Donna is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author whose works, including The Christmas Shoes, have gone on to become television movies. A long-time student of Bible prophecy, Donna is passionate about reaching the younger generations with the hope found in scripture. On today’s episode, we talk with Donna about how to inform the younger generation about Bible prophecy and discuss the message of her end times themed book, The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
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Todd: Hey everybody, welcome to the podcast. Today, we have an amazing guest, Donna van Leer. She’s a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with six novels turned into made-for-TV movies, including The Christmas Shoes. A long time student of Bible prophecy, she is passionate about speaking, teaching and revealing the hope of scripture and what it has to say about today’s headlines. Donna, welcome to the podcast.
Donna: Thank you, Todd. Thank you, Jeff. Great to be here with you.
Todd: We’re just so honored to have you on here. We had a chance to read your book and really love it. We’ll definitely unpack a few things about that, but first, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your story, how you came to Christ and how you became an author?
Donna: Well, I came to Christ as a young girl. I grew up in northeast Ohio, and I was very young at the time. My church where I grew up, we would hear that Jesus was coming back. That was a message that was taught either by the pastor or visiting pastor, even missionaries when they would come. They would just weave it into their message. Christ is returning. Jesus is coming. So it was something that I was used to hearing. But then as I became an adult, I realized that that message wasn’t being taught anymore. But I grew up in a church that taught it, in a church that still teaches it in Ohio. So, that’s my background. I just started writing in college really. I was always just writing something on the side, doing something freelance and even when I got married, just continuing to write something on the side. Then one day I thought, “Hey, maybe I should actually sit down and write a book.” So I started writing books is basically how it all came together.
Jeff: It’s amazing just how God leads different people down different paths to come to an intersection in their life where they go, “Wait a minute. This is converging for me. This is a place where I feel like my voice is being heard,” and that type of thing. And you find yourself doing what God’s pleasure is in your life. It’s just wonderful to see, Donna, just how God has led you down this path and brought you to where you are today. It’s amazing to me, as you said, not a lot of pastors are preaching about Bible prophecy. Oddly enough, we’re living in it right now, living in the last days, and yet it seems like a lot of people are missing it. But what has been, I’m interested to see just your response from your fans, your readers, because going from the genre that you were writing in to Bible prophecy had to feel like in some ways a dramatic switch for them. What’s been the feedback that you’ve gotten?
Donna: I think it was dramatic for some of them. The book that I had written is called The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and it’s about two-thirds novel and one-third biblical teaching. I did get some pushback at the very beginning. Readers were emailing me and one woman said, “What’s with all the Bible stuff?” And she said she stopped reading, which is unfortunate, because I wrote it for people who really didn’t grow up with it, who don’t know it. Because as I said, as I became an adult, I realized that that message wasn’t being taught anymore at church. And one Sunday, it was like an epiphany for me. And I thought, “If it has been decades for me since I have actually heard a message about the return of Christ, what about the millennials? What about generation Z? What do they know?”
So that’s why I wanted to write this book. I wanted to write it. Jesus spoke in parables so that people could understand. So I wanted to write this book part story form so that Generation Z or the millennials who aren’t going to pick up a book strictly about Bible prophecy. They’re just not going to do it. They’re going to find it boring. It’s going to be too taxing or whatever. So I wanted to write this in story form so that it would draw them in but the Bible’s in there, that scripture teaching is in there in the back. And I heard from one woman, she said, “Oh, this is too scriptured for me.” I didn’t even know scriptured was a word.
Todd: Yeah, that’s an inventive term there.
Donna: But I did hear recently from one woman. And she said, “My 16 year old has read through this book twice and she has said to me, ‘Mom, I had no idea this was in the Bible.'” I heard last week from a grandmother. She said, “I gave this book to my 14 year old grandson and he actually read it.” She said, “And then he came to me and he had questions and we sat down and had a conversation about it.” So, hey, I am so pleased with that because there’s a lot of people, particularly in our realm, in the Christian realm who would pick it up and say, “Oh, this is fiction. I’m not going to read it.” And they wouldn’t even get to the back of it where all the Bible teaching is, but everything I wrote, even in the story part, is from scripture. I wanted it to be scripture.
