What Freedom Means and Absolutely Never Means

All those self-evident truths come in a broader context.

On a layover to Israel, we stopped in Philadelphia. We visited the Rocky steps (yes, I ran them), Betsy Ross’ house, and Ben Franklin’s grave. But I most enjoyed Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

What Freedom Means and Never Means

(Photo by Trent Yarnell)

There’s nothing like standing where history happened. It reminds us that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were more than just names in a history book or faces on our money. They really lived.

On July 4, 1776, in Independence Hall, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, in which the second paragraph famously begins:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

Independence Hall interior

(Photo: Independence Hall interior, where the Declaration of Independence was debated and adopted)

Even a deist like Thomas Jefferson affirmed there are some truths that are self-evident (i.e. obvious)—truths revealed by our Creator. Rights given that cannot be taken away (that’s what “unalienable” means.) And although creation offers truths we cannot (logically) deny, many people choose to reject them anyway. And that’s fine. Freedom allows us to choose what we accept or reject.

But there’s something freedom never allows us—and never will.

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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.

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Valley of Achor: How to Change Your Trouble to Triumph

Why You Should Never Give up if You're in a Hopeless Place

Some places hoard bad memories. Maybe it was your hometown or even your home. The events associated with that place have forever tainted its memories. The Valley of Achor was such a site.

Valley of Achor: How to Change Your Trouble to Triumph

(Photo: The Wadi Qilt, perhaps the Valley of Achor. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After Joshua’s victory at Jericho, the Israelites suffered defeat at Ai because a man named Achan had buried banned spoils of war under his tent (Joshua 7:1, 21). Following this event, the Valley of Achor served as a reminder of failure, of setback, and of defeat.

But God would change the place from a site of trouble to a place of triumph.

He can do the same for you.

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Crazy Results You’ll Want to See from My 2016 Survey

Here are the changes I plan to make after the survey.

For the past four years I have surveyed my blog readers in order to find out about your needs, preferences, and interests. This year I learned some surprising results.

Crazy Results You'll Want to See from My 2016 Survey

My goal in writing this blog is to help you connect the Bible and its lands to your life. Each survey helps me do that better than before.

The survey offered some fascinating finds—some affirming and predictable. But some were a total surprise.

I’d like to share the results with you as well as some changes I’ll make as a result.

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Why Some Fundamentals Never Change with God

Yet some rules no longer apply (and why)

Remember the day you left home? For some of us, that day was when we took off for college. For others, it was to take a job. We all had reasons, and we were gone.

Why Some Fundamentals Never Change with God

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

When you left home, some things immediately changed. No longer did you have to be home at a certain time each night. If you wanted pizza ten times a week, you had it. Freedoms increased.

But there were also some things that didn’t change.

  • The speed limit was still 55 mph.
  • You still had to brush your teeth.
  • Right and wrong was still right and wrong.

It’s interesting that in all the changes we experienced, neither our parents nor we had changed. Only the situation changed.

In a similar way, God has managed the world differently at different times. Some things never change with God.

But some do.

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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.

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There’s Still Room for You on My Holy Land Tour This Fall

But time is running out. Sign up before July 15!

If you’ve been putting off taking a tour to Israel, I’d like to give you another invitation to join my tour to the Holy Land this fall. The tour already has a great group! But there’s room for you.

On the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount.

(Explaining the Second Coming of Jesus on On the Mount of Olives)

We still have space on our tour, but I urge you to reserve your place today. Why? Because this is no ordinary tour to Israel.

This will be an exclusive, one-bus tour devoted entirely to following the life of Jesus . . . from His birth in Bethlehem . . . to His ministry in Galilee . . . to His death and resurrection in Jerusalem . . . and His ascension from the Mount of Olives.

Todd Bolen“Wayne Stiles has a unique gift for bringing the biblical world into our own. Some teachers are history gurus, but they can’t translate their research into how it affects us today. Wayne is superb at doing this in his books, on his blog, and at the sites. He is passionate, accurate, and faithful.

I’d encourage you to take the opportunity while you can.”

—Dr. Todd Bolen

Learn the life of Jesus by walking where He walked.

On this tour, I will help you understand the life of our Lord as we connect the Bible and its lands to your life every time we stop—and all along the way.

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Mount Tabor–A Panorama of Beauty and Praise

Only one thing could make it more beautiful.

Unmistakable. Majestic. Distinctive. Graceful. Descriptions all appropriate for an isolated hill wedged in the northeast corner of the Jezreel Valley—Mount Tabor.

Mount Tabor

(Photo: Mount Tabor. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Rising from the valley floor 1,843 feet, Mount Tabor’s smooth contours honor it with a distinguishing outline recognizable from any vantage point.

  • From the Plain of Bethsaida north of the Sea of Galilee, I have seen the top of Tabor peeking over the hills of Mount Arbel.
  • From the other side of the Jezreel Valley on Mount Carmel, I have studied Mount Tabor’s exceptional form in its geographical context.
  • Many times as I traveled in the Galilee, Mount Tabor would surprise me with its presence. “I had no idea you could see Tabor from here,” I would find myself saying.

From any direction, the mountain stands alone in both beauty and topography. The Prophet Jeremiah recorded,

As I live [declares the Lord] surely one shall come who looms up like Tabor among the mountains. —Jeremiah 46:18

No wonder Mount Tabor played a noteworthy role in history.  It offered a geographical landmark for travelers, a military advantage as the high ground, and it provided an illusory spiritual benefit as a high place.

It even served as a metaphor of praise to God.

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Christians Struggling with Sin and 4 Lies We Believe

In more ways than one, the truth will set you free.

Everybody sins. But when Christians do it, reactions vary. The culture says we’re hypocrites—and often uses our sin to justify their own. Other Christians may view our sins as proof we aren’t even saved.

Christians Struggling with Sin and 4 Lies We Believe

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

But the people who offer the most brutal judgment against our sins?

Very often, it’s ourselves.

That’s because Christians struggling with sin tend to believe these four lies.

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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.

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