Book Recommendation: A Stray Drop of Blood by Roseanna M. White

straydropofblood

Back Cover blurb:

Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected.

For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the Visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant . . . until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upsidedown. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?

Israel’s unrest finds a home in her bosom, but their rebellion tears apart her world. Death descends with Barabbas’s sword, and Abigail is determined to be there when the criminal is punished. But when she ventures to the trial, Barabbas is not the one the crowd calls to crucify. Instead, it is the teacher her master and Jason had begun to follow, the man from Nazareth that some call the Son of God . . .

Born free, made a slave, married out of her bonds, Abigail never knows freedom until she feels the fire of a stray drop of blood from a Jewish carpenter. Disowned by Israel, despised by Rome, desired by all, she never knows love until she receives the smile of a stoic Roman noble.

Narelle: A Stray Drop of Blood  is Roseanna M. White’s captivating debut Biblical fiction novel. The story is set in Jerusalem and Rome around the time of Jesus’ ministry.

Eight year old Hebrew girl Abigail is orphaned and sold into slavery by her stepfather. She is purchased by a Roman prefect as a companion for his Hebrew wife. Abigail is educated and raised as if she was their own daughter and her immense beauty is both a blessing and curse. Six years later her master’s son, a Roman soldier, returns home after a six year absence and claims Abigail as his own before she can be given in marriage to her fellow slave and best friend. Abigail is forced to accept her new situation and feels abandoned by her God.

Tragedy befalls her Master’s household and Abigail’s encounter with Jesus on the day he is crucified both challenges her faith and transforms her life. Her faith is tested as she loses loved ones and cannot escape being treated as a Hebrew slave despite changes in her circumstances. A powerful love story unfolds and Abigail struggles with her seemingly futile desire to be with the man she loves.

A Stray Drop of Blood is an honest story that explores the best and worst of human nature. Realistic and compelling character’s struggle with temptation and the differences between the Hebrew and Roman society create strong emotional conflict. The story is action packed, with masterful plot twists and the spiritual element flows seamlessly through the story. I recommend A Stray Drop of Blood to those looking for a challenging and exciting Biblical fiction story.

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

A Life Worth Living

by Narelle Atkins

I recently attended a funeral for a beloved member of my extended family. The funeral home was packed full of people who were paying their respects and supporting my family. I remembered the old saying about how there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Some people try their best to avoid paying taxes. But, none of us can ignore or change the fact that one day our earthly bodies will die and we will leave this world.

Funerals are a celebration of the life of our loved ones and also a reminder that our time on this earth will end, date and time unknown. It was encouraging to listen to a number of people speak about the contribution my family member had made in the community. He had not wasted opportunities to help others and his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the many people touched by his life.

Four days after Lazarus had died, his sister, Martha, went out to greet Jesus. Martha believed that her brother would not have died if Jesus had been with them.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again at the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (Luke 11:23-27)

Jesus wept with Martha and her sister, Mary. He went to the tomb and performed a miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead.

Our loved ones may not be miraculously healed like Lazarus, but we have confidence in knowing that our physical death is not the end. The Bible tells us that faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour will bring us eternal life. Jesus has conquered death by paying the price for our sins through his death and resurrection. Death no longer has a hold on us and we can be comforted by the knowledge that we can be reunited with our loved ones in the life to come.

Miracles of Jesus: Feeding the people

by Deborah Horscroft

The miracles that Jesus performed have long been held by Christians as a proof of his identity as the Son of God, indeed Jesus condemns the teachers of the law for calling God’s miracle of casting out demons, performed through Jesus, an act of “evil”.

In his book “Miracles”, C.S. Lewis eloquently explains the “nature” of Jesus’ miracles. “…the Incarnate God does suddenly and locally something that God has and will do in general. Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of nature… Their authenticity is attested by the style.” (pp138-9)

C.S.Lewis goes on to state that in the case of the miraculous feedings as recorded in Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ miracle involves “the multiplication of a little bread and a little fish into much bread and much fish. Once in the desert Satan had tempted Him to make bread of stones: He refused the suggestion. “The Son does nothing except what He sees the Father do”… Every year God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase… It was He who at the beginning commanded all species “to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” And now, that day, at the feeding of the thousands, incarnate God does the same: does close and small under His human hands, a workman’s hands, what He has always been doing in the seas, the lakes and the little brooks.” (pp140-1)

Source: Like Father, Like Son. Miracles: A Preliminary Study by CS Lewis (Fount 1974)

Prayer: Following Jesus’ example in Mark 1

by Narelle Atkins

A question that was recently raised in my Bible Study group was how should we pray? Is there a right way to pray? Morning or evening? Group prayer or solitary prayer?

In Mark 1 we are given an insight into Jesus’ relationship with his heavenly Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

I’m not naturally a morning person who will wake when the sun rises. For a number of week in the dead of winter, I was getting up in the dark and driving in below zero temperatures to my local gym. It was a struggle to drag myself out of bed and get there in time for my class. My alarm would sound and I’d think about how I’d really like to ignore the alarm and go back to sleep in my warm and cosy bed.