Jeff: I was going to say, I think it’s very strategic, Donna, that you’ve done that because I know a lot of millennials, like my daughter’s in laws, my kids who are married to them, they love historical fiction. And it’s crazy because they’re reading books on World War II right now. And they would never pick up a book on history on World War II, but this historical fiction where there’s a storyline, it takes them all these places. It draws them in. So I think doing something like this with apocalyptic fiction really does bring people in to the story. And as my wife said, it’s like breadcrumbs leading them to the truth, and they finally get there in the end. So I applaud you for putting together this book in this form.
Donna: Oh, thank you, Jeff.
Todd: Yeah. That’s fantastic that you’re trying to reach that demographic. And you’re right, it’s almost like the teaching of eschatology has skipped a generation and Jeff and I are noticing the same thing. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the main goals of this podcast is to reach millennials and generations beyond that because they’re not hearing it. And yeah, I commend you as well just for using story to connect with them, because everybody loves a good story. Even if a few of them end up turning it off because they say there’s too much, what was the verb you made up?
Jeff: Scriptured. Yes.
Todd: It’s too scriptural? Too scriptured.
Donna: It was too scriptured, yes.
Todd: Yeah. But those frontline stories that you shared about the 14 year old reading it and other young people, I bet that just really encouraged you a lot. So I commend you for taking the risk, and we know that’s obviously something that the Lord had to make really clear to you that, that was what you were to write on. What are some of the specific things where he nudged you in that direction and opened up the door and made it clear that you were to write this book?
Donna: Well, I don’t know if there was a definite clear day, but there were things that were leading up to it. I had already been studying it for a long time. Because again, I’d been sitting in a church service week after week, and I would find myself saying to myself, saying things like, “I think I’ve heard this same message at least 25 times in my life,” but I would have to check my spirit and say, “Okay, somebody here may have never heard the story of the prodigal son or of the Good Samaritan.” And at the particular church that we were going to, we heard the message of the Good Samaritan twice in 13 months, because we have several pastors. So it was things like that. It was like, “Oh my word, I keep hearing the same messages over and over, but there’s no word about the return of Christ. There’s no hope in the return of Christ. There’s no mention of sin.”
There literally is no mention of sin from a lot of pulpits and how sin separates us. People don’t want to hear about God’s wrath. They don’t want to hear about God’s judgment. They just want to hear about his love and his kindness and his goodness, his mercy and his grace, which is awesome. But he can’t be a loving God if there is no wrath, if there is no retaliation and judgment on sin. There has to be a judgment on sin. Otherwise rape, murder, trafficking, racism, it’s just going to go on and on and on forever. So those messages were missing. So one Sunday, I was just sitting there and it just felt like God deposited the idea into my heart. Write a book, have it be story form, but also have it be teaching. Teaching to draw people into the word. And so when I do get those emails of people who are reading The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and they’re saying, “I had no idea this was in the Bible,” I love that. It’s awesome for me.
Todd: That means you’re hitting the nerve. Yes. Hitting the bullseye there. And also just, I mean, the timing is everything in book publishing and obviously 2020 has been the most crazy mad year that we’ve had in recent history. How do you think that just God bringing this book to you at this time and having it published at this time, what are you seeing in terms of the book’s success and people’s lives, Christians that are giving you positive feedback from it? I mean, in terms of what’s going on in the world today, are you seeing a parallel between us leading up to The Time of Jacob’s Trouble?
Donna: Well, yes, but I don’t recommend releasing a book the very same week that your country shuts down with a pandemic. I don’t recommend that.
Jeff: Yeah, a lot of fun. Yeah, we understand the speaking engagements are like, “Well, we’re going to put that off for a year.” Oh, thanks.
Donna: Yeah. And Amazon literally stopped shipping books for a while, if you remember that.
Todd: Yeah, I remember that.
Donna: They stopped shipping books. So I don’t recommend that, but I always go back to, hey, God knew this from the beginning. He knew when the book was going to come out. He knew who was going to read it. And I do keep hearing from believers who are reading it and they are encouraging me, saying, “Hey, please keep doing this. Please keep writing.” As a matter of fact, I have an author Facebook page and then I have a personal Facebook page. And on my personal one, I put a lot more of the Revelation type stuff on there. I had a pastor from Pennsylvania, he contacted me last week. And he said, “Your posts has encouraged me to teach Revelation.” He said, “The only thing I’ve ever taught out of Revelation has been the letters to the seven churches.” And he said, “I think it’s time that I start.”
