Lessons I've Learned My First 25 Years in Ministry

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The last quarter century has taught me lessons I’ll never forget. I learned them in the trenches of time, disappointment, and even failure.

Although some of these principles may seem to apply to those in vocational ministry, all have application to us as believers. Whether we’re parents, singles, marrieds, or even disillusioned with church—these apply.

In no particular order (except the first one), here are 17 of them.

A Conversation about Priorities I’ll Never Forget

I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.

A Conversation about Priorities I'll Never Forget

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

I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.

I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”

“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.

His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.

How to Find the Rest of Your Life

Last week I had an unusual experience. Cathy and I rented a car and drove through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for several days. We had no agenda but rest.

How to Find the Rest of Your Life

(The beautiful Biltmore estate in North Carolina.)

For an achiever like me, a vacation can feel like a waste of time. Usually my vacations mean time off from my regular work to do chores around the house or to do a writing project.

But last week was strange. I actually took a vacation to rest.

  • I turned off my work email and never opened it. (Yeah, the swelling number of emails showing in my Mail icon tempted me.)
  • I got a full night’s sleep every night.
  • I even found some roses to smell. (Real roses.)

But it was tough at times. Why do we struggle so much with rest?

I think it’s a spiritual issue.

4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See

I doubt you’ll meet a person who goes to Israel without seeing Jerusalem. It’s the most important city in history, and it offers so much to see. But often, it’s seen only from this view.

4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See

(Photo: Jerusalem from the east. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

There are many great views of Jerusalem. Like looking at the various facets of a diamond, each direction offers a different perspective on the same city.

Here are 4 views of Jerusalem every visitor should see—from the north, south, east, and west.

Good news: 3 of the views are free.

Do You Understand the 2 Kinds of Forgiveness?

The Bible’s teaching on forgiveness can seem confusing. Even contradictory. In fact, over the years I’ve heard one question more than any other.

Do You Understand the 2 Kinds of Forgiveness?

(Photo By Todd Quackenbush. Courtesy of Unsplash.com)

On one hand we have the marvelous promise that once we believe the gospel message—that Jesus died for our sins and rose again—we have forgiveness of all our sins.

All of them.

But that begs a question: If Jesus has already paid for our sins, why then does the Bible tell us to confess our sins for forgiveness?

It’s because the Bible teaches two kinds of forgiveness.

Do you understand the difference?

What Makes the Holy Land Holy? Or You, for that Matter?

As often as we use the name, “Holy Land,” amazingly, the phrase only shows up in the Bible on rare occasions. In fact, you can count them on one hand.

What Makes the Holy Land Holy? Or You, for that Matter?

(Photo: Painting of Moses and the burning bush, Mar Saba monastery. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The first man, Adam, had a name that means “man,” and it relates to the word adamah, meaning “ground,” from which God formed him. Accordingly, when Adam sinned, God cursed the ground to which Adam would return when he died.

It seems surprising, then, that the first use of the noun form “holy” in the Hebrew Bible finds its connection with the ground. God told Moses at Horeb:

Remove your sandals, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. —Exodus 3:5

So, what makes the holy land holy? Or for that matter, what makes you holy?

Same answer.

Rephidim—How to Win the Battle You Face Today

You wake up to it each morning. It follows you as you go through your day. It’s waiting for you in every room and conversation. Your battle cleverly disguises itself in many forms.

Rephidim—How to Win the Battle You Face Today

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Your battle appears as a person, or as money, or as a tense situation at the office.

But the reality is that the battle you face each day has another source. The fight that God’s people faced at Rephidim proved that point.

The battle is spiritual—and there’s only one way to win.

How to Deal with Difficult People Who Refuse to Change

Several years ago I found myself at odds with someone. This individual had spoken severely to our daughter, and I confronted this person with the truth—but in anger, and I failed to speak truth in love.

How to Deal with Difficult People Who Refuse to Change

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Later, I tried to get together and talk it through. I knew I needed to ask for forgiveness for how I said what I said. But those in authority asked me to leave it alone until later. Although I tried to comply at first, I felt miserable keeping quiet. I came to realize I needed to ask forgiveness, no matter what.

The only way I felt I could honor both the Lord and those in authority came by writing a letter and asking for forgiveness. I never heard back from the individual, nor did I expect to or need to. But I needed to do my part. I needed to reach out.

But it was tough.