Wednesday, April 16

Holy Land Lens at Home

When I was a little girl, someone pointed at the Dogwood tree and taught me to think about Jesus and the Cross.

The earth itself declares the truth of our Savior.

It went something like this:

The tip of each pure white petal looks like nail prints… brown with rust and stained with a slight red hue. The center is like a crown of thorns. And the timing of its bloom… Easter.

I don’t know where these thoughts originated. But as I walked where Jesus walked in the Holy Land, my mind came alive with how many common things Jesus pointed at or referred to when he taught.

Fish. Salt. Flowers. Mustard seed. Gate. Field. Sheep. Shepherd. Water. Wine. Bread. Storms. Coins. Mud. Clothes. Oil. Door. Lamp.

And on and on went “the pointing finger of Jesus” as our teacher called it.

Ordinary objects reminding us of divine thoughts.

Jesus used objects we’d encounter often to draw our minds to think on truth. After all, of all the reasons Jesus could have stated for coming to this world…

He answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth,” (John 18:37).

Truth. It’s what Jesus wants us to see. To know. To live. To remember.

So, I look at this Dogwood tree in my front yard and see a reminder. And I remember the glorious gift of grace given on a cross and life resurrected in an empty tomb.

Monday, April 7

Day 3 in the Holy Land – Might We Dare to be a Little More Uncommon

I have to admit when our guide pulled over to the side of the road at this unmarked, unremarkable looking place, I was underwhelmed. We filed out of the bus with a vague sense we were studying something in the eighth chapter of Acts.

There were no signs.

No other tourists.

Our teacher walked to a place covered with brush and pointed to a rocky path. We gingerly made our way behind him and soon came upon a road:

Day 3 in the Holy Land with Lysa TerKeurst

We walked down the road with our teacher pointing out for us to notice how the road was perfectly designed with the wheels of chariots in mind. The spaces between the gently descending, shallow stairs allowed for the wheels to catch and bump with the least amount of discomfort to the passengers.

Day 3 in the Holy Land with Lysa TerKeurst

With great enthusiasm the teacher said, “This road is where a man learned of Christ and received the good news!” We walked a little further and saw this:

Day 3 in the Holy Land with Lysa TerKeurst

“This place of water is where this man was baptized shortly afterward and went away rejoicing. We should rejoice! We should rejoice!”

And then we opened the Scriptures to Acts 8:26-39, the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

Can I admit something to you that I’m not very proud of? Even after reading the Scriptures I wondered why our teacher picked this spot. We had so little time in the Holy Land and we all wanted to see so much. I felt like there were much bigger events that had taken place in much more well-known places. Shouldn’t we focus on those?

Why this place? Why this story?

And then as quickly as we arrived, our teacher whisked us back on the bus with one final statement, “Individuals matter.

Those two words have lingered in my thoughts and have honestly made this underwhelming stop one of my favorites to look back on.

This morning I opened Acts 8 again and re-read it. Here are three things from this Scripture that I want to let have their way with my heart and mind this week:

1. Go near.

Verse 29, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’”

This Ethiopian Eunuch wasn’t like Philip. He wasn’t in his inner circle, comfort zone, or part of his immediate sphere of influence. And yet, the Spirit instructed Philip to go close.

God help us. We must break out of the boxes of our normality and dare to go close to those we don’t understand. We must not use words like, “those people” with pointed fingers and hard hearts and spiritually superior attitudes.

By going close, we see things we need to see. We hear things we need to hear. And our hearts become tender in the way we must be tender.

By going close, we might actually dare to let love guide our approach.

2. Gain understanding.

Verse 30, “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.”

He ran. This took effort, energy, and intentionality. Then, instead of wielding God’s Word like a weapon and haphazardly throwing Truth at this man, he first listened.

Then based on what he heard, he asked this eunuch if he understood what he was reading. Philip discerned a felt need the man had and sought to meet that need. Philip let the man’s agenda come before his own.

God help us. Instead of running alongside people seeking to understand them, we sometimes have tendencies to run them over with our agendas and perceptions and points of view. We must seek to be discerning, not demanding.

