Traditions, Truth, and Praying with Your Eyes Open

The Western Wall challenges us to ask why we do what we do.

Many find it hard to identify with the Jews who rock before Jerusalem’s Western Wall. I know I did at first. It seemed, well . . . odd. Then I thought about my traditions. Are they any less bizarre?

The Western Wall challenges us to ask why we do what we do.

(Photo: Men praying at the Western Wall. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Oddness just comes in different flavors. They’re called “traditions.” For example:

  • Jews pray with their heads covered; we take our hats off.
  • Their prayers are public and loud; ours are private and quiet.
  • They rock back and forth and pray from a book; we bow our heads, close our eyes, and utter unrehearsed words.

It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.

But blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling, or jumping—with no personal relationship with the true God, and it’s totally pointless.

Maybe we Christians should open our eyes during prayer for a change.

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I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK—But That’s Okay

Did you have to teach your kids to disobey? Um, not hardly. In fact, they taught you! There were times when my daughters’ disobedience was hilarious.

I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK—But That’s Okay

(Photo by Photodune)

Years ago when one of my girls was only three, she snuck in the kitchen, climbed on the cabinet, found some candy, went to her room, closed the door, and hid under her bed to eat the sweets. How did she figure out how to do this?

My other daughter was not even two years old yet when she asked for a drink from a bottle. When I gave her a cup instead, she hurled it across the room and screamed, “NNOOO!!!!!” Just precious.

Like you, I never taught my children to disobey. It is in their nature. It’s in my nature too, by the way. And it’s in yours.

But that’s okay. Here’s why.

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I enjoy movies about Jesus—especially when they’re done well. They help me picture the Lord as a real man and not a stained-glass Messiah.

Based on Mark Burnett’s and Roma Downey’s successful “The Bible: The Epic Miniseries,” the movie The Son of God opened this weekend.

The movie’s official Web site talks more about the film.

Question: Have you seen the film? What did you think? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Is Jesus the Messiah? My Open-Letter Answer

A few weeks ago I received an email from a Jewish man who had hard questions about what Christians believe. His questions were excellent. His inquiries about Christianity boiled down to three questions.

Is Jesus the Messiah? My Open-Letter Answer

(Photo: Jews touching the Torah at the Western Wall. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

I’ve listed his questions here without changing his wording:

What I can never fathom is how you can honor and accept the ‘teachings’ of one called Paul—an apostate and traitor to his people—to be the truth.

• Is this Paul who wrote 13/27 books of the Greek New Testament any more authoritative than the great Hebrew prophets such as Jeremiah or Amos?

• Are we to assume that G-d changed His Mind regarding His People and the Torah, and simply informed one solitary man about a new dispensation 100 years after the death of the man from Galilee?

• When Hashem [“The Name”] gave us the Torah, there were millions of witnesses to this earth-shaking event. It has become part of our collective spiritual DNA. How can a ‘new revelation’ be given with no witnesses to one individual who wrote in Greek things that are anathema and inimical to Jewish belief?

To me, these questions all boil down to one: Is Jesus the Messiah?

Here is my open-letter answer. Would you have answered differently?

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Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

Of all the questions leveled against Christianity, few others cause such heated controversy: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” For many people, Jesus’ words equate exclusivity with arrogance:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. —John 14:6

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

(Photo: Dome inside Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The exclusivity of those words is unmistakable. Millions question: “How can Jesus be the only way to God? That’s not fair. It leaves out too many people.”

But if you think about it, the real question isn’t, “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” but rather we should ask, “Is God holy”?

Here’s why that’s the real issue.

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My Yom Kippur Conversation about the Messiah

The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.

She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.

She smiled and shook her head no.

Western Wall Plaza

(Photo: Western Wall Plaza. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.

Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.

“Do you keep them?” I asked.

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The One Thing Jesus Did to Change Activity to Efficiency

I’ve noticed an unsettling habit in my life. Whenever I find myself with a free moment, I feel compelled to fill it with something productive. Because I hate to waste time, I fill it with activity and justify it as productivity.

The One Thing that Changes Your Activity to Efficiency

(Photo by Photodune)

But I’m learning that constant movement doesn’t represent efficiency.

It could, moreover, represent just the opposite.

As with every other part of the human experience, Jesus remains our model of efficiency. But His life—even before the cross—was no easy walk:

  • The demands on Him were constant.
  • The needs He faced were overwhelming.
  • The expectations He encountered were unrealistic.

No person was ever more qualified to do it all, and yet Jesus took life in the fast lane in stride.

What was His secret?

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God May Want to Give You More than Relief

Sometimes it seems no one understands what we’re going through. When people fail us, or forget us, or even forsake us, we’re left alone in the ashes of a reality we never expected or wanted.

In those intense moments of loneliness, confusion, and pain, we ask God for one thing more than anything else. Relief.

God May Want to Give You More than Relief

(Photo by Alexander Shustov via ooomf)

But when relief is denied, we begin the difficult journey of resisting the notion that God is a cruel sovereign who toys with our lives. After all, He could stop it all in moment.

After everything else but God gets stripped away from our lives, we begin realize that the Lord may want to give us something more—and much greater—than relief.

In those moments, God becomes more real to us than we ever would have known any other way.

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Some Things Never Change with God

Remember the day you left home? For some of us, that day was when we took off for college. For others, it was to take a job. We all had reasons, and we were gone.

Some Things Never Change with God (and Some Do)

(Photo by John Eckert via oomf)

When you left home, some things immediately changed. No longer did you have to be home at a certain time each night. If you wanted pizza ten times a week, you had it. Freedoms increased.

But there were also some things that didn’t change.

  • The speed limit was still 55 mph.
  • You still had to brush your teeth.
  • Right and wrong was still right and wrong.

It’s interesting that in all the changes we experienced, neither our parents nor we had changed. Only the situation changed.

In a similar way, God has managed the world differently at different times. Some things never change with God.

But some do.

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5 More Christian Sites in Jerusalem You Should Know About

For most Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, Jerusalem is the climax of their journey. After all, the redemption of the universe occurred there. History knows no more significant city.

5 More Christian Sites in Jerusalem You Should Know About

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher)

In my previous post, I shared 5 Christian sites in Jerusalem you should know about—including the Mount of Olives, the Pools of Bethesda, and the Pool of Siloam.

With very few exceptions, we can’t stand on a square foot of ground and claim, “Jesus walked here.” But we can point to areas where biblical history aligns with the geography of Jesus.

Let’s add 5 more Christian sites to the previous list. These are sites in Jerusalem associated with Jesus’ death and resurrection.

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