4 Blessings from God that May Surprise You

God May Want to Give You More than Relief

Sometimes it seems no one understands what we’re going through. When people fail us, or forget us, or even betray us, we’re left alone in the ashes of a reality we never expected or wanted.

God May Want to Give You More than Relief

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In those intense moments of loneliness, confusion, and pain, we ask God for one thing more than anything else. Relief from suffering.

But when relief is denied, we begin the difficult journey of resisting the notion that God is a cruel sovereign who toys with our lives. After all, He could stop it all in moment. After everything else but God gets stripped away from our lives, we begin realize that the Lord may want to give us something more—and much greater—than relief.

In those moments, God becomes more real to us than we ever would have known any other way.

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What to Do When God Fails Your Expectations

Jesus' words to John the Baptist at Machaerus are God's words to us.

We don’t say it out loud, but often we expect that if we believe and live correctly, we’ll have great marriages, healthy bank balances, well-balanced children, and freedom from major problems.

Macherus is where John the Baptist was imprisoned

(Photo: Machaerus is where John the Baptist was imprisoned. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Of course, we know better—but we still lean on the side of expecting blessing for obedience.

The truth is, we have expectations of God. And sometimes, honestly, He fails those expectations.

Here’s why.

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Banias Falls—Where Your Overwhelming Despair Meets its Hope

How Jesus’ resurrection gives the solution to the despair we feel.

Sometimes despair can wash over us like a wall of water. One moment we’re dry—the next, we’re dripping with discouragement. I’m talking about an overwhelming sense that it will never get any better. 

Banias Falls-Where Your Overwhelming Despair Meets its Hope

(Photo: Banias Falls. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

“What if,” to quote Jack Nicholson, “this is as good as it gets?” I don’t know about you, but despair can be one of my greatest struggles. In those moments, I travel in my mind back to Banias. 

The psalmist used the waterfalls at Banias in northern Israel to express a similar question and emotion. But he also had a solution of hope we need to turn toward when we feel overwhelmed by despair.

In fact, Jesus gave us that ultimate hope in the exact same region.

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Hebron—the Cave of Machpelah Stands as a Testimony of Faith

Good news: we lose nothing of God's promises in death.

It’s actually good news: death can teach us a lot about life. Specifically, we lose nothing of God’s promises when death occurs. The Cave of Machpelah in Hebron shows us why.

Machpelah in Hebron

(Photo: The building that covers the “Cave of the Patriarchs” at Machpelah in Hebron. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Towering like a fortress over the shoddy buildings that surround it, the ancient structure in Hebron covers a site sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

In elevation, Hebron stands taller than even Jerusalem. And other than the Temple Mount itself, no other place remains as revered to peoples whose hopes and faiths could not be more diverse.

Few other places offer such a powerful lesson in faith for those of us still drawing a breath.

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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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Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

The exclusivity of salvation isn't a new question.

Of course, we can only approach God’s presence God’s way. The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament? Are there multiple ways? 

Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

(Photo courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).

Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.

In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.

This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?

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2 Questions to Help You Live Intentionally for God

There's no need to keep going with the flow.

It’s always easier to react to life rather than to shape it. To go with the flow rather than to dig a new trench. Obviously, we want to respond well to what life throws at us. It’s assumed we should do that.

2 Questions to Help You Live Intentionally for God

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But I believe God gives us help to choose the direction of our lives. To live intentionally for Him. I don’t mean we choose what happens to us, but rather, that God has given us the freedom to make significant choices in spite of our circumstances.

Jesus’ example shows us what choices to make to live intentionally for God.

Two questions can help us do that.

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Caesarea Philippi (Banias)—From the god Pan to the God-Man

Refreshing hope from the Son of God and the sons of Korah

In a land where water is life, it’s no wonder one of the major sources of water would become a primary place of worship. Regrettably, the god worshipped at Banias was not the God of Israel.

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi forms the headwaters of the Jordan River. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

The flowing streams and the nearby waterfalls offer some of the most pleasant and inviting surroundings for tours, holidays, and family outings. What an absolutely beautiful area!

But that’s not why Jesus came here.

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How to Resist Temptation Like Jesus

The Lord's strategy in the Judean Wilderness also works today.

Everybody faces temptation. And on some level, everybody has fallen to it. Everybody but Jesus. I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Jesus.

Judean wilderness

(Photo: Judean wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Good grief, what a place. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the solitude and struggle Jesus would have endured for over a month. But I could not.

How did Jesus resist temptation here?

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How Geography Helps Destroy Your Doubts about the Bible

What you can verify about Scripture supports what you cannot prove.

I had lunch with a young man who nursed serious doubts about the Bible. He raised objections. I offered answers. After each exchange, he would shake his head and say, “I just can’t believe that’s true.”

How Geography Helps Destroy Your Doubts about the Bible

(Photo: Pisidian Antioch cardo with Church of St Paul. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

“What if I answered all of your questions to your satisfaction?” I finally asked. “Would you believe in Jesus then?” He thought for a moment, and then looked me in the eye. His answer surprised me.

“No, I wouldn’t.”

In truth, many people demand evidence for truth they never intend to accept. Their problem isn’t a lack of truth. It’s something else.

I have discovered that biblical geography can help destroy our doubts about the Bible.

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