Jesus prioritised spending time in prayer with His Father. He sacrificed the comfort of sleeping in to have uninterrupted and solitary prayer time. Are we prepared to make sacrifices to ensure we are spending time with the Lord in prayer? Do you have a regular time each day that you dedicate to prayer? How can we follow Jesus’ example in the way we prioritise prayer in our daily lives?

The Temptation of Jesus

by Narelle Atkins

The Gospel of Mark provides a brief account of the temptation of Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12-13)

The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert immediately after his baptism. When John baptised Jesus, the heavens opened, the Spirit came upon Jesus and God the father spoke from heaven to his beloved Son.

We learn more details about how Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke’s (4:1-13) gospels. Matthew and Luke record three specific incidents where Satan tempted Jesus to sin. On each occasion Jesus responded to Satan by quoting scripture.

While Jesus was in the desert he didn’t eat any food. Satan tempted him by suggesting that if Jesus was really the Son of God, he could turn a stone into bread and satisfy his physical hunger. Jesus responded by saying that man doesn’t live on bread alone.

Satan led Jesus to the Holy City and the highest point of the temple. He tempted Jesus by suggesting he throw himself down and allow the angels to save him. Jesus responded by saying the Lord God should not be tested.

Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. He tempted Jesus by offering him dominion over all the kingdoms if Jesus bowed down and worshiped him. Jesus responded by saying worship the Lord and serve only him.

Jesus’ mission was spiritual and Satan continued to tempt him throughout his ministry, reaching a climax when Jesus was on the cross. Paul Barnett in his book The Servant King: Reading Mark Today talked about the final battle, symbolised by day becoming night (Mark 15:33). Jesus is a new Adam, the Son of Man who is Lord over the wild animals and prevails over evil. Adam fell into temptation but Jesus resisted temptation and remained obedient to God. Satan was finally defeated through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

John the Baptist: Preparing the way

By Narelle Atkins

John the Baptist was the last of the great prophets and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1). He was the messenger who lived in the desert and prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry.

John’s parents were Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth, a relative of the Virgin Mary. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah (see Luke 1:11-20) and foretold John’s birth and mission. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and childless and Zechariah’s initial unbelief regarding the angel’s prophesy for his future son led to Zechariah becoming mute and unable to speak until the prophesy came to fruition (Luke 1:64).

John brought a message of repentance and baptism. He called the Israelites to repent from their sins and be baptised in the Jordan River. Baptism was a sign that they had turned back to God and received God’s forgiveness of sins.

John said he was preparing the way for one greater than him, who would baptise the Jews and Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. John baptised Jesus in the Jordan River and the heavens opened, bringing the Spirit down upon Jesus. God the father spoke to Jesus from heaven, saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:11)

Jesus’ ministry started when John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod. Herodias held a grudge against John after John had told Herod it was not lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife. Herodias had been married to Philip, Herod’s brother, but had left Philip for Herod. Herodias and her daughter used an oath promised by Herod at a banquet to kill John. At their request, Herod ordered an executioner to behead John and present his head on a platter at the banquet (Mark 6:17-29).

Christ was not Jesus’ Last Name

by Deborah Horscroft

An old joke asked, “What do John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common?” They have the same middle name. I don’t quite know what Christopher Robin meant by “Pooh”, but John was known as the one who baptised.

Jesus was known by many names: Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Son of Man, even son of Joseph and Mary. He is now most commonly known as Jesus Christ, and here the word “Christ” is Jesus’ title.

“Christ” originating from the Greek; “Messiah” from the Hebrew – the closest approximation in English is “The Anointed One”. People and things were ceremonially anointed with oil to signify that they had been separated for God’s purpose: that is, made “holy”. The word was also used metaphorically to mean God had shown favour or the person was chosen to fulfil God’s special purpose. For example, Cyrus the Persian was “anointed” to subdue the nations (Isaiah 45). In its article on “Messiah” The New Bible Dictionary points out that Cyrus was a kind of Messiah figure bringing the redemption of God’s people, judgement on God’s enemies and dominion over the nations. Although he did not acknowledge God, he was God’s instrument.

The Old Testament points to another Messiah who will reconcile God and his people. The prophecies say he will be a deliverer like Moses, a conqueror like David, a servant like no other, a new Israel who keeps the new covenant, a prophet, priest, king and willing sacrifice for sins.

Much of the New Testament is the story of people wrestling with what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, or Christ. Many of his day welcomed the conquering king into Jerusalem but rejected the suffering servant of God, anointed to be a holy sacrifice for sins. The Jews and Samaritans both longed for the Messiah to come, but only a few recognised Jesus the Christ.

A Brief Prophetic History of Israel

by Deborah Horscroft

Below is a brief historical outline from Abraham to Jesus to help put our People of the Old Testament Bible studies into context.

The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the fathers of the nation that came to be known as Israel. Jacob (renamed Israel) had 12 sons and his descendents became the 12 tribes of Israel. They settled in Egypt around 1876 BC.

Moses and the Law: Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt around 1446BC. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, the generation who had rebelled against God and worshipped the golden calf had all died (other than the faithful Joshua and Caleb). Moses gave the people God’s law but did not enter the Promised Land. Joshua led the people into Canaan.

