The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.
Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.
During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).
David felt very alone.
His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.
To hear Moses describe the Promised Land, it sounded as if it offered vast natural resources—a land where food was plentiful and lacked for nothing (Deut. 8:9). Well, true and not true.
The land had streams, pools, springs, wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey. Sounds pretty nice. Sign me up.
But this good land existed in a delicate balance of nature—and God tipped the scales. The Hebrews would learn that God alone made the good land “good” in direct proportion to the gratitude, praise, and obedience of His people.
The same is true of our lives.
After I bought my 1897 edition of The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, I opened its dingy, yellow pages and discovered I couldn’t turn some of them. The London publisher had made an error.
(Photo: I have to read this book with a pair of scissors.)
The book was printed on large sheets which were then cut and bound into the book. But some of the edges never got trimmed. I had to cut each pair of pages myself. At first this was a real hassle.
But then it hit me . . . I am the first person ever to read these pages!
The book sat on the shelf of some library or study for over a century—untouched! All its benefits . . . hidden. Nobody read them. Each time I cut a page seemed like cutting the ribbon on an unwrapped present. The rich descriptions George Adam Smith has written are the next best thing to pictures.
I bought a used book no one had used.
An Awkward Question
Then a question popped in my head: How long would it take me to notice if pages of my Bible were stuck together? The Bible is a book of treasures, often unwrapped, because we simply don’t realize its tremendous value to our lives.
I want to share with you 4 steps that can help you unwrap the Bible’s treasures.
This year, FaithVillage is highlighting 52 contributors in a weekly post called the FaithVillage Contributor Spotlight. I had the privilege of being first in the line up.
The weekly online interview affords its readers the opportunity to learn more about those who contribute to FaithVillage on a routine basis. They asked me everything from blogging to pitfalls to traveling in the Holy Land.
Here are the 7 questions they asked, as well as my answers.
A recent poll by the Barna Group revealed a startling fact about Christians and the Bible: “Just half of all self-identified Christians firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles (not the facts, just the principles) that it teaches.”
The entire basis of Christianity’s faith stems from what the Bible reveals about God, humanity, sin, and salvation. Is the Bible true?
Although any belief is ultimately a matter of faith, it should have a basis of credibility, reliability, and correspondence with reality. In a world where opinions of truth vary wildly, truth has to be based on more than preference.
Is the Bible true? Ultimately, the decision to believe it is up to you.
Here are 8 extraordinary facts that support the Bible as the Word of God.
Unmistakable. Majestic. Distinctive. Graceful. Descriptions all appropriate for an isolated hill wedged in the northeast corner of the Jezreel Valley.
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.
Some places in Jerusalem are as infamous as others are famous.
The Hinnom Valley is such a site. It represented a place of evil atrocities for centuries. Like, really evil.
My favorite place to see the Hinnom Valley is from a balcony in the southwest corner of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.
Inevitably while I stand there, I think of King Manasseh and the horrific atrocities he committed in the area before my eyes.
The infamous valley reminds me of more than Manasseh. It also represents my redemption.
The hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee frame the lake like a portrait. In spring, the hillsides burst with wildflowers, fresh grass, and spectacular color. The tranquil slopes tower above fruit crops and fertile fields that stretch across the lush Plain of Gennesaret.
No matter where I stand to view the picture, the subject seems to be smiling.
Numerous places around the lake offer splendid panoramas.
- The best view, by far, is atop Mount Arbel. Windy and requiring a walk, the vast landscape stuns every first-timer.
- Another grand vista is the view from Kfar Haruv on the eastern side—I can see the whole lake from tip to tip. Impressive, for sure.
But the picturesque view from the Mount of Beatitudes offers visitors more than simply a beautiful view.
It offers a place to consider truth taught there by One who knew it.
Not many places in Galilee can genuinely claim to be the “Town of Jesus.” But every visitor who enters the ancient site of Capernaum passes a sign that makes that boast. And it’s right.
After Jesus left His former hometown of Nazareth, He moved His base of operations to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee.
This move fulfilled what the Prophet Isaiah had predicted centuries earlier (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:14). Today, millions of tourists visit Israel each year, the majority of them Christians. I think it’s ironic that so many people still come to Capernaum and its surrounding area for the same reason they did in the first century.
Because that’s where Jesus was.
The awesomeness of creation exists as more than beauty for us to observe.
In spite of the chaos in our culture, the world screams of order in its origin. Its predictable seasons and trustworthy laws of nature reveal wisdom in its design.
(Photo by http://www.ForestWander.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons)
The wisdom of creation we see is explained in the Bible we read. Wisdom played such an integral role in creation that the author of Proverbs 8 personifies it as a person present with God:
“Before the hills I was brought forth . . . When He established the heavens, I was there . . . When He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman”—Proverbs 8:25–33
God’s wisdom displayed in the wonders we see also proves His wisdom in all areas of life.
Including the painful ones.