Learning Many Things in Bethlehem
June 28, 2018

From May 26 to June 5, 2018, my friend Elias and I went to Israel and Palestine (West Bank).

Church of the Nativity in the center of Bethlehem in Palestine.

Nave of the Church of the Nativity.

We stayed at a hotel in Beit Sahour, a town adjoining Bethlehem to attend a 5-day conference called Christ at the Checkpoint, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College.

One of the buildings of Bethlehem Bible College.

Mural in the College building.

The theme of the conference was “Jesus Christ at the Center,” which is a marvelous theme, not just for a Christian conference, but for the whole church, and for any person’s life, for that matter.

Through various speakers and personal stories we learned about the current situation in Israel/Palestine; issues of the land, identity, justice and eschatology; the separation barrier (wall) erected by Israel on the border with Palestine; the realities of living in Palestine under military occupation by Israel; the complexity of the situation; the fact that some Israelis wish all the Palestinians would go away and leave the land to Israel only, and that other Israelis sympathize with the Palestinians and are working for a just peace; and the response of Palestinian evangelicals, which is always nonviolent because they take Jesus’ words about loving and blessing our enemies.

Separation barrier viewed from Bethlehem in Palestine.

There are 37 evangelical churches in Israel, 33 of them being in Nazareth and the north.

There are 43,000 Christians in Palestine, belonging to a number of different denominations. They comprise 1 percent of the population. There are 13 evangelical churches in Palestine, most of them in the Bethlehem area. Bethlehem is the only city in Palestine with a Christian mayor.

My burden for the evangelical church in America is that we will remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, and not support the State of Israel to the neglect of the Palestinian church. For many of these believers, their families have been in Palestine since the Day of Pentecost.

Israel 2016 – Part 1
March 6, 2016

It is my privilege to spend nine days in Israel and the West Bank (Palestine) as a tourist, to attend a conference, and to be on pilgrimage to biblical sites.

My friend Phil was planning to come with me, but unforeseen circumstances forced him to cancel a few days before the trip, so I am here alone.

Arrived on Sunday, March 6. Staying in the Orient Palace Hotel, which opened last October. It is located in the West Bank in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, adjoining Bethlehem.

Historically, many Christians have lived in the three connected towns of Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. Beit Sahour includes two locations that are claimed by different Christian denominations to be The Shepherds Field where angels appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.

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Here is the view from the balcony of my room. Typical scene, with a few olive trees standing in any open spot that has not been developed.

Today I walked 25 minutes to the heart of Bethlehem.

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Common street scenes in Bethlehem. Blue seems to be the favorite color here.

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Peace Fountain (no water running today) in a small square. Installed in 1999.

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Wall and bell tower next to the entrance to the Church of the Nativity.

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The entrance is unassuming. One story says that the entrance was made this low in the Middle Ages so that the Crusaders could not ride their horses into the church. Who would have thought?!

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Inside the church you walk on a wooden floor that protects the beautiful and intricate mosaic floor that dates from the 4th Century.

The original church was commissioned in 327 by the Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. It was destroyed by  fire in the 6th Century and rebuilt in 565. It is under restoration now, so I have no good photos of the dark interior. You can go online and see the beauty of the interior. The exterior is a plain limestone wall.

I see many Common swifts here – a bit larger than the Chimney swift we have in America. Noisy creatures, they fly above and around city buildings in “screaming parties,” as the bird guide book says.

This evening KB came to visit me. He is a Palestinian Christian living in Beit Sahour. His farm was confiscated by the State of Israel because it was deemed to be a good location for a future Israeli settlement. As common in such cases, he was not given any payment for the confiscated farm. KB has worked with Hank Dannecker of 1 NewHeart, an organization that helps children get life-saving heart surgery by Jewish doctors in Tel Aviv through an organization called Save A Child’s Heart.

God Prepares the Way
December 18, 2007

On December 16, 2007, a power failure at Manor Church meant that we had to cancel our worship services. Here is the text of the message that was to be given that day. It was message number 3 in a series on “EPIC: God’s Grand Story.”
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