O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem

 It seems every few weeks, an activist makes the assertion that Jesus was a Palestinian. While I (and history) disagree, I understand the blatant political motivation behind their statements. What disturbs me more are the Christian leaders who espouse this falsehood that’s insidiously creeping into our churches today. 

 Recently, I heard a pastor lead into a message by asking everyone to imagine they’d traveled back in time to meet the shepherds living in Bethlehem, Palestine at the time of Christ’s birth. No one in the audience even blinked.

Shavuot: Celebrating the Bridegroom's Gifts to His Beloved

Shavuot: Celebrating the Bridegroom's Gifts to His Beloved

One of the topics I most enjoyed researching for my book, In the Shadow of the King, was the Lord’s Feast days. I don’t know how I could have sat through so many church services growing up without ever learning about these amazing divinely-appointed times. There is such richness in learning about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith in general and specifically, the Jewish traditions and writings on the Feasts. 

 This weekend, we’ll celebrate Shavuot or the “Feast of Weeks” which occurs after counting seven weeks (or “counting the Omer” for forty-nine days) following the celebration of the wave offering made during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:15-16). Shavuot commemorates the opening of the heavens and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It symbolizes the covenant relationship of the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the Jewish people. Traditionally, Jewish men forego sleep the first night of Shavuot, choosing instead to read the Torah until daybreak. The custom is a beautiful picture of a bride purifying herself through immersion in the Word to receive her Heavenly Groom in divine covenant.

Kick Discouragement Out of Your Life

Kick Discouragement Out of Your Life

Are you trying to follow God’s direction but keep experiencing setbacks, delays and disappointments? Do you have a Spirit-inspired vision for a project or invention but constantly hear criticism that it can’t be done? Are you planning an event that will glorify God and getting slammed by financial and logistical nightmares? 

 Of course, bad things can happen at any time. But let’s face spiritual realities: the devil is a jerk. He relishes in hindering people from realizing their God-given dreams. When circumstances around us deteriorate, he’s right there to hit us with discouragement. As believers, we need to recognize this as the demonic weapon it is and lift our shields of faith. 

Jesus Had Family Drama, Too

The question most frequently asked about the premise for my new novel, In the Shadow of the King, is this: Did Jesus really have brothers and sisters? My answer is yes, half-siblings—if we take a ‘no zebra’ approach to the Bible. Let me explain. 

When I started hospital rounds as a medical student, an attending physician offered this pearl of wisdom: Don’t look for zebras. If you’re at the Kentucky Derby and see an animal with a mane and a tail running on four legs, chances are it’s a horse. His point?

10 Promises of Grace Made through the Law

In Psalm 119 (New International Version), the psalmist wrote “Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law (v.29).” Grace through the law? This seems like a dichotomy to anyone who’s spent much time in religious circles. We tend toward extremes: either we shun the law as an antiquated obstacle blocking us from God’s love or we reject grace as a license to perpetuate sin. Yet the psalmist states the law is sweeter than honey (v. 103), the joy of his heart (v. 111), and more precious than silver and gold (v. 72). How could anyone sincerely say this about rules and regulations?

I believe a revelation of God’s goodness at work through the law allowed the psalmist to view commandments not as restrictions, but as promises of grace. Here are ten such promises recorded in Psalm 119 for those who love the Lord’s statutes: 

Who is I AM? Lion of the Tribe of Judah

Last week, we rightly adored Yeshua as the Passover Lamb. He came as the suffering Messiah. He led a perfect, unblemished life but went without protest like a lamb to slaughter, taking our curse upon Himself as He hanged on the tree. Sadly, before Passover even ended, we witnessed another synagogue murder. And judging from the lack of outcry against this hatred, I think many people believe Yeshua will return a second time as a docile sheep. But beware, the conquering Messiah is coming as a fierce and powerful predator, the king of all beasts—the lion. 

 Why a lion? The tribes of Israel were often referred to as lions in the Tanakh.

Who is I AM? (Part 2: Our Keeper)

What does it mean to be kept? In this world, being kept has more negative than positive implications. To some, being kept means sacrificing independence in exchange for financial security. Others are unwitting victims of true evil, suffering the abuses of modern-day slavery. Even if we haven’t experienced physical captivity or violence, most of us have suffered under the authority of someone less than loving. It’s no wonder we feel uncomfortable submitting ourselves to being ‘kept’ by anyone, including God.

For a long time, I inwardly cringed at scriptures referring to an omniscient God who knows our words before we even speak and who keeps track of our every waking moment. I saw God less as a benevolent protector and more like Santa Claus on steroids, keeping record of my every deed. When I thought of God singing a song over me, I was less likely to hear a lullaby and more likely to hear Sting crooning “every breath you take I’ll be watching you.” Yikes!

Who is I AM? (Part 1: The Faithful God)

I don’t know about you, but I like to control things—or at least have the illusion of being in control by analyzing, planning, making checklists, and to be honest, worrying. I know God says be anxious for nothing, so on faith-filled days I briskly cast my line of cares to Him, watching them sail away up to the heavens. Other days I gripe, “That’s easy for Him to say—He doesn’t need to be anxious for anything because He has all the answers!” And one by one I reel those cares right back in where I can keep a firm grip on them. Don’t get me wrong, I always have plenty of faith the Lord will fulfill His promises to friends or relatives. But I tend to get wobbly knees when standing on my own word from God when I’m the one who’s sick or jobless or under attack. Fortunately, there’s a fool-proof solution to anxiety, and God’s told me what it is.

Faith: More than a George Michael Song

I’m so excited to receive positive feedback about In the Shadow of the King—thank you readers! I think one reason the main character Hannah and her story resonate with people is because she is so utterly human in asking, “Is Yeshua who he says he is?” Looking back from the vantage point of 2,000 years of history and with the added Spirit-inspired commentaries of New Testament eyewitnesses, it’s easy to critique the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day. But are we any more faith-filled today? If we’re honest, who of us has not questioned our Creator? Most of us wouldn’t express blatant unbelief out loud. But terrible accidents, illnesses, mistreatment, and loss can lead us to question in our hearts, “Lord, are you really who you say you are?”