The Judges: For 480 years God’s people were ruled by Judges. Samuel was the last.

The Golden Age of Israel: Kings Saul, David and Solomon reigned over the united kingdom of Israel from 1050-930BC. Psalms and Proverbs were written during this period.

The Divided Kingdom: The Kingdom split into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah), which maintained the dynastic line of David and contained the holy city of Jerusalem. Elijah, Jonah and Amos were prophets of this period.

The Fall of the Northern Kingdom 722BC: The Assyrians conquered Israel. Isaiah and Hosea were prophets during this period.

The Fall of Jerusalem 586BC: The people of Judah were taken into exile in Babylon. Jeremiah was the prophet of God’s judgement. Daniel and Ezekiel were written during the exile.

The Restoration 538BC: When Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered Babylon the Jewish exiles returned under Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Esther and Zechariah were also written during this period.

Between the Testaments 432BC-5BC: After the last group of exiles had returned under Nehemiah and the last prophet, Malachi, had spoken, there was a time of scriptural silence until…

The Birth of Jesus the Christ 5 BC: Now under the rule of the Great Roman Empire, Israel awaited the promised Messiah, born in Bethlehem in the line of Judah.

This very sketchy history, including all the dates, was gleaned from the very useful notes in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, especially the historical timeline.

The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with answers) by Mark Mittelberg, Foreword by Lee Strobel

Back cover blurb:

“Why are Christians against same-sex people getting married? . . . Why do you believe God exists at all? . . . Why would God allow evil and suffering? . . . Why trust the Bible when it’s full of mistakes? . . . How could a loving God send people to hell? . . . What makes you think Jesus was more than just a good teacher? . . . Why are Christians so judgmental?”

Some questions can stop a conversation. Today, more than ever, people are raising difficult, penetrating questions about faith, God, and the Bible. Based on an exclusive new Barna survey of 1,000 Christians, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask presents compelling, easy-to-grasp answers to ten of the most troubling questions facing Christians today. These include everything from the existence of heaven to the issues of abortion and homosexuality, as well as the question of whether evolution eliminates our need for a God.

Narelle: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (Tyndale, 2010) won the 2011 Retailers Choice Award. The book tackles a number of tough issues. Chapter One is titled “What makes you so sure that God exists at all – especially when you can’t see, hear or touch him?” and Chapter Two “Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and reason?”

The chapters are easy to read and provide food for thought. This book can help equip Christians  to answer theologically complex questions in a loving way by drawing people to Jesus and Biblical truths. Chapter Two provides a clear explanation of the different beliefs held by Christians regarding creation and evolution. I recommend this book to those seeking Bible based answers to many of the difficult issues facing Christians today.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

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Who is God talking to in Genesis 1?

by Deborah Horscroft

We have a good friend who become a Christian and she asks the BEST questions. She decided to start reading the Bible from the beginning and called me when she reached Genesis 1:26 (NIV).

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

She asked, “Who is God talking to?”

Now, my immediate response is to want to say, “The rest of the Trinity: Jesus and the Holy Spirit”. John 1:1-18 places Jesus at the moment of creation (In the Beginning) and describes all things being made through him. But that isn’t and can not be the whole answer, because the writer of Genesis had no concept of the Trinity. So a full answer must look at the author’s purpose as well as our understanding in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Traditionally, both Jews and Christians believe that Genesis through to Deuteronomy, otherwise known as the Law or the Pentateuch, was written by Moses. In John 5:37-40 & 45-46 (NIV) Jesus claims that Moses wrote about him.

“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Moses had a unique education, first as a student in the Egyptian palace and then hearing directly from Yahweh and receiving His laws. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 is written not as a mere narrative, but to both stir the hearts of God’s people in reverent awe and to speak strongly against the alternative creation accounts of the surrounding nations-including the very powerful nation of Egypt, from under whose slavery the first intended audience had recently escaped.

In his helpful commentary “Salvation Begins: Reading Genesis Today”, Andrew Reid points out that unlike contemporary ancient accounts, in Genesis there is no story of a deity coming into existence, God simply is. God makes matter rather than being made out of it. While the surrounding nations have the sun, moon and stars as powerful deities in their creation myths, in Genesis these are created entities which display God’s power. Humans are not created as an afterthought or a whim, but are the pinnacle of God’s creation, placed in a world designed for their comfort and rule. (Aquila Press 2000, p6) Moses describes the King and Creator announcing his crowning work of creation. God makes two humans in His own image. He makes them intelligent, relational beings and He makes them rulers over the earth.

In this original context my NIV Study Bible notes tell me God is speaking as “Creator- King” to the members of His heavenly court, and indeed there are other examples in scripture of God speaking to the angels and including them in His actions. In Genesis 3:22 God laments that man has become “like one of us, knowing good and evil”. The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of Heaven and God speaking to the angels, asking “who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) In the light of New Testament revelation, the doctrine of the Trinity adds a new dimension to this text, showing the involvement of the Son and Holy Spirit from the very beginning.

As for the implications of being made in God’s image for the sanctity of human life and believers being conformed to Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29), those are questions for another day.