links: this went thru my mind


Archaeology, history & Syria: Among the Wounded in Syria’s War: Ancient History

“The situation now is absolutely terrible there. … They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”

Church atmosphere & environment: * What’s the Habitat? [essential reading]; * The Church is a Zoo; * The Dark Side of Small [essential reading]

* “Here’s an important question to ask regularly: ‘Who does well here?’ Don’t just ask, ‘who attends here currently?’ Ask, ‘Who thrives here?’ Ask it in the present tense rather than, ‘Who has survived here over the years?’”

* “… if God is bringing people different than those you thought He would bring, rejoice that He’s drawing any of His children to your church at all.”

* “I have often praised smaller churches. … But I am not wholly idealistic and naïve. Wherever there are human beings trying to make it through life together, there are problems. It matters not whether the setting is large or small. Every community of people faces challenges which, if not handled with wisdom, grace, and love, will threaten its health and perhaps even its existence.”

Crimea, Ukraine & Russia: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine

“It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.”

Encouragement, leadership & ministry: Minister Search: You Have More to Offer Than You Might Think

“Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister.  They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money. … Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. … Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. … Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer.”

Happiness, money, possessions & stuff: Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make You Happy (and One Thing That Might)

“The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. Researchers even have a phrase for this temporary fulfillment: retail therapy.”

History & the United States: Watch the United States Grow Before Your Eyes

“On March 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution took effect, forming a nation of 13 colonies and a whole heck of a lot of unorganized territory. On August 21, 1959, Congress admitted Hawaii as the 50th state. … [see] this handy gif of all the steps it took to get us from point A to point B.”

The South: These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

“… there are lots of things to love about the South. It’s clean and quiet. There’s delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that’s exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.”

links: this went thru my mind



Archaeology & the Bible: 50 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically

“… at least 50 people mentioned in the Bible have been identified in the archaeological record. Their names appear in inscriptions written during the period described by the Bible and in most instances during or quite close to the lifetime of the person identified.”

Camels: The Mighty Mysterious Camel

“Some of the headlines are rather sensationalistic.”

Church: * The Impossibility of the Ideal Church; * Church is the Clay Community

* “I was reminded of this passage in Life Together in which Bonhoeffer reflects on the clash between our imagined ideal church experience and the actual communities we encounter …”

* “If we want a community that lacks cracks, we won’t find it. But the truth is, it is the cracks that make us beautiful because the cracks remind us that we are undergoing the pressure God has called us to endure. What some see as ugly and distasteful, I argue are the marks of authentic people in authentic community. So you can say the church isn’t meeting your needs or there isn’t anything there for you but make sure you aren’t taking the cheap way out in order to avoid cracks in your own clay because they are already there. Let’s just be honest about that too.”

Food stamps/SNAP benefits & hunger: Picturing Hunger in America [required reading]

“‘Hunger Through My Lens’ has a dual mission: to empower people who are living in poverty and to promote awareness about hunger issues. Sponsored by the non-profit group Hunger Free Colorado, the program gives digital cameras to food stamp recipients and asks them to chronicle what it’s like to be hungry in America. … the stories behind the photos tell about the complications and suffering that poverty brings.”

Johnny Cash: * The Theology of Johnny Cash: Part 1, I Walk the Line; * The Theology of Johnny Cash: Part 2, Sinner & Saint; * The Theology of Johnny Cash: Mark Love on the Outlaw, Sufferer and the Gospel; * The Theology of Johnny Cash: Part 3, The Man in Black [required reading; the series in progress is excellent!]

“A few months ago I read Robert Hilburn’s excellent new biography Johnny Cash: The Life. Highly recommended. Hilburn’s biography got me so into Johnny Cash that I’ve been listening to him almost constantly. So I thought I’d devote posts this week and next to the theology of Johnny Cash.”

Light bulbs: Guide To Changing Light Bulbs

“… the transition to energy-efficient lighting has changed that. Halogens, CFLs, LEDs, watts vs. lumens — the array of choices on the market today can make selecting the right a bulb an exercise in confusion. So here, we try to demystify the new light bulb landscape.”

Race & immigration: Race & Immigration

“By 2050, most Americans, in this country, will trace their lineage to Africa, Asia, or Latin America. … That is the elephant in the room.”

links to the land


Archaeology & the Bible: Has Archaeology Gone Overboard in Throwing Out the Bible? [required reading]

“When we learn to read (excavate!) the text geographically, historically, and archaeologically, the Bible has much to contribute to the archaeological process. Reciprocally, archaeology has a great deal to contribute to our understanding of biblical texts.”

