Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Scriptural Assistance/ Psalm 104


The Christian Research Institute


To anyone out there who would like to further their understanding of scripture, there is a great website that has a daily radio program you can listen to on your computer. The director of the Christian Research Institute is a very well respected broadcaster/evangelist throughout the world who answers all questions with reference to scripture. The link is www.equip.org and there are tremedous resources including books, DVD's, and anything else you may want to help you grow in your relationship with the Lord and answer those difficult questions. Hank has been the president of the institute for over 15 years and has a wide array of knowledge in scripture, other religions, and current events. I would highly recommend it if you want to grow and enhance your walk with Jesus.

PSALM 104


1 Praise the Lord, O my soul. 2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. 4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. 9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. 11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. 13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. 14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth: 15 wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. 18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.

19 The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. 20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. 21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. 22 The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. 23 Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. 24 How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-- living things both large and small. 26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. 27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works-- 32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. 35 But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What Did God Have In Mind When He Made Us Sexual Beings???

Throughout our lives many interesting thoughts develop on the topic of "sex". Some feel it's casual choice, others an expression of freedom, and as I have come to find out, there's a minority that still believes it belongs within the confines of marriage.

Statistics show that 63% of youth ages 14 to 21 are sexually active. Another study showed that 88% of 18-24 year olds had sex before marriage. So what does the creator of man have to say about these statistics?

Genesis 2: 18-25 says the following, "18 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

For most people, the sexual activities they experience come with great pain (abuse, cheating, rape, mistrust, lying, broken relationships). God is a God of grace, healing, and hope, and he never inteded this wonderful gift to turn out this way. If there is no God, then there are no rules, and any rule man comes up with goes to the grave and is lost forever. But for those who believe that this world isn't just random chance formed by particles (that had no cause to begin with) at rates that no man could ever fathom, then God must have His own thoughts on what he designed. So how does one experience God blessed sex? How do we gain God's blessing within the confines of a relationship? And Where does it begin?

Genesis 1:27 " 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man in our (trinity) 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."

God says that sexual expression is legitimate within the confines of marriage. To answer the question above, sex begins with the creator, Jesus Christ. The world we live in has made it into a man made design, that it begins with us and our personal thoughts. Think about it, who told you premarital sex is okay? Your friend, your co-worker? And by what authority do they have? The world also says that God is dead and irrelevant.

However, the fact is that he is alive and relevant and it matters. If God is involved in this world, then what is blessed is what God says is blessed and we need to ask how we can live in his design. Is there anywhere in the Bible that says we can change the words of God and that what he said applies only to a certain time span or era? The answer to that is N. O. ... NO!

In fact, it's just the opposite... Galatians 1:8-9 "8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! "

Now those are seemingly harsh words to us, and many may think that this is a preachy guilt trip when it couldn't be any farther from that. This is a wake up call!!! Who do you know that created the universe and rose from the dead in front of hundreds of witnesses, spreading to thousands of people, and recorded more accurately than any ancient writing in the history of mankind with countless sources of evidence to prove it???

Friday, September 01, 2006

Psalm 49


Psalm 49



1 Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, 2 both low and high, rich and poor alike: 3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding. 4 I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: 5 Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me--
6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? 7 No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him-- 8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough-- 9 that he should live on forever and not see decay. 10 For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. 12 But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. 13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah 14 Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah 16 Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; 17 for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. 18 Though while he lived he counted himself blessed-- and men praise you when you prosper-- 19 he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. 20 A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Key Salvation Verses

1 Corinthians 15:1-5 1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

John 20: 31 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Romans 3:10 & 23 10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;" ..."for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

Romans 5: 8, 12 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned

Romans 6:23 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9, 13 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