So he asked me if I would actually teach some of those messages, record them, because they can’t meet right now, to record them and share them with his congregation. So, that’s awesome. And I think that there are more and more spiritual leaders who are seeing and sensing the season that we’re in. And they’re saying we have got to start blowing those trumpets. It reminds me of Numbers 10. I don’t know the exact verses. I know it’s like six, seven, and eight, something like that, six through 10 maybe of Numbers 10 where they blow the trumpet and the camps to the east, they get ready first. And when they hear that trumpet, they’re like, “Okay, it’s time to get ready. We’re going to set out. We’ve got to get ready.” And in verse 10, I think it is, of Numbers 10, Numbers 10:10, it says that the sons of Aaron blew the trumpets. It was the spiritual leaders who blew the trumpets as that warning to get people ready.
And Jeff and Todd, I think that’s what you do. You’re blowing those trumpets. You’re saying, “Hey people, it is time to get ready.” And I think there are other pastors. My own pastor is teaching through Revelation right now. I think they’re starting to sense it more and more the, “Hey, we’ve got to blow these trumpets. We have got to get people ready,” because so much of the church, they’re not ready. They have no idea. They’re like Eutychus in the book of Acts. If you remember him, he fell asleep listening to Paul. Much of the church is sleeping and they have no idea what’s happening in the world. If you don’t believe that, just read through your Facebook or your social media posts. It’s like, are these people aware of what’s happening in the world? So, thank you, men, for blowing the trumpet and getting people ready.
Jeff: You bet. It’s definitely our calling. Absolutely. And we appreciate that. And one of the things that I love about your book is that it is so solid. There’s a lot of apocalyptic literature out there. And I tell people, “You go to Amazon, you’re going to get everything from A to Z. Every bird in the air is going to be flocking to this bush.” But you’ve got such solid biblical material in here and it just tells me that you have a great solid scriptural found … You’re very, scriptured, Donna.
Donna: Yeah, right. I’ve heard that.
Todd: We’re going to work that into our regular lingo now.
Jeff: That ought to be a book title, Scriptured.
Jeff: Calling people back to the word of God. But no, seriously, I mean, really it flows through the fiction element and then of course in the back of the book as well. But that’s one of the things that I think that, and we believe that, our opinions ultimately are just our opinions, but what does God really say? We want to know what God says. When someone blows that trumpet, we want to make sure it’s a trumpet that’s blown on key and it’s something that is calling people to the right things and not to sensationalism or not to panic or anxiety or worry, but to the comfort and confidence that is found in the word of God. And your book does that. It’s a powerful tool for people to take in their hands, and like you said, to be able to give to someone else who may be just dipping their toe in Christianity or the Bible or Bible prophecy. So we highly recommend this book, The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
A lot of women that I know personally have read it. And so they are just telling me, “Jeff, it’s entertaining and it draws you in. But at the same time in the back, you get the meat of the word.” So thank you for doing that.
Donna: Oh, that’s awesome. Thanks. I actually like to say because of Jesus’s words in Luke 21, when you begin to see all these things, look up. So I like to say that it does feel like the world is spiraling out of control, but we know that things are looking up and we have much to anticipate. I even did a short series podcast called that, Things Are Looking Up, where we actually discuss what our generation is seeing that previous generations couldn’t understand when they read those prophecies in the Bible. They thought, “What in the world? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Jeff: Exactly. Yeah.
Donna: But we’re the generation that is seeing so much stuff, and we just have to tell people about it. We have to say, “We’re it.” We are the generation that is seeing all of these things being fulfilled, and that’s why things are looking up.
Todd: I agree 100%, and I think that’s why the enemy has gotten so much of the church to fall asleep and so many people to shy away from Bible prophecy. And it’s interesting. One of the most common emails I get is, “Hey, there’s nobody around that I can talk to about Bible prophecy. Nobody seems to see what I’m seeing.” So, books like yours, and I pray that even though it launched during a pandemic, that’s one reason we’re thrilled to have you on the show. We pray that this will really get many of your books into the hands of people because this book is amazing. I mean, I read it, I was riveted the whole time. Of course, I was a big fan of Left Behind series back in the day. I love the narrative form of that, but in my opinion, you’re a little more real and raw than even that was.
This isn’t just some churchy Bible book. You really made it raw and real to where I feel someone who’s not even a believer would pick this up and be engaged by it and resonate with it as this feels real, and then hopefully engage with the message of Bible prophecy and the lateness of the hour. So thank you so much for writing this book. I can’t wait for us to tell everybody about it and try to get this into more hands of people.
