The good folks at SourceFlix have produced another fascinating and educational video, explaining with history and archaeology the location of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

Micah predicted it centuries before it occurred:

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. —Micah 5:2

A God who can tell the future also knows your future. Trust Him today with what concerns you.

Bethlehem—A Powerful Metaphor for Your Life’s Greatest Need

The place of Jesus' birth puts our priorities in their proper place.

Christmas cards and carols venerate Bethlehem as an idyllic, quiet place with “silent stars” above it and “deep and dreamless sleep” within its walls. A pleasant picture, for sure. But it wasn’t always so.

Bethlehem—A Metaphor for Your Heart

(Photo: Today’s little town of Bethlehem, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Scripture’s introduction to Bethlehem isn’t pretty.

  • Jacob buries his favorite wife, Rachel, on the way to Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19).
  • The book of Judges mentions Bethlehem in conjunction with a corrupt priest who became a mercenary for idolaters (Judges 17:8-9).
  • Another account describes a Bethlehem concubine who, after leaving town, was brutally raped and dismembered (Judges 19:1-30).

Not a great beginning for the little town of Bethlehem.

But then, the scene shifts.

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Jesus’ Birth in a Humble Bethlehem Had You in Mind

What His ignoble birth means for you.

It must have seemed really strange. Honestly, it still does. Two thousand years of waiting for the Messiah, and He is born in a barn and laid in a feed trough.

Jesus' Birth in a Barn Had You in Mind

(Shepherd in modern Israel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

If it had been up to us, we would have given God’s Son a room in the finest five-star hotel in Bethlehem. But Jesus got only a one-star motel—and God had to provide the star!

When the shepherds hurried into Bethlehem to find the baby of whom the angels spoke, the wonder of God’s power must have seemed a strange contradiction to the conditions they found.

  • No halos hovered over Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
  • Instead, they saw a poor couple surrounded by animals and the smell of manure.

Actually, the crudity of Jesus’ birth story offers really good news.

Because it had you in mind.

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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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When Your Life Feels Empty

Looking at the Right Gauge is the Secret to Making It

I used to use an old pickup truck for odd jobs. It was dented, scratched, and ugly—but faithful. The only glitch in the truck was the gas gauge. No matter how much gas it had, the gauge read “almost empty.”

When Your Life Feels Empty

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

If you had just filled up, it read “almost empty.” If you had half a tank, it read “almost empty.” The gauge only worked when you were out of gas! It would immediately move from “almost empty” to “empty.” I remember once I coasted into a gas station on fumes and a prayer.

I have found one thing in life that cuts the cable from the gas tank to the gas gauge quicker than anything else.

  • It drains your relationships with people and dries up your walk with God.
  • It blurs your vision, exaggerates your emotions, and takes a healthy, balanced perspective of life and twists it of proportion.

I’m talking about the pervasive and infectious attitude of bitterness.

You can be riding along with a full tank, but bitterness will show you a gauge “almost empty.”

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3 Wise Men and Age-Appropriate Gifts

My birthday is in December. Growing up, I often heard: “Wayne, this is your birthday-Christmas gift.” I thought, Hey, gee, thanks. December birthdays are tough on kids.

3 Wise Men and Age-Approprite Gifts

(Photo by Photodune)

As a boy, I also felt a little disappointed getting clothes for Christmas (though now I love it). Some people just don’t know how to give age-appropriate gifts to kids.

When we read the Christmas story, it seems the three Wise Men didn’t have much experience shopping for children either.

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Exchanging Bethlehem Shopping for Bethlehem’s Story

I’ll never forget my first visit to Bethlehem. In the city of Jesus’ birth, we spent the bulk of our time shopping. Sounds like Christmas, doesn’t it?

Bethlehem olivewood shop

(Photo: Bethlehem olivewood shop. By ecjones)

Gold jewelry set with opals and diamonds sat alongside bowls, oil lamps and other imitation artifacts. Olivewood statues filled the interior of the large establishment, coloring the whole room light brown.

Name any biblical character or animal, and there was an olivewood statue for you! Favorites included:

  • Samson pushing the pillars.
  • David slaying Goliath.
  • And, of course, Nativity scenes of every shape, size and price—from a few bucks to a few thousand.

And the tourists fell upon the plunder.

One wooden figurine caught my eye, a bust of Elvis Presley, and I had to grin. Elvis in Israel? I called over the owner, a proprietor who can smell a tour bus a mile away, and asked him my question.

He corrected me and told me who it really was.

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Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity—Appropriately Unassuming

Bethlehem’s main attraction centers on the oldest standing church in Israel. The ancient structure marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth, and yet, it isn’t much to look at.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity—Appropriately Unassuming

(Photo: The front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Built in the sixth century by the emperor Justinian, the Church of the Nativity sits on top of the location of the original octagonal church Constantine’s mother, Helena, constructed just a few centuries after Jesus.

When I went there earlier this year, it looked altogether uninspiring and unassuming.

To me, that’s appropriate.

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