More Evidence

The Evidence For Jesus
Dr. William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Jan and their two teenage children Charity and John. At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until 1994.
Five reasons are presented for thinking that critics who accept the historical credibility of the gospel accounts of Jesus do not bear a special burden of proof relative to more skeptical critics. Then the historicity of a few specific aspects of Jesus' life are addressed, including his radical self-concept as the divine Son of God, his role as a miracle-worker, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead.
"Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Evidence for Jesus." Faith and Mission 15 (1998): 16-26.
Last time we saw that the New Testament documents are the most important historical sources for Jesus of Nazareth. The so-called apocryphal gospels are forgeries which came much later and are for the most part elaborations of the four New Testament gospels.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t sources outside the Bible which refer to Jesus. There are. He’s referred to in pagan, Jewish, and Christian writings outside the New Testament. The Jewish historian Josephus is especially interesting. In the pages of his works you can read about New Testament people like the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod, John the Baptist, even Jesus himself and his brother James. There have also been interesting archaeological discoveries as well bearing on the gospels. For example, in 1961 the first archaeological evidence concerning Pilate was unearthed in the town of Caesarea; it was an inscription of a dedication bearing Pilate’s name and title. Even more recently, in 1990 the actual tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over Jesus’s trial, was discovered south of Jerusalem. Indeed, the tomb beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is in all probability the tomb in which Jesus himself was laid by Joseph of Arimathea following the crucifixion. According to Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University,
Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate and continued to have followers after his death.{1}
Still, if we want any details about Jesus’s life and teachings, we must turn to the New Testament. Extra-biblical sources confirm what we read in the gospels, but they don’t really tell us anything new. The question then must be: how historically reliable are the New Testament documents?
Burden of Proof
Here we confront the very crucial question of the burden of proof. Should we assume that the gospels are reliable unless they are proven to be unreliable? Or should we assume the gospels are unreliable unless they are proven to be reliable? Are they innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent? Sceptical scholars almost always assume that the gospels are guilty until proven innocent, that is, they assume that the gospels are unreliable unless and until they are proven to be correct concerning some particular fact. I’m not exaggerating here: this really is the procedure of sceptical critics.
But I want to list five reasons why I think we ought to assume that the gospels are reliable until proven wrong:
1. There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the historical facts. The interval of time between the events themselves and recording of them in the gospels is too short to have allowed the memory of what had or had not actually happened to be erased.
2. The gospels are not analogous to folk tales or contemporary "urban legends." Tales like those of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill or contemporary urban legends like the "vanishing hitchhiker" rarely concern actual historical individuals and are thus not analogous to the gospel narratives.
3. The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was highly developed and reliable. In an oral culture like that of first century Palestine the ability to memorize and retain large tracts of oral tradition was a highly prized and highly developed skill. From the earliest age children in the home, elementary school, and the synagogue were taught to memorize faithfully sacred tradition. The disciples would have exercised similar care with the teachings of Jesus.
4. There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eyewitnesses and the apostles’ supervision. Since those who had seen and heard Jesus continued to live and the tradition about Jesus remained under the supervision of the apostles, these factors would act as a natural check on tendencies to elaborate the facts in a direction contrary to that preserved by those who had known Jesus.
5. The Gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability.
I don’t have enough time to talk about all of these. So let me say something about the first and the last points.
1. There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the historical facts. No modern scholar thinks of the gospels as bald-faced lies, the result of a massive conspiracy. The only place you find such conspiracy theories of history is in sensationalist, popular literature or former propaganda from behind the Iron Curtain. When you read the pages of the New Testament, there’s no doubt that these people sincerely believed in the truth of what they proclaimed. Rather ever since the time of D. F. Strauss, sceptical scholars have explained away the gospels as legends. Like the child’s game of telephone, as the stories about Jesus were passed on over the decades, they got muddled and exaggerated and mythologized until the original facts were all but lost. The Jewish peasant sage was transformed into the divine Son of God.