Bronze Age: Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought [required reading]

“… what caused the Bronze Age collapse? Scholars have proposed a combination of factors including marauding Sea Peoples, plagues and earthquakes leading to a so-called ‘systems collapse,’ in which complex societal networks broke down under mounting interregional economic or demographic pressures. … A recent study of pollen grains in sediment cores beneath the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea provides a new view …”

Corinth: The Erastus Inscription at Corinth

“Paul calls attention to a person named Erastus who was a ‘city treasurer.’ He would be one of the few (‘not many’) Christians who were among the socially elite at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:26). … It is of interest that during the 1929 archaeological excavation of the area near the theater, a plaza was located that contained a stone inscription bearing the name of Erastus and indicating that he was a public official.”

Crusades: What Were the Crusades and How Did They Impact Jerusalem?

“What were the Crusades, really? In truth … Crusades history has acquired a bit of a romantic glow in our modern times, a glow that is far from the gritty, bloody reality.”

David & Tel Dan: The Tel Dan Inscription: The First Historical Evidence of King David from the Bible

“What made the Tel Dan inscription one of the most exciting Biblical archaeology discoveries for scholars and the broader public was its unprecedented reference to the ‘House of David.’ The stela’s fragmented inscription … proved that King David from the Bible was a genuine historical figure and not simply the fantastic literary creation of later Biblical writers and editors. Perhaps more important, the stela, set up by one of ancient Israel’s fiercest enemies more than a century after David’s death, still recognized David as the founder of the kingdom of Judah.”

Jehoash Tablet: * Jehoash Tablet Released, Golan Partially Vindicated; * Jehoash Tablet Must Be Returned to Owner

* “It remains to be seen what will happen to Golan’s claim to the James ossuary, but this is a partial victory for his claims.”

* “Like the James Ossuary, we will probably never know if this document is authentic.”

Kedesh in Galilee: Picture of the Week: Kedesh in Galilee

“Our first stop is the ancient city of ‘Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali’ (Joshua 20:7). This site is located just west of the Huleh Basin, in the region north of the Sea of Galilee.”

Shephelah: Are You Guarding Your Shephelah? [essential reading]

“Between the Philistine plain and the Hill Country where God’s people dwelt lay 10 miles of low rolling hills. This buffer zone was known as the ‘Shephelah.’ The hills of the Shephelah were a geographical buffer that represented a spiritual barrier. You have a Shephelah in your life as well. Here’s a lesson on how you can guard it.”

links to the land


Aizanoi: Aizanoi (Turkey) — A Monumental Site — Visited by Paul?

“One of the best-preserved temples of the ancient world is located there as are the impressive remains of a stadium, theater, bathhouse, meat market, etc.”

Archaeology & children: An Unlikely Dig

“The archaeological site at Tel Esur, on the coast south of Haifa, allows students to discover ancient artifacts – as well as their own capabilities.”

Ephraim/Taybeh: Tour Taybeh – Not just for Oktoberfest Anymore

“‘Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim …’ (John 11.54).”

Herodium: * Herod’s Tomb at Herodium; * A Look into Loggia at Herodium

* “Haaretz newspaper carried an article today by Nir Hasson, reporting on the seventh annual conference, ‘Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area.’ During that conference, two archaeologists, Joseph Patrich and Benny Arubas challenged Ehud Netzer’s identification of Herod’s Tomb that was found at Herodium near Bethlehem.”

* “At the Herod exhibit at the Israel museum there is a room that is a reconstruction of the loggia, the VIP box from the Herodium theater …”

Jerusalem: Walking Atop the Walls of Jerusalem

“I have seen the Old City of Jerusalem from every direction. … But the most unique way I’ve seen the city is from atop its walls. … A visitor can walk atop most of the Old City wall of Jerusalem … This quick tour travels atop the wall of Jerusalem from the Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate.”

Shechem: Joseph’s Tomb at Shechem

“Eventually, Joseph’s bones were buried at Shechem.”