Donna: Well, I appreciate that and I did want to make it real, but we all know that whatever I wrote in there is not going to be probably half of what the tribulation period is going to be like, because when the Bible says that men’s hearts will fail them from fear, that’s a really hard time to be alive, when you are so afraid that you literally have a heart attack and die. So I don’t think I’ve probably even scratched the surface of what that time is going to be like, but I did want people to get some sort of image of what it would be like, because when we see anarchy and violence in the streets right now, that’s with law enforcement still intact, that’s with some parameters still built in, but one day those aren’t going to be there anymore. And it’s just going to be anarchy and violence on an unprecedented scale. So I don’t think I probably did that time justice, but I do hope, again, to paint some sort of picture so that people can get some sort of idea of what it might possibly be like during that time.
Jeff: Well, and I think that too, Donna, it’s one of the reasons why this is prime time for Bible prophecy. I mean, this is a moment in history that God has positioned us, he’s planted us, he’s put us in these places for such a time as this. So I think that’s just one of the reasons why we have to continue to trumpet those alarms and to get the message out. And it’s crazy because all the hope that we find in Christ is Jesus being the arc of our salvation, he’s the answer, he’s the way, the truth and the life, but this message is like hidden in plain sight. I mean, all the comfort and hope we get from Bible prophecy is just sitting right there in front of us. And even the churches, they’re ignoring this precious jewel of hope that we have.
So that’s one of the reasons why we aren’t shy or we don’t apologize or back down about talking about it because everything in scripture has a timing, and I think right now is the time where we need to be heralding this message of not only warning, but also of hope. I mean, these days are coming. These days of trouble are coming upon the whole world, as it says in Revelation. So we’re just excited about the opportunity that we have in this hour. And just like Churchill said in World War II, “This may be our finest hour,” and this truly may be the opportunity, I think, for the church to rise up and have a voice. And however we go out when the rapture comes, whether it’s in a moment of revival or a moment of great contrast between good and evil, either way, we need to have our ears open, our hearts open, our mouths open to declare that message.
So, it’s just so cool for us to know that we have partners in ministry like you, and we’re all in our own deployments fighting the battle, but we’re all on the same team of wearing the same uniform for Christ.
Donna: And Jesus, he told us to watch and to be aware. So as believers, we have to watch and pay attention to what is going on. Just last week I was visiting my mom in Ohio and there was a news program on. During that news program, they talked about the safety of kids going back to school. They talked about peace of mind for parents, peace of mind for others at this time. Then they switched to commercials, and the very first commercial said, “Your safety is our top priority.” The second commercial also talked about safety. We take your safety very seriously. So in a moment, in a manner of 10 or 15 minutes, I kept hearing the words over and over, peace and safety.
Todd: Peace and safety.
Donna: Peace and safety. And again, it’s just one of those things Jesus says to watch. And there I was, it was like, “Oh my word, we keep hearing the same words over and over again. Peace and safety, peace and safety.” What does the Bible say about that? When we hear those words, peace and safety, and then sudden-
Todd: Sudden destruction.
Donna: Right, sudden destruction. But it’s just one of those things where it can slip by you because we hear those words so often now. They’re out there all the time in newscasts, on internet sites, in commercials. We hear it all the time.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s a part of the cultural narrative now and people are buying into it because obviously of fear and they don’t want to live like this forever, but if they have somebody, an authority telling them it’s going to be okay, we’re going to take care of you, then all of a sudden it’s like they can relax and they don’t really need to work on their eternal destiny or anything like that because the government’s going to take care of us or whoever it is out there. The Bible just seems to get lucky a lot on those kinds of things.
Donna: You’re right.
Jeff: It’s just like these divine coincidences. It’s like, how does the Bible do that? I mean, it’s just every single time it gets it right. So yeah, it’s amazing. God is in charge and he’s in control, and we have obviously comfort in that. But as Martin Luther said, “If Christ were coming back tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.” Meaning I think, we’ve just got to keep living our lives and keep being faithful to what God’s called us to do. And yeah, we make plans and we submit them to the Lord, but we have things coming up in our lives and working on things. And speaking of, are you working on some new projects right now?
Donna: I’m actually in the editing phase of the second book. It’s called The Day of Ezekiel’s Hope. We wanted this just to be a three book series. So again, it’ll be part novel and then part biblical teaching. And that will come out, I think, in March. And this October, I have a book, completely unrelated, but it’s called The Christmas Table. And that is a fiction book, but it also includes recipes, which sounds like such a strange thing to be talking about in a prophecy podcast, a book that has recipes in it.