One of the major problems with the legend hypothesis, however, which is almost never addressed by sceptical critics, is that the time between Jesus’s death and the writing of the gospels is just too short for this to happen. This point has been well-explained by A. N. Sherwin-White in his book Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament.{2} Professor Sherwin-White is not a theologian; he is a professional historian of times prior to and contemporaneous with Jesus. According to Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman and Greek history are usually biased and removed one or two generations or even centuries from the events they record. Yet, he says, historians reconstruct with confidence the course of Roman and Greek history. For example, the two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written by Arrian and Plutarch more than 400 years after Alexander’s death, and yet classical historians still consider them to be trustworthy. The fabulous legends about Alexander the Great did not develop until during the centuries after these two writers. According to Sherwin-White, the writings of Herodotus enable us to determine the rate at which legend accumulates, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospels, he states that for the gospels to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be "unbelievable." More generations would be needed.
In fact, adding a time gap of two generations to Jesus’s death lands you in the second century, just when the apocryphal gospels begin to appear. These do contain all sorts of fabulous stories about Jesus, trying to fill in the years between his boyhood and his starting his ministry, for example. These are the obvious legends sought by the critics, not the biblical gospels.
This point becomes even more devastating for skepticism when we recall that the gospels themselves use sources that go back even closer to the events of Jesus’s life. For example, the story of Jesus’s suffering and death, commonly called the Passion Story, was probably not originally written by Mark. Rather Mark used a source for this narrative. Since Mark is the earliest gospel, his source must be even earlier. In fact, Rudolf Pesch, a German expert on Mark, says the Passion source must go back to at least AD 37, just seven years after Jesus’s death.{3}
Or again, Paul in his letters hands on information concerning Jesus about his teaching, his Last Supper, his betrayal, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection appearances. Paul’s letters were written even before the gospels, and some of his information, for example, what he passes on in his first letter to the Corinthian church about the resurrection appearances, has been dated to within five years after Jesus’s death. It just becomes irresponsible to speak of legends in such cases.
5. The Gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability. Again I only have time to look at one example: Luke. Luke was the author of a two-part work: the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. These are really one work and are separated in our Bibles only because the church grouped the gospels together in the New Testament. Luke is the gospel writer who writes most self-consciously as an historian. In the preface to this work he writes:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.
This preface is written in classical Greek terminology such as was used by Greek historians; after this Luke switches to a more common Greek. But he has put his reader on alert that he can write, should he wish to, like the learned historian. He speaks of his lengthy investigation of the story he’s about to tell and assures us that it is based on eyewitness information and is accordingly the truth.
Now who was this author we call Luke? He was clearly not an eyewitness to Jesus’s life. But we discover an important fact about him from the book of Acts. Beginning in the sixteenth chapter of Acts, when Paul reaches Troas in modern-day Turkey, the author suddenly starts using the first-person plural: "we set sail from Troas to Samothrace," "we remained in Philippi some days," "as we were going to the place of prayer," etc. The most obvious explanation is that the author had joined Paul on his evangelistic tour of the Mediterranean cities. In chapter 21 he accompanies Paul back to Palestine and finally to Jerusalem. What this means is that the author of Luke-Acts was in fact in first hand contact with the eyewitnesses of Jesus’s life and ministry in Jerusalem. Sceptical critics have done back-flips to try to avoid this conclusion. They say that the use of the first-person plural in Acts should not be taken literally; it’s just a literary device which is common in ancient sea voyage stories. Never mind that many of the passages in Acts are not about Paul’s sea voyage, but take place on land! The more important point is that this theory, when you check it out, turns out to be sheer fantasy.{4} There just was no literary device of sea voyages in the first person plural--the whole thing has been shown to be a scholarly fiction! There is no avoiding the conclusion that Luke-Acts was written by a traveling companion of Paul who had the opportunity to interview eyewitnesses to Jesus’s life while in Jerusalem. Who were some of these eyewitnesses? Perhaps we can get some clue by subtracting from the Gospel of Luke everything found in the other gospels and seeing what is peculiar to Luke. What you discover is that many of Luke’s peculiar narratives are connected to women who followed Jesus: people like Joanna and Susanna, and significantly, Mary, Jesus’s mother.
