A Map Shows What Happens When Bias Takes the Throne

Solomon’s administrative districts reveal a weakness we must avoid.

Have you ever known someone who fails to take their own advice? Somehow what they see so clearly in the lives of others becomes a personal blind spot that undermines their success.

Jerusalem looking north to Solomon's 12 districts

(Photo: Jerusalem looking north to Solomon’s 12 districts. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When we look at Solomon, we see a man who literally wrote the book on wisdom. However, his divided heart ultimately divided his nation. But why?

We often point to the influence of Solomon’s foreign wives and their imported idolatry as the cause of his downfall. But let’s look beyond the obvious. The problem went deeper.

We can see the source of Solomon’s fatal flaw on a map—literally.

Is the weakness on the map of your life too?

Click to continue reading »

3 Questions to Ask Yourself in Making the Right Decision

We need to remember that our spiritual life IS our life.

How many times have we made what we thought was the best decision—but it turned out to be the worst? Lessons learned from such blunders we remember and regret all of our lives.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself in Making the Right Decision

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

We make knee-jerk decisions that we think will benefit us financially, or relationally, or vocationally, or physically.

But what about spiritually? Lot failed to ask that question, and he lived with the regret.

But we don’t have to be like that if we’ll ask ourselves 3 questions.

Click to continue reading »

How the Gezer Boundary Stones Speak to Your Spiritual Life

Those stones are there for a reason you can trust—even if you don’t understand.

Think about the land you live on. The dirt beneath your house has been there for thousands of years. The hills that surround your neighborhood haven’t moved since God put them there at creation.

How the Gezer Boundary Stones Speak to Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Gezer boundary inscription number 8. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We protect and defend our property, don’t we? It’s a big deal. We post signs to warn trespassers. We build fences. We install security systems.

After all, the land is ours. (For now.)

But if we think about it, someone else lived here before us. And after we leave this life, another titleholder will own, work, and defend the land we owned for a few years. (In my case, the next owner will have a forest of great trees we planted from saplings. You’re welcome.)

The discovery of ancient boundary stones at Tel Gezer in Israel remind us of more than biblical property lines.

They prompt us to observe essential boundaries in our spiritual lives.

Click to continue reading »

Eilat Reminds You of the One Question You Must Always Ask

A Word of Warning When Your Ship Comes In

Sometimes a decision looks so good it can’t be bad. Or what we stand to gain overshadows any thought of what we might lose. But at the southern end of Israel sits a seaport with an ancient example that applies to your choices this afternoon.

Eilat Gives a Word of Warning When Your Ship Has Come In

(Photo: Boats at modern Eilat. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The biblical city of Ezion-geber, near modern Eilat, served as Israel’s occasional port on the Red Sea. On one occasion, the gulf offered a tremendous opportunity for a lucrative shipping industry for King Jehoshaphat.

As with Jehoshaphat, Eilat parallels many opportunities you have today when your ship has come in:

  • The financial deal promises a sure return on your investment.
  • The kind, attentive gentleman asks for your hand in marriage.
  • The promotion comes with the salary you’ve waited for a long time.
  • The new church you’re attending is just around the block.

But in making these decisions, have you forgotten to ask the most important question?

Click to continue reading »

What to Do When God Gives You a Hard Command

Why God Teaches You the Same Thing Over and Over Again

What God teaches us in one area of life we can easily miss in another area. So God has to repeat Himself. But sometimes the connection isn’t so easy for us to make.

Why God Teaches You the Same Thing Over and Over Again

(Photo: Waves crash ashore on the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Jesus performed more miracles in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee than any other place in His ministry. Standing on its shores, one can easily see across the shallow lake. The hills to the east and west tower above the water. As cool air from these heights rushes down the slopes into the lake’s warmer basin, winds can whip up the surface of the water to deadly proportions.

A small craft, such as the one Matthew reported the disciples clung to during a stormy night, could find itself foundering in an instant.

In one day, Christ taught His disciples a simple truth we should never forget.

Click to continue reading »

How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

The grace of God we stepped into at the beginning will also lead us home.

Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.

How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Jordan River north of Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.

  • When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
  • This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.

Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.

This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.

This also reflects our own spiritual lives.

Click to continue reading »

Bethel Reveals What You Need to Know to Connect with God

There has always been only one way.

There has always been only one way to God—even in the Old Testament. But how? That way is by grace through faith in the object of God’s choosing. Bethel gives us a peek at that way.

Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel

(Photo: Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In his flight from his murderous brother Esau, Jacob spent the night at Bethel, where years earlier his grandfather Abraham had heard God promise that he would receive all the land as far as he could see. There, Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven, and the Lord repeated to him the promises Abraham received.

Shaken, Jacob awoke and said:

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. —Gen. 28:17

Jacob named the site Bethel—“house of God.” The dream gave more than a vision of God’s house.

It offered a foreshadowing of how to get there.

Click to continue reading »

Living Life in the Balance with God

The Promised Land was a good land for a reason.

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.

Living Life in the Balance with God

(Photo: Grapes left on vine after harvest in Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

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.

Click to continue reading »

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre Shows Our Need for a Savior

How the site demonstrates the need for the place it hallows.

One of the biggest surprises to Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem occurs when they step inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection falls short of the expectations of many Christians accustomed to Western worship.

Gold drips from icons. Chanting fills the spaces. Incense rises between cold stone walls. Six sects of Christendom betray jealous rivalries over the goings-on within. Territorial fistfights even occur on occasion.

The Holy Sepulchre's dome covers Christ's tomb

(Photo: The Holy Sepulchre’s dome covers Christ’s tomb. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Without proper mental preparation, a Christian pilgrim may see only the distracting depravity of religion that has affixed itself to this site like barnacles on sunken treasure.

But if we look past today’s traditionalism to history’s tradition, we find an unbroken connection to the central event of all time—the redemption of the universe.

For in this place, Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again.

Click to continue reading »

Why God Always Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

The One who set eternity in our hearts created in us a hunger that space and time cannot satisfy.

The superscription of Psalm 63 notes how David prayed the psalm in the wilderness of Judah, either while fleeing from King Saul or, later, from David’s rebel son Absalom.

Why God Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Sunset over the Judean Wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. —Psalm 63:1

The “dry and weary land” that David described also described his own weariness, and the lack of water around him served to surface an even deeper thirst. At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God.

Our physical needs are connected to our spiritual lives for that very reason.

Click to continue reading »