Solomon’s Temple: Searching for the Temple of King Solomon

“For centuries, scholars have searched in vain for any remnant of Solomon’s Temple. The fabled Jerusalem sanctuary, described in such exacting detail in 1 Kings 6, was no doubt one the most stunning achievements of King Solomon in the Bible, yet nothing of the building itself has been found because excavation on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, site of the Temple of King Solomon, is impossible.

“Fortunately, several Iron Age temples discovered throughout the Levant bear a striking resemblance to the Temple of King Solomon in the Bible. Through these remains, we gain extraordinary insight into the architectural grandeur of the building that stood atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount nearly 3,000 years ago.”

Temple Mount: Underground Battle for the Temple Mount

“… the story of the underground excavations and the struggle that took place inside Warren’s Gate in 1981. Warren’s Gate is the northern-most of the four original Herodian gateways that gave access to the Temple Mount through the Western Wall.”

Caesarea Maritima: the amphitheatre/hippodrome (2)



To visit Caesarea Maritima today, one might think that most of what can be seen now has always been obvious, especially given its location beside the sea. However, such is not the case. Even, a quick perusal of the writings of visitors a hundred years ago reveal no awareness whatsoever of much of what is visible today.

In fact, from the third century A.D. onward – over a millennium and a half ago – the area occupied by the amphitheatre/hippodrome was either neglected and left to erosion by the elements, deliberately filled in with sand and debris, or built upon by other construction. Only in recent decades has archaeological excavation, on both land and under the sea, revealed what was largely hidden from view.

A small stretch of some of the eastern section of the amphitheatre/hippodromee has been deliberately left unexcavated so as to illustrate the challenge and effort required of archaeologists. In this section of dirt, pictured above, the various, striped layers of deposits and rubble through the centuries can be clearly seen.

And so, if you can see Caesarea Maritima, thank an archaeologist, and thank God for them!

links to the land


Bethshean: A Day in Bet She’an

“The ancient city of Bet She’an (Beit Shean, Beth Shean, Beth Shan, Bethshean, etc.) … is beautifully strategic, located at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys and commanding a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside.”

Jesus & the Tower of David (aka: The Citadel): Tower of David Citadel—Jerusalem’s History Made Easy

“Because Pontius Pilate stayed at the Jerusalem palace, or Praetorium, he likely held the trial there in which he condemned Jesus. The popular identification of the Antonia Fortress as Pilate’s Praetorium finds its basis in tradition, not history. Josephus indicates that the Roman governor not only resided in Herod’s palace, but set up his judgment seat before it (Wars, 2.14). Philo flat-out says Pilate stayed in the palace (Leg. in Caium, 38, 39). …  history points to the David Citadel as Jerusalem’s Praetorium …”

Jerusalem: 5 More Christian Sites in Jerusalem You Should Know About

“The Upper Room … Garden of Gethsemane … The Via Dolorosa and the Citadel … The Church of the Holy Sepulcher … Garden Tomb.”

Lebanon: Lebanon Archaeology

“Unlike its neighbor to the south, Lebanon has only a handful of excavations currently in progress and there is no systematic archaeological survey of the entire country presently available. Sadly, archaeological work is only being carried out at a total of five (or so) sites: Sidon, Tell Arqa, Tell el-Burak, Baalbek, and Kamid el-Loz. Naturally, one would think that the paucity of archaeological work (and tourism, for that matter) is due to present security conditions. But that is only part of the story.”

Masada: A Sunrise Few Have Seen

“… at Masada for the sunrise.”

Oil lamps: Wise or Foolish

“The juglets that the virgins would probably be using were not very large. They probably only contained enough oil for one refill of the lamp.”

Shikhin: * Ancient Jewish Village Found in the Galilee; * Samford Archaeological Dig in Israel Uncovers Jewish Village; * Excavations at Shikhin, Israel

* “The remains include an ancient synagogue, houses and massive evidence of pottery production in the ancient Jewish village of Shikhin, near the ancient Jewish city of Sepphoris (Zippori). The site is important because it teaches about Galilean Jewish village life and its economy at the birth of both Christianity and the Judaism of the Talmud … The site is about five miles northwest of Nazareth.”

* “The site of the discovery has been abandoned, except for agriculture, ever since the mid-fourth century A.D. … The Excavations at Shikhin are part of a cultural heritage project to preserve the site of Shikhin, located at the northern edge of Zippori National Park.”

* “Samford University is the primary sponsoring institution. Professor James Riley Strange of Samford University, USA, serves as Director.”