Respect for both Jews and Palestinians

“At that time the Canaanites were in the land.” With that casual aside, the biblical account of Abraham and Sarah arriving in Canaan states that the territory already was populated. “To your offspring I will give this land,” God told Abraham (Gen. 12). Today near the northern border of modern Israel there’s a mud-brick Canaanite…

Jesus calls women to the center

Nancy Kauffmann of Goshen, Indiana has long been a pioneer as a woman in congregational and denominational leadership. So it’s not surprising that a painting by Chilean artist Daniel Cariola in a chapel next to the Sea of Galilee caught her attention. She and fellow pilgrims already had seen the first-century synagogue recently discovered nearby…

Let God do the sorting

From a boat on the Sea of Galilee, a fisherman demonstrates the ancient art of casting a circular net. Weights along the outer edge sink rapidly, pulling the web around any living thing below. Waters next to Jesus’ ministry base at Capernaum teemed with tilapia, carp, and sardines when his first disciples plied their trade….

In trouble for speaking the truth

Don’t expect to be popular if you advocate Sermon on the Mount values at a time when even prominent Christian leaders schmooze politicians who trumpet greed, nationalism, racism, and adultery. Alone in the Judean desert after his baptism, Jesus endured a test that showed he was not trying to improve his ratings (Luke 4). Jesus…

In you all nations will be blessed

Renewed controversy in recent months over the location of Israel’s capital (Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?) takes my imagination to biblical Bethel in the West Bank. At this “thin place” between heaven and earth, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, and received promises about the land (Genesis 28). For my own spiritual prospects, I take…

When rulers taunt and threaten

From the roof of my hotel on the west side of Old Jerusalem, I look down into “Hezekiah’s Pool,” an ancient reservoir that still echoes taunts an enemy made there almost three thousand years ago. At that time Assyria, after wiping out the Northern Kingdom of Israel and deporting its citizens (2 Kings 17), threatened…

Giving the knee to Jesus as Lord

  American football players protesting racism recently gave the knee instead of standing at attention during a performance of the United States national anthem, triggering a Twitter storm from the president of the country and a cloudburst of editorial commentary. The wave of  athletic protest began when a player named Colin Kaepernick, wanting to call…

Confronting a narcissistic ruler

The moral character of a ruler can reach such low ebb that prophets arise to name and condemn the scoundrel’s behavior, even if the ruler strikes back. In totalitarian states, immoral rulers imprison or murder adversaries. In democracies, they discredit and counter-accuse. John the Baptist saw and condemned the immorality of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of…

A bit of heaven in my pocket

  “That’s tanzanite!” said Bishop Amos Muhagachi of Tanzania when he saw one the stones on my windowsill. Indeed, the glistening green gem came from Tanzania, but I know it as chrysoprase. It completed my collection of twelve stones named by first-century prophet John on Patmos island (Revelation 22:19, 20). John ministered among early churches…

Danger and loss lie that way

We had not traveled the whole way to Crete to be intimidated by a few washed-out roads! Determined to cross the island to the south coast, Ellen and I rented a sturdy SUV and headed into the drenched central mountains. Our destination? A tiny harbor called Fair Havens where a merchant ship carrying the apostle…