Traditions, Truth, and Praying with Your Eyes Open

The Western Wall challenges us to ask why we do what we do.

Many find it hard to identify with the Jews who rock before Jerusalem’s Western Wall. I know I did at first. It seemed, well . . . odd. Then I thought about my traditions. Are they any less bizarre?

The Western Wall challenges us to ask why we do what we do.

(Photo: Men praying at the Western Wall. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Oddness just comes in different flavors. They’re called “traditions.” For example:

  • Jews pray with their heads covered; we take our hats off.
  • Their prayers are public and loud; ours are private and quiet.
  • They rock back and forth and pray from a book; we bow our heads, close our eyes, and utter unrehearsed words.

It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.

But blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling, or jumping—with no personal relationship with the true God, and it’s totally pointless.

Maybe we Christians should open our eyes during prayer for a change.

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Good News about the Bad News You Hear

Nahum’s words offer encouragement and an invitation.

It seems the news isn’t news unless it’s bad news. You know, apart from a context of truth, the daily news feels like a wet blanket on our flame. But remember, the news chases ratings and clicks—not the whole truth.

Good News about the Bad News We Hear

(Photo by Photodune)

As I read the news each day, I have to remember it isn’t reporting the progress of God’s kingdom. In fact, headlines tend to hide the other half of the truth and focus only on the negative.

The prophet Nahum pulls back the curtain and shows us what God is doing in a world where it seems like the wheels have fallen off.

In the midst of the bad news you’ll hear today, there’s also some good news you need to hear.

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Keep doing the next right thing, taking the steps you know take, without getting frustrated because you aren’t yet where you want to be. Act on the belief that God has a plan and that He is bringing it to completion your life. Commit to being ready for that completion to occur, even if you can’t see it coming.

Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

The Places Associated with Herod's Death Speak with a Twist

The Bible loves poetic irony. Think of Joseph’s brothers, hat in hand before the brother they betrayed. Or Haman—hanged on his own gallows. But one of my favorites has to do with the geographic ironies surrounding the death of Herod the Great.

Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

(Photo: The Herodium where Herod the Great was buried. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Like an ugly cover on a great book, the places of Herod’s death bookend the life of Jesus.

They give lasting lessons to us who walk through them.

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The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

Finding it is the easy part. The next step is the tough one.

I am convinced God is far more concerned that we know His will than we are. In fact, He has gone to great lengths to help us understand what we need to know. But we have a problem.

The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

(Photo: Tel Jokneam, one of the 48 Levitical Cities. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We often treat the Bible as a simple reference book—kept handy on the shelf for those moments when we need inspiration but not something we see as essential for daily living.

But God’s will is found in God’s Word. If we want to find His will, we must read His Word. It’s often that simple—and yet, it’s also difficult. But it needn’t be.

In fact, God has always made His Word accessible to us—today more than ever.

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Why to Stop and Talk and Say Thanks

90 Seconds Will Give Someone the Most Meaningful Part of Their Day

Most of us don’t have time to stop and talk. We just can’t afford to. After all, we’re paid to produce, we have tasks to perform, and slowing down is counterproductive. But there’s an exception.

Why to Stop and Talk and Say Thanks

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

Not long ago at work I was in the middle of a very busy day, walking through a department I seldom set foot in. I saw a coworker working alone at his computer—totally in the zone. I kept walking and then it hit me, I wonder when the last time somebody thanked him for the good work he does?

A dozen good reasons to just keep walking raced through my mind, and I literally walked out of the room.

But then I heard another voice.

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What Keeps You Up at Night

What Keeps You Up at Night? How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Pete Wilson rubs his finger on the bruise that causes us each to flinch: What we fear most.

Beginning with the fact that we’re not alone, What Keeps You Up at Night shows how fear is a common response of all people—including those greats in the Bible. Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, Daniel, all faced fear and overcame because they chose to trust God in spite of the fear. 

How the Downer Book of Lamentations Offers Us Hope Today

3 bits of good news from the character of God and the promises of God.

The book of Lamentations isn’t one we often read. Let’s be honest. It seems like a real downer. Jeremiah’s “lamentations” sting like the swat of a paddle. And yet—amazingly—there’s good news for us.

How the Downer Book of Lamentations Offers 3 Reasons to Hope

(Photo by Photodune)

Good news seems good usually because of the bad news that came first.

  • The bad news: Because Jerusalem had abandoned the Lord by pursing idols and foreign alliances, God had given over the city to the Babylonians, who disciplined Jerusalem by forcing most of its citizens into exile.
  • The good news: God’s divine discipline always comes as an expression both of His faithfulness and His love.

Amazingly, this downer book of Lamentations offers at least 3 reasons we can have hope in life.

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