Was the author reliable in getting the facts straight? The book of Acts enables us to answer that question decisively. The book of Acts overlaps significantly with secular history of the ancient world, and the historical accuracy of Acts is indisputable. This has recently been demonstrated anew by Colin Hemer, a classical scholar who turned to New Testament studies, in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. {5}Hemer goes through the book of Acts with a fine-toothed comb, pulling out a wealth of historical knowledge, ranging from what would have been common knowledge down to details which only a local person would know. Again and again Luke’s accuracy is demonstrated: from the sailings of the Alexandrian corn fleet to the coastal terrain of the Mediterranean islands to the peculiar titles of local officials, Luke gets it right. According to Professor Sherwin-White, "For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd."{6} The judgement of Sir William Ramsay, the world-famous archaeologist, still stands: "Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."{7} Given Luke’s care and demonstrated reliability as well as his contact with eyewitnesses within the first generation after the events, this author is trustworthy.
On the basis of the five reasons I listed, we are justified in accepting the historical reliability of what the gospels say about Jesus unless they are proven to be wrong. At the very least, we cannot assume they are wrong until proven right. The person who denies the gospels’ reliability must bear the burden of proof.
Specific Aspects of Jesus’s Life
Now by the very nature of the case, it will be impossible to say a whole lot more beyond this to prove that certain stories in the gospels are historically true. How could you prove, for example, the story of Jesus’s visiting Mary and Martha? You just have here a story told by a reliable author in a position to know and no reason to doubt the historicity of the story. There’s not much more to say.
Nevertheless, for many of the key events in the gospels, a great deal more can be said. What I’d like to do now is take a few of the important aspects of Jesus in the gospels and say a word about their historical credibility.
1. Jesus’s Radical Self-Concept as the Divine Son of God. Radical critics deny that the historical Jesus thought of himself as the divine Son of God. They say that after Jesus’s death, the early church claimed that he had said these things, even though he hadn’t.
The big problem with this hypothesis is that it is inexplicable how monotheistic Jews could have attributed divinity to a man they had known, if he never claimed any such things himself. Monotheism is the heart of the Jewish religion, and it would have been blasphemous to say that a human being was God. Yet this is precisely what the earliest Christians did proclaim and believe about Jesus. Such a claim must have been rooted in Jesus’s own teaching.
And in fact, the majority of scholars do believe that among the historically authentic words of Jesus--these are the words in the gospels which the Jesus Seminar would print in red--among the historically authentic words of Jesus are claims that reveal his divine self-understanding. One could give a whole lecture on this point alone; but let me focus on Jesus’s self-concept of being the unique, divine Son of God.
Jesus’s radical self-understanding is revealed, for example, in his parable of the wicked tenants of the vineyard. Even sceptical scholars admit the authenticity of this parable, since it is also found in the Gospel of Thomas, one of their favorite sources. In this parable, the owner of the vineyard sent servants to the tenants of the vineyard to collect its fruit. The vineyard symbolizes Israel, the owner is God, the tenants are the Jewish religious leaders, and the servants are prophets send by God. The tenants beat and reject the owner’s servants. Finally, the owner says, "I will send my only, beloved son. They will listen to my son." But instead, the tenants kill the son because he is the heir to the vineyard. Now what does this parable tell us about Jesus’s self-understanding? He thought of himself as God’s special son, distinct from all the prophets, God’s final messenger, and even the heir to Israel. This is no mere Jewish peasant!
Jesus’s self-concept as God’s son comes to explicit expression in Matthew 11.27: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." Again there is good reason to regard this as an authentic saying of the historical Jesus. It is drawn from an old source which was shared by Matthew and Luke, which scholars call the Q document. Moreover, it is unlikely the Church invented this saying because it says that the Son is unknowable-- "no one knows the Son except the Father"--, but for the post-Easter church we can know the Son. So this saying is not the product of later Church theology. What does this saying tell us about Jesus’s self-concept? He thought of himself as the exclusive and absolute Son of God and the only revelation of God to mankind! Make no mistake: if Jesus wasn’t who he said he was, he was crazier than David Koresh and Jim Jones put together!
