A Lesson from Anathoth: Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

Jeremiah reminds us we never outgrow God

It’s tough to work hard at something, only to see your efforts eventually leak out through life’s cracks. Sometimes, however, that frustration can turn into a surprising blessing.

A Lesson from Anathoth- Why Our Best Efforts Don’t Hold Water

(Photo: Anathoth looking east toward the wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Standing in his hometown of Anathoth on a wet, wintry day, the Prophet Jeremiah could look east and see grain fields lush with life. But just beyond those fields stretched the bleak and barren Judean wilderness—a land not sown with seed.

The Lord used a similar image when He told the Israelites how they had started out as a devoted people: “following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2), but then had turned from His ways.

The lesson Jeremiah wrote about from these simple elements is one we must never forget.

But too often, we do. Here’s how we can remember it.

Click to continue reading »

When Struggles Strain Your Relationship with God

Here’s what to think and what to do.

You will face disappointment today. I will too. Honestly, when these frustrations and discouragements come barging in as unwelcome guests, the promise of God’s presence with us often feels thin.

When Struggles Strain Your Relationship with God

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Frequently, we respond to these disappointments like Gideon did:

If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? (Judg. 6:13).

We say this (or think it privately) because we have a firm opinion of what God being “with us” looks like.

No pain.

But such a view treats the Bible like a buffet lunch where we pick and choose what we want to swallow about God. When we do that, the plate we hold in our hands represents a god in our image—a freak unlike the God whose tells us His ways are not like ours.

Why would we want to worship a God we can control or understand? Where is the awe in that?

There’s a better way to think about it—and a better way to respond.

Click to continue reading »

What You’ll See in God’s Surprising Plans for You

God wants to use you to change the world, but first He wants to change you.

Whenever I have a doctor’s appointment, I always request the first appointment of the day. I figure the earlier my appointment, the less time I sit in the waiting room counting fish in the aquarium. But it isn’t so.

God’s Plan for You Includes Preparation & Waiting

(Photo by Photodune)

I may have a time scheduled, but it’s entirely the doctor’s discretion when I see him. I find the same true with Dr. God.

Dr. God fills our lives with waiting rooms:

  • Your car in a traffic jam.
  • Your office when five o’clock is slow to come.
  • The grocery store when the line is long, it’s the cashier’s first day, and she’s out of receipt tape. (Ask me how I know.)

Inconveniences cause delays and frustrations. But there are other moments of waiting far more difficult and confusing.

You have plans. This appointment should be over by now. You’re ready to move on the next event, the next step in the grand plan.

But you wait because God has plans for you.

Click to continue reading »

What to Do When People Absolutely Disappoint You

It’s time to graduate from our expectations to Reality 101

After a lifetime of people disappointing us, it’s tough not to develop a thick membrane of cynicism around our hearts. I’m convinced, however, we simply need stiff jolt of reality.

What to Do When People Absolutely Disappoint You

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

We need to come to the place where we realize everybody in our lives will fail us to some degree. Everybody.

  • Our parents will fail us.
  • Our children will fail us.
  • Our spouse, our boss, our friends, and even our pastor—all will fail us.
  • And let me quickly add, we will also fail them.

But you know the most humbling reality? It isn’t easy to write.

Click to continue reading »

Chasing the Surprising Geography of the Presence of God

How can God be somewhere and everywhere at the same time?

It’s hard to imagine an omnipresent God dwelling in one place. And yet, every December we celebrate the fact. God dwells in the confines of a human body. And He is also everywhere.

But the incarnation isn’t the first time God has localized His presence among His people.

Presence of God

(Photo: Olive groves near Bethlehem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God is both omnipresent and present. King Solomon summed up the seeming contradiction when he prayed:

Will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built. —2 Chronicles 6:18

From creation to Christmas—and from today to eternity.

Let’s take a quick geographical journey and follow movements of God’s dwelling place among us.

Click to continue reading »

Surrendering Your Will to God in Difficult Times

How this decision is the only path to peace.

I have discovered that the most difficult battles in life simply mirror Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. His words to the Father remain the most challenging words we could utter:

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. —Luke 22:42

Surrendering Your Will to God in Difficult Times

(Photo: Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus surrendered His will. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Surrendering your will to God in difficult times is often harder than the trial itself.

I have found that my greatest challenges come not from those circumstances that press in upon me, but from the internal struggle to surrender my will to God. I enter Gethsemane daily and have to drag my will to the Father in prayer.

So do you.

Click to continue reading »

God is Guiding Your Life—and How I Know It

What seem like chances are really God's choices.

Maybe you feel like the Lord isn’t leading you toward anything significant in life. Or worse, that He has overlooked or abandoned you. I believe otherwise.

God is Guiding Your Life—and How I Know It

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

In the Old Testament, a destitute single-again woman named Ruth had little hope for a future. One day she took advantage of a provision in the Law that allowed the poor to reap the corners of Israel’s fields. Her example gives hope to us all.

I want to show you that God is guiding you—and how I know He is.

Click to continue reading »

Compare Jerusalem’s Mountains to God’s Presence in Your Life

How Jerusalem's Geography Can Relieve Your Doubts

Life is full of moments that expose our doubts. In spite of all the Scripture we’ve learned and all the past victories the Lord has given us, occasionally something will happen that causes serious doubt.

How Jerusalem's Geography Can Relieve Your Doubts

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Temple Mount near sunset. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Maybe it’s a financial situation that undercuts future security. Or it might be a miserable marriage. Perhaps it’s a pastor or a leader who has failed. Maybe it’s our own failure.

Whatever the reason, seasons of doubts and confusion can come even to the most committed followers of Jesus:

  • John the Baptist struggled with doubts about his own beliefs about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-3).
  • The apostle Thomas found the resurrection of Christ something he had to see before he’d believe (John 20:25).
  • Some of the disciples had doubts about Jesus’ appearing to them, even at the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17).

I confess, I’ve had my doubts as well. Sometimes circumstances literally demanded I doubt God. A simple walk in Jerusalem one evening gave me an essential reminder.

I’m convinced it can help you.

Click to continue reading »

Tel Dan—Worshipping at the Altar of Convenience

In the end, we'll find God far more satisfying.

Shady walkways. Cool breezes. Abundant streams. Luxuriant foliage. The Tel Dan Nature Preserve draws the locals as well as the travelers. It always has.

Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan

(Photo: Headwaters of Jordan River at Tel Dan. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In natural beauty, Tel Dan has few rivals in Israel. For the ancients, it had everything necessary for abundant living.

While the Hebrews in the south worshipped in Jerusalem, the natural beauty of Tel Dan in northern Israel offered an irresistible alternative. It was picturesque. It was convenient. It was invigorating.

And it was a complete compromise of God’s will.

Click to continue reading »

This Mind Hack Can Get You Through an Ordinary Day

Focusing on one objective helps the rest fall into place.

The ordinary days of life far outnumber the extraordinary ones. That can get discouraging. But as we look at the lives in the Bible, we see the same pattern. Thankfully, they were normal like us.

This Mind Hack Can Get You Through an Ordinary Day

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Like us, the biblical lives show years of routine interrupted by occasion moments of excitement. Thankfully, we see God at work in the ordinary day just as much as in the extraordinary. David’s fight with Goliath is the perfect example.

It can also happen with you.

Click to continue reading »