Listening to Well-Timed Words of Warning

One other person struggled the night Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.

Dark shadows had fallen over Jerusalem. A lone figure knelt, weeping, agonizing in prayer, as eleven men slumbered nearby. While Jerusalem slept, the Lord Jesus endured anguish in the darkness of Gethsemane. But He did not suffer alone that night.

Listening to Well-Timed Warnings

(Photo: The Citadel served as the residence of Pilate and his wife. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

On the other side of Jerusalem in the luxuriant palace of the governor—perhaps even during the hours of Jesus’s agony in the garden—another figure writhed in agony.

The content of her nightmare was about Jesus. It caused her to arrive at a firm conclusion.

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How Jesus Determined His Priorities

And what we can do when choices toss us a live grenade.

Scripture has always taught God’s people to pursue God’s priorities. But over time, opinions differed on those priorities. No one’s opinion was conclusive. There were no guardrails on truth.

How Jesus Determined His Priorities

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Religious leaders in Jesus’ day debated on the separation of the important commandments from the less-important ones. One day when Jesus was teaching in the temple, a scribe tossed this live grenade in front of Jesus to see where He stood in the debate:

What commandment is the foremost of all? —Mark 12:28

Jesus’ answer did more than weigh in on the longstanding disagreement.

It helped us understand how to balance our priorities.

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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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A Lesson on Holiness from the Western Wall Tunnel

Why God's Holiness Doesn't Hide Underground

Most of Jerusalem’s Western Wall lies underground today, accessible only through the Western Wall Tunnel in which we walked. A spry Jewish woman in her 20s led our group through the tunnel.

Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies

(Photo: Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After moving some distance north along a small hallway, with the Western Wall’s massive, dressed stones to our right, we stopped about halfway down at an alcove with a single light bulb. We huddled in close.

This niche represented, the young guide explained, the closest that we can get to where the Holy of Holies resided on the Temple Mount.

But what she said next caused a few biblical penalty flags to go off in my head.

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When You Become God’s Surprise Witness

How Matthias reveals our insignificance is seen by God.

Sometimes God surprises us with opportunities we never sought, never expected, and never even imagined. Often these moments come in the middle of our ho-hum lives.

When You Become God's Surprise Witness

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It happened with Matthias.

Ever since John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthias 
had followed. He had walked in Jesus’ footsteps from the Jordan River to the rugged hills of Galilee. He had followed the Savior with passion and persuasion—and without recognition.

Matthias was a willing unknown.

Then one day it all changed.

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Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

Why is it sometimes we regret the wrong things?

Sometimes in the swell of our emotions, we make promises we don’t mean. On one occasion, two individuals approached Jesus and declared they would follow Him wherever He went.

Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

(Photo: The steep slope at Kursi beside the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But Jesus’ response to them indicated that their hearts were more devoted to comfort and to family than to Him (Matt. 8:19-22). It happened in Jesus’ day, and it happens in ours.

We’ve all done it. Sometimes we’ll express our spiritual desires in terms that really boil down to boasts:

  • I’ll have my quiet time every morning for the rest of my life.
  • I’m willing to follow God wherever He leads me.
  • I will love people more and need them less.

Overwhelmed by the moment, we’ll express our feelings in terms of commitments we’d like to do. But often, we come to regret our words.

The problem is we’re regretting the wrong thing.

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Truths You May Have Missed About Struggle in the Christian Life

We had no idea what following Jesus would demand when we started out. Oh, we thought we knew. We had hopes. We had great ideas.

Truths You May Have Missed About Struggle in the Christian Life

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We thought the Christian life meant that once we believed in Jesus, if we walked obediently, certain things would happen:

  • God would bless us
  • Protect us
  • Put us at ease
  • Basically dote on us as His children.

To some extent, we still expect that. But God wants to give us something greater than those things.

Much greater.

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How to Stop Looking for God in the Wrong Places

The world makes promises it can’t keep. It says the reason we’re unhappy is that we just haven’t found the right whatever yet. But if we keep looking, we’ll find it.

Looking for God in the Wrong Places

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The right spouse, the right hairdo, the right salary, the right entertainment system, the right church, the right pastor, the right Bible, the right seminar, ad infinitum . . . ad nauseam.

You don’t have to be without Jesus to fall into the trap. Even those of us who do believe in Jesus can chase those shadows.

We may not know we’re looking for God. But we are.

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The Transfiguration of Jesus—What Hope Can Do for You

Jesus had just dropped the bomb. At Caesarea Philippi, the Lord informed His star-struck disciples that He, the Messiah, would soon die and rise again. Amazingly, that didn’t hit them as good news.

The Transfiguration of Jesus—What Hope Can Do for You

(Photo: Mural in the Basilica of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

To these men—who only understood the Messiah in terms of providing the good life of God’s kingdom—news of Jesus’ death came as a sucker punch to their dreams. It’s no wonder Peter blurted, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22).

Jesus’ reply should cause us all to pause and ponder:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Matthew 16:24

In wake of their confusion, Jesus took these disappointed disciples to a nearby mountain for a good dose of hope. They needed it.

As we struggle with our own disappointments, we can use that same hope today. We need it too.

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Connecting Archaeology and the Passion Week of Jesus

Easter and Christmas always bring a slew of television specials claiming to find some new archaeological connection to Jesus. Most are hype and even attempt to discredit the biblical account.

Ossuary of Joseph son of Caiaphas, from Jerusalem, 1st c AD

(Photo: Ossuary of Joseph son of Caiaphas. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But occasionally archaeology gives us a true connection to Jesus, and the results are tremendously affirming. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has devoted a small corner of the museum to archaeology connected to Jesus of Nazareth.

The good folks at SourceFlix.com put together a short video that highlights several of these archaeological finds that relate to Jesus Christ—and the Passion Week in particular.

I’ll also explain why they’re significant to us.

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