Finally, I want to consider one more saying: Jesus’s saying on the date of his second coming in Mark 13.32: "But of that day or that hour no man knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." This is an authentic saying of the historical Jesus because the later Church, which regarded Jesus as divine, would never have invented a saying ascribing limited knowledge or ignorance to Jesus. But here Jesus says he doesn’t know the time of his return. So what do we learn from this saying? It not only reveals Jesus’s consciousness of being the one Son of God, but it presents us with an ascending scale from men to the angels to the Son to the Father, a scale on which Jesus transcends any human being or angelic being. This is really incredible stuff! Yet it is what the historical Jesus believed. And this is only one facet of Jesus’s self-understanding. C. S. Lewis was right when he said,
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.{8}
2. Jesus’s Miracles.Even the most sceptical critics cannot deny that the historical Jesus carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcism. Rudolf Bultmann, one of the most sceptical scholars this century has seen, wrote back in 1926:
Most of the miracle stories contained in the gospels are legendary or at least are dressed up with legends. But there can be no doubt that Jesus did such deeds, which were, in his and his contemporaries’ understanding, miracles, that is, deeds that were the result of supernatural, divine causality. Doubtless he healed the sick and cast out demons.{9}
Back in Bultmann’s day the miracle stories were thought to be influenced by stories of mythological heroes and, hence, at least in part legendary. But today it is recognized that the hypothesis of mythological influence was historically incorrect. Craig Evans, a well-known Jesus scholar, says that "the older notion" that the miracle stories were the product of mythological divine man ideas "has been largely abandoned."{10} He says, "It is no longer seriously contested" "that miracles played a role in Jesus’s ministry." The only reason left for denying that Jesus performed literal miracles is the presupposition of anti-supernaturalism, which is simply unjustified.
3. Jesus’s Trial and Crucifixion. According to the gospels Jesus was condemned by the Jewish high court on the charge of blasphemy and then delivered to the Romans for execution for the treasonous act of setting himself up as King of the Jews. Not only are these facts confirmed by independent biblical sources like Paul and the Acts of the Apostles, but they are also confirmed by extra-biblical sources. From Josephus and Tacitus, we learn that Jesus was crucified by Roman authority under the sentence of Pontius Pilate. From Josephus and Mara bar Serapion we learn that the Jewish leaders made a formal accusation against Jesus and participated in events leading up to his crucifixion. And from the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, we learn that Jewish involvement in the trial was explained as a proper undertaking against a heretic. According to Johnson, "The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its coagents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned and executed by crucifixion."{11} The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the Jesus Seminar as "one indisputable fact." {12}
But that raises the very puzzling question: Why was Jesus crucified? As we have seen, the evidence indicates that his crucifixion was instigated by his blasphemous claims, which to the Romans would come across as treasonous. That’s why he was crucified, in the words of the plaque that was nailed to the cross above his head, as "The King of the Jews." But if Jesus was just a peasant, cynic philosopher, just a liberal social gadfly, as the Jesus Seminar claims, then his crucifixion becomes inexplicable. As Professor Leander Keck of Yale University has said, "The idea that this Jewish cynic (and his dozen hippies) with his demeanor and aphorisms was a serious threat to society sounds more like a conceit of alienated academics than sound historical judgement."{13} New Testament scholar John Meier is equally direct. He says that a bland Jesus who just went about spinning out parables and telling people to look at the lilies of the field-- "such a Jesus," he says, "would threaten no one, just as the university professors who create him threaten no one."{14} The Jesus Seminar has created Jesus who is incompatible with the one indisputable fact of his crucifixion.
4. The resurrection of Jesus. It seems to me that there are four established facts which constitute inductive evidence for the resurrection of Jesus:
Fact #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in the tomb. This fact is highly significant because it means that the location of Jesus’s tomb was known to Jew and Christian alike. In that case it becomes inexplicable how belief in his resurrection could arise and flourish in the face of a tomb containing his corpse. According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the honorable burial of Jesus is one of "the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus."{15}
