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.

Click to continue reading »

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.

Click to continue reading »

The Kidron Valley – How Your Burial Can Point to Your Faith

Even after death, we can have a powerful witness to the living.

Have you thought where you’ll be buried? The place where someone chooses to get buried is always significant.

  • A hometown family plot is common.
  • The place where one’s ashes are scattered or stored often holds a special association.
  • Even unknown soldiers who die in battle occasionally receive a prominent interment.
The Kidron Valley with olive trees and graves

(Photo: The Kidron Valley with olives trees and graves. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But in Israel, a burial place often exposed one’s faith. The tombs beside the Kidron Valley bear witness to this truth.

Each one offers a connection to resurrection.

Click to continue reading »

Ascension Day Gives Us a Reason to Look Up

Our purpose in life finds its answer in Jesus' final words.

Honestly, if Ascension Day didn’t appear on our calendars 40 days after Easter, we’d likely never think about it. Sure, we know Jesus’ ascension had good reasons. But hey, we’re still stuck on earth.

Ascension Day Gives Us a Reason to Look Up

(Photo by Photodune)

In fact, have you ever wondered why we don’t we just ascend to heaven after we believe in Jesus?

The answer, of course, is that God’s goal for us is more than to believe in His Son. Jesus’ final words remind us of that.

Ascension Day offers a few good reminders.

Click to continue reading »

Who Is this Jesus: The Hope You Can’t Resist [Book Review]

There is hope in your difficult situation.”

Who is this Jesus, by Max LucadoThat’s how the introduction begins to Max Lucado’s beautifully illustrated hardcover book, Who Is this Jesus: The Hope You Can’t Resist.

The editor’s introduction challenges the readers to recall the worst day of their life and then to take hope in spite of it. Why? Because the Bible meets us where we are and gives us (with a nod to Charles Dickens) hope in the best of times and the worst of times.

The introduction offers biblical examples of those who received hope when they didn’t expect it:

  • David, while fleeing from King Saul’s madness, sought refuge in a cave where God became his refuge (Psalm 142:3-5).
  • Paul, while recounting his missionary struggles to the Corinthians, testified that he thought himself as good as dead, but God—who raises the dead—rescued him (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

These biblical examples finally shift to Mary Magdalene, who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb that first Easter Sunday morning.

The Bible tells us of the soldiers who guarded the Christ’s tomb and who witnessed the angel who rolled back the stone that covered the tomb. The soldiers fell to the ground and fainted in fear (Matthew 28:4).

The introduction concludes:

The Bible doesn’t tell us the story of any of these soldiers . . . And yet . . . if the story had been told . . . it might have gone something like this.

Although the conclusions to Who Is this Jesus are super, the book has some snags.

Click to continue reading »

Mary Magdalene—A Change You’d Never Expect

Her name is as well-known as any apostle. Yet the truth about her life often lies shrouded behind myths, fiction, and flat-out conjecture.

Mary Magdalene—A Change You’d Never Expect

(Painting by José de Ribera. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Modern art and bestselling novels paint her as everything from a prostitute to the infamous woman caught in adultery to the wife of Jesus Himself.

But the Scriptures portray Mary Magdalene as a different person altogether.

Surprisingly, she was more like us than we would expect.

Click to continue reading »

Staring Death in the Faith

Sometimes you hear crazy stuff at funerals. I heard of one set of parents who tragically lost a child, and the minister told them not to weep—but to rejoice in faith. After all, their son was in heaven.

It sounds so right—so spiritual. But it was only half right. Therefore, half wrong.

Staring death in the faith.

(Photo: by Ralf Lotys, Sicherlich, CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Bible reveals that when someone dies, the most natural and right thing to do—even in a life of great faith—is to weep. After Abraham’s wife died, we read:

Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.—Genesis 23:2

Even Jesus wept at the results of physical death (John 11:35). So, that makes it okay for us too.

Why is weeping right, even if our loved one is in a “better place”?

Click to continue reading »

The Garden Tomb— Contemplating the Resurrection of Jesus

Beside a busy street and noisy bus station in Jerusalem, a tall rock wall encircles a garden. An oasis of sanctity and cessation in a city that feeds on frenzied tourists.

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

(Photo: The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem)

After entering, I felt the tension of my hurried pace leave me. I traded the noisy city and dirty streets for flowers, butterflies, gravel pathways, and stone steps. Everything lovely about a garden filled my view.

It’s no wonder many believe the Garden Tomb to be the tomb of Jesus. Like the tomb described in the gospel accounts, the Garden Tomb lay outside the city walls and along a road. It is hewn out of the stone and has a rolling stone entrance. A garden surrounds it.

Based on its tranquil setting, it has a lot going for it. But then there are the rest of the facts.

Click to continue reading »