3. Garner the right to share.

Verse 31, “…So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

Philip earned the right to be heard and then was invited to share. Once he dared to go near and gain understanding then he garnered the right to share. Verse 35 goes on to reveal that Philip began where this man was and “told him the good news about Jesus.”

God help us. We must go to people. Listen to people. Start where they are, not where we want them to be. And from their point of need, lovingly share the good news.

And might I share one more thing I love that Philip did? I didn’t make it point #4 because for the life of me I couldn’t think of a “G” word to title it and I get all worked up with inconsistent word wielding. It’s an issue. Kind of like when a sock has that annoying seam across the toe and it just doesn’t sit well across your foot all day. You know what I mean? So, no point 4. But don’t miss this…

Philip continued to travel down the road with this man for a bit. Verses 36-39 reveal, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water… Then Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” And the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.

Looking back, I’m so thankful our teacher took the time to bring us to this place. Remember, there were no signs and there were no tourists.

This was an uncommon stop in the Holy Land.


Might we all dare to be a little more uncommon, more often.

Friday, March 28

Day 2 in the Holy Land – What I Never Noticed About Jesus

I ran my hand over the large rock and closed my eyes. What an incredible moment it was for me to stand where Jesus once stood. I opened my Bible and let the full reality of all He was facing, fall fresh on me.

Day 2 in the Holy Land - What I never noticed about Jesus

I wanted to read the Scriptures leading up to this moment where He sat on Mt. Arbel and prayed and watched the disciples just before walking on water.

But I cautioned myself to read the uncommon sentences. Too many times I highlight verses telling of Jesus’ miracles but skim right past those telling of deeply human realities.

In Mark 5 we see Jesus interacting with a woman desperate to be healed from her bleeding disorder. He frees her from her suffering and gives her peace. And we find Him healing the young daughter of a synagogue ruler.


But we also find in verse 40, “But they laughed at him.”

In Mark chapter 6 we find Jesus sending out the twelve disciples and as they preached, “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them,” (v.13.)


But we also find verse 3, “…And they took offense at him.”

We find Him having great compassion on the people who followed Him in the feeding of the five thousand. They all ate and were satisfied by five loaves and two fish.


But we also see that Jesus and His disciples were physically depleted, “because so many were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat,” (v.31).

Messy realities were in the midst of the miracles.

And isn’t it so like us to miss this about Jesus’ everyday life? We hyper focus on the lines of Scripture containing the miracles so much that we miss the detail of the mess.

Jesus had people laugh at Him and reject Him and misunderstand Him. We know this in theory, but as I sat on that rock that day I suddenly realized what an everyday reality this was for Him.

Now, here’s what happens to me in my life… I get so focused on the mess, I miss the miracles.

And that’s the very thing that happens to the disciples right after the feeding of the five thousand. They got in a boat and strong winds caused the water to get very rough. The disciples were straining at the oars as the realities of life beat against them.

Jesus was on the mountainside praying. From this spot on Mt. Arbel, Jesus could see the middle of the lake where the disciples were. Mark 6:47-48, “When the evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”

Day 2 in the Holy Land - What I never noticed about Jesus

Jesus saw them. He went down to them. And they missed the miracle in the midst of the mess.

The same miracle worker that multiplied the fish and the loaves was now walking on the water near them and they thought He was a ghost. They were terrified and then were amazed but they didn’t understand for the Scriptures say, “their hearts were hardened,” (v.52).

It seems to me Jesus has a pattern of doing the miraculous in the setting of messes.

Oh Lord, let me see this. Please don’t let the messes of life harden my heart and blind me to Your presence. Instead of being so terrified in the midst of the mess, might I keep the picture of You, watching me, always watching me. And might I find courage in the assurance that You will come to me with Your miraculous presence.

I need to spend a whole lot less time trying to fix the messes in my life… and a whole lot more time keeping my heart soft in the process. Then I won’t miss the miraculous work of Jesus in the midst of my mess.

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