Fact #2: On the Sunday morning following the crucifixion, the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers. According to Jakob Kremer, an Austrian specialist on the resurrection, "By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb."{16} As D. H. van Daalen points out, "It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions."{17}
Fact #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead. This is a fact that is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars today. Even Gert Lüdemann, perhaps the most prominent current critic of the resurrection, admits, "It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’s death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ."{18}
Finally, fact #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every reason not to. Despite having every predisposition to the contrary, it is an undeniable fact of history that the original disciples believed in, proclaimed, and were willing to go to their deaths for the fact of Jesus’s resurrection. C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge University concludes that we have here a belief which nothing in terms of prior historical influences can account for--apart from the resurrection itself.{19}
Any responsible historian, then, who seeks to give an account of the matter, must deal with these four independently established facts: the honorable burial of Jesus, the discovery of his empty tomb, his appearances alive after his death, and the very origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection and, hence, of Christianity itself. I want to emphasize that these four facts represent, not the conclusions of conservative scholars, nor have I quoted conservative scholars, but represent rather the majority view of New Testament scholarship today. The question is: how do you best explain these facts?
Now this puts the sceptical critic in a somewhat desperate situation. For example, some time ago I had a debate with a professor at the University of California, Irvine, on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. He had written his doctoral dissertation on the subject and was thoroughly familiar with the evidence. He could not deny the facts of Jesus’s honorable burial, his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection. Therefore, his only recourse was to come up with some alternative explanation of these facts. And so he argued that Jesus had an unknown identical twin brother who was separated from him at birth, came back to Jerusalem just at the time of the crucifixion, stole Jesus’s body out of the grave, and presented himself to the disciples, who mistakenly inferred that Jesus was risen from the dead! Now I won’t go into how I went about refuting his theory, but I think that this theory is instructive because it shows to what desperate lengths skepticism must go in order to deny the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the evidence is so powerful that one of today’s leading Jewish theologians Pinchas Lapide has declared himself convinced on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead!{20}
Conclusion
In summary, the gospels are not only trustworthy documents in general, but as we look at some of the most important aspects of Jesus in the gospels, like his radical personal claims, his miracles, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection, their historical veracity shines through. God has acted in history, and we can know it.
Endnotes
{1}Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 123.
{2}A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 188-91.
{3}Rudolf Pesch, Das Markusevangelium, 2 vols., Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 2 (Freiburg: Herder, 1976-77), 2: 519-20.
{4}See discussion in Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, ed. Conrad H. Gempf, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 49 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1989), chap. 8.
{5}Ibid., chaps. 4-5.
{6}Sherwin-White, Roman Society, p. 189.
{7}William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915), p. 222.
{8}C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 56.
{9}Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus (Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek, 1926), p. 159.
{10}Craig Evans, "Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology," Theological Studies 54 (1993): 18, 34.
{11}Johnson, Real Jesus, p. 125.
{12}Robert Funk, Jesus Seminar videotape.
{13}Leander Keck, "The Second Coming of the Liberal Jesus?" Christian Century (August, 1994), p. 786.
{14}John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 1: The Roots of the Problem and the Person, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p. 177.
{15}John A. T. Robinson, The Human Face of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973), p. 131.
{16}Jakob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.
{17}D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p. 41.
{18}Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 80.
{19}C. F. D. Moule and Don Cupitt, "The Resurrection: a Disagreement," Theology 75 (1972): 507-19.
{20}Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. Wilhelm C. Linss (London: SPCK, 1983).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Temple Mount