Todd: That’s good though because it gives our listeners a full gamut of your body of work. So that’s great. And I think it adds more punch to the fact that you’re writing about Bible prophecy, because here you’ve got a woman who’s a great author, mom, whole nine yards, has had made for TV movies, and then you switch gears and do a series of books on Bible prophecy. To me that shows the importance of it. And I do think it’s funny how God is really handpicking people whose hearts are open and are watching these things to use any means necessary to get this message out. So I appreciate you, as Jeff said, just rising to the occasion for such a time as this. It definitely seems like we’re late in the hour, and that seems to be the sense by solid believers all over the world right now.
Donna: Right. And I’ve had people say before, “Oh, I don’t think I can study Bible prophecy.” Well, anybody can study Bible prophecy. You just have to read the Bible. My 19 year old, who’s going off to college her freshman year next Friday, she told me out of the blue, she said, “Mom, I’m reading Revelation right now and it’s really hard to understand because there’s so much symbolism in there.” And I explained to her that it’s like you can’t start at the end of a book when you’re reading a book because you don’t understand anything. You have to have a grasp of everything prior to that. You don’t pick up a novel and turn to the ending chapter because you think, “Well, who’s this guy? Where did he come from? How did he end up in Montana?” You know, that sort of thing. You have to know the beginning chapters. And God weaves that prophetic timeline all through scripture, so anybody can study it.
Anybody can read. If you don’t like to read, you can listen to it. Revelation is the only book that gives you that threefold blessing. One of them is because of listening to it.
Todd: That’s right.
Donna: So listen to it, read it out loud, but just begin the study because we’re in the season and there’s so much good stuff in there. There’s so much goodness. And it eases our fears and it comforts our hearts because we do see that things are looking up and we do see that we’re so close to the return of Jesus, but we have to blow those trumpets wherever you are on what social media platform you have and whatever corner of the world you live in, you have to blow those trumpets because the time is near.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. And you think about the fact that God had one book to write and he had one closing chapter to write, and he chose that chapter to be Revelation. God wanted to end with this crescendo of history and to be able to give us something that, like you said, every person can grasp. I mean, the Bible is for everyone. It’s not beyond people’s understanding. They just need to buy a Todd Hampson book, is what they need. Right, Todd?
Todd: [inaudible] a bundle of all of our books. Yeah.
Jeff: There you go, the trilogy. We’ll do the trilogy here with the Todd, Donna, Jeff thing there. Well, Donna, Todd, and I both know what it’s like to drop off your precious child at college, and just the kick in the gut that that feels like, the heartache that that feels. And we’ll certainly be praying for you as that occurs in your life and your family’s life and stuff. But tell us how can people find out more about your books and more about your ministry and more about your life?
Donna: I have a website, DonnaVanLeer.com. I am on social media, really just only Facebook, and I’ve been told I don’t do that very well. Apparently you have to hire people to do it well or whatever, but I mean, I can go weeks and I’m not on there. But I am on Facebook and it’s under my name. And I do have that limited podcast, wherever you listen to podcasts, and it is called Things Are Looking Up. And again, it’s about what our generation is seeing that previous generations couldn’t understand. And it’s exciting stuff. These are exciting days.
Jeff: Absolutely. They sure are. Donna, we thank God that he has put you in a place and given you the platform that he has given you to reach out. And obviously God has been orchestrating your life, bringing you to this point and leading you to write this book. And we praise God for it. It’s called The Time of Jacob’s Trouble by Donna Van Leer. You can get it anywhere books are sold. So Donna, we want to thank you so much for coming on the Prophecy Pros podcast. Thank you for your life, your ministry, what you’re doing. And we just pray God’s richest blessings on you as you move forward.
Donna: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Todd. So appreciate your time today.
Todd: You’re so welcome.
Jeff: Thank you.
Todd: We’ll have to do it again when some new books come out, if the Lord hasn’t returned yet.
Donna: That’s right. Awesome.
Jeff: Absolutely. Well, thank you guys for joining us on the Prophecy Pros podcast. We’re in season two right now. We’re very excited about the guests that are coming up, plus the other shows that Todd and I will be doing. So, you keep listening and keep following Jesus Christ. God bless.
Hey for more resources and show notes, how to contact us, how to ask questions, go to prophecyprospodcast.com. We’ll see you next episode, or maybe not. Maybe we’ll see you in the air.