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
FROM WND'S JERUSALEM BUREAUAl Aqsa official: Jewish temples existedSays proof passed down over the centuries by mosque custodians
Posted: June 14, 20061:00 a.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

Temple Mount in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – Contradicting most of his colleagues, a former senior leader of the Waqf, the Islamic custodians of the Temple Mount, told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview he has come to believe the first and second Jewish Temples existed and stood at the current location of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

The leader, who was dismissed from his Waqf position after he quietly made his beliefs known, said Al Aqsa custodians passed down stories for centuries from generation to generation indicating the mosque was built at the site of the former Jewish temples.
He said the Muslim world's widespread denial of the existence of the Jewish temples is political in nature and is not rooted in facts.

"Prophet Solomon built his famous Temple at the same place that later the Al Aqsa Mosque was built. It cannot be a coincidence that these different holy sites were built at the same place. The Jewish Temple Mount existed," said the former senior Waqf leader, speaking to WorldNetDaily from an apartment in an obscure alley in Jerusalem's Old City.

The former leader, who is well known to Al Aqsa scholars and Waqf officials, spoke on condition his name be withheld, claiming an on-the-record interview would endanger his life.
While the Islamic leader's statements may seem elementary to many in the West, especially in light of overwhelming archaeological evidence documenting the history of the Jewish temples and description of services there in the Torah, his words break with mainstream thinking in much of the Muslim world, which believes the Jewish temples never existed.

"I am mentioning historical facts," said the former leader. "I know that the traditional denial about the temple existing at the same place as Al Aqsa is more a political denial. Unfortunately our religious and political leaders chose the option of denial to fight the Jewish position and demands regarding Al Aqsa and taking back the Temple Mount compound. In my opinion we should admit the truth and abandon our traditional position."
The leader said his conclusion that the Jewish temples existed does not forfeit what he calls "Islamic rights" to the Temple Mount and Al Aqsa Mosque.

"Yes, the temple existed. But now it is the place of the mosque of the religious who came to complete the divine religion [that started with Judaism] and to improve humanity," said the leader.

"We believe that Islam is the third and last religion. It came to complete the monotheistic message. The mosque is here at the place of the temple to serve for the same purpose, for the work of Allah."

Al Aqsa Mosque built by angels?
The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God's "presence" dwelt.

The temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.
The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed in about 709 to serve as a shrine near another nearby shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark what Muslims came to believe may have been the place at which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven during a dream to receive revelations from Allah.
Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition states Mohammed took a journey in a single night from "a sacred mosque" – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to "the farthest mosque" and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.

Muslims worldwide deny the Jewish temples ever existed in spite of what many call overwhelming archaeological evidence, including the discovery of Temple-era artifacts linked to worship, tunnels that snake under the Temple Mount and over 100 ritual immersion pools believed to have been used by Jewish priests to cleanse themselves before services. The cleansing process is detailed in the Torah.

According to the website of the Palestinian Authority's Office for Religious Affairs, the Temple Mount is Muslim property. The site claims the Western Wall, which it refers to as the Al-Boraq Wall, previously was a docking station for horses. It states Muhammed tied his horse, named Boraq, to the wall before ascending to heaven.

In a previous interview with WorldNetDaily, Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, claimed the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels and that a Jewish Temple may have existed but not in Jerusalem. The Movement, which works closely with the Waqf, is the Muslim group in Israel most identified with the Temple Mount.
"When the First Temple was built by Solomon – God bless him – Al Aqsa was already built. We don't believe that a prophet like Solomon would have built the Temple at a place where a mosque existed," said Hatib.

"And all the historical and archaeological facts deny any relation between the temples and the location of Al Aqsa. We must know that Jerusalem was occupied and that people left many things, coins and other things everywhere. This does not mean in any way that there is a link between the people who left these things and the place where these things were left," Hatib said.
'True' Islamic tradition affirms temples
But the former senior Wafq leader told WND "true" Islamic tradition relates the Jewish temples once stood at the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque. He said Al Aqsa custodians passed down history over the centuries indicating the mosque was built at the site of the former Jewish temples.
"[The existence of the Jewish Temple at the site is obvious] according to studies, researches and archaeological signs that we were also exposed to. But especially according to the history that passed from one generation to another – we believe Al Aqsa was built o
n the same place were the Temple of the Jews – the first monotheistic religion – existed."
He cited samples of some stories he said were related orally by Islamic leaders:
"We learned that the Christians, especially those who believed that Jesus was crucified by the Jews, used to throw their garbage at the Temple Mount site. They used to throw the pieces of cotton and other material Christian women used in cleaning the blood of their monthly cycle. Doing so they believed that they were humiliating, insulting and harming the Jews at their holiest site. This way they are hurting them like Jews hurt Christians when crucifying Jesus.
"It is known also that most of the first guards of Al Aqsa when it was built were Jews. The Muslims knew at that time that they could not find any more loyal and faithful than the Jews to guard the mosque and its compound. They knew that the Jews have a special relation with this place."

Temple Mount: No-prayer zone
Currently, even though the Jewish state controls Jerusalem, the Waqf serve as the custodians of the Temple Mount under a deal made with the Israeli government that restricts non-Muslim prayer at the site.
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the area.
Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered "sensitive" by the Waqf.
During "open" days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any "holy objects" to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.

The former senior Waqf leader said the Jewish temples have lost their purpose:
"As we are the religion who are here to correct everything that was before us there is no need for the Temple. Allah chose Islam as its final and favorite religion."

Friday, August 11, 2006

! READ THIS !

EVERYONE!!! If anyone out there still reads this blog, and is confused on their feelings about Jesus, God, and the afterlife in general, I strongly encourage you to read this at some point. Print it out, take it home, read it on the toilet. Whatever it takes, this is a true testimony that I think would be beneficial for anyone to hear. Seriously, I think it would be very foolish of anyone to pass this up!

My name is Walid. I was born in Bethlehem, Israel. On the day that I was born it was one of the holiest days to Islam, the birthday of the Muslim prophet Mohammad (Al-Mauled Al-Nabawi). This was an honor to my father. For that, he named me Walid which relates to the Arabic word (Mauled) and in English (The Birth) to always remember the birthday of the Muslim prophet.
My father was a Palestinian Muslim who taught English and Islamic studies in the Holy Land. My mother was an American who married my father during his studies in the United States in the year of 1956.
Fearing the impact of the American way of life for their two children and while my mother was pregnant with me, my parents left to live in Israel in 1960 which was called Jordan at that time. When they arrived to Bethlehem I was born. As my father changed jobs, we moved to Saudi Arabia, then back to the Holy Land -- this time, to the lowest place on earth, Jericho.
I can not forget the first song I learned in school just before the Six Day War titled "Arabs Our Beloved and Jews Our Dogs." I used to wonder at that time who the Jews were but with the rest of the kids, I repeated the words without any knowledge of their meaning.
As I grew up in the Holy Land, I lived through several battles between the Arabs and the Jews. The first battle (while we lived in Jericho) was the Six Day War when the Jews captured old Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine. This was a great disappointment to Arabs and Muslims worldwide.
The American Council in Jerusalem came just before the war to evacuate all the Americans in the area. Since my mother was an American, they offered us assistance but my father refused and turned them down because he loved his country. I still remember many things during the war -- the noise of the bombing and shelling that went on day and night for six days, the looting of stores and houses by the Arabs in Jericho and people running to cross the Jordan River from fear of the Israelis.
The war was called the Six Day War because it was won in six days and on the seventh day a Rabbi by the name of Goren blew the ram's horn on the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem declaring the victory. Many Jews claim that this was a parallel to Joshua when he went around the walls of Jericho six times, then on the seventh day seven times, and on that day the priests blew the trumpets and everyone shouted with one voice and took the city. To my father in Jericho, it seemed that the walls had crumbled on him. During the war he was always listening to the Jordanian radio station. He used to say that the Arabs were winning the war, but he was listening to the wrong station. The Israeli station was announcing the truth of their soon coming victory. Instead my father chose to believe the Arabs who claimed that the Israelis were promoting propaganda.
Later on, we moved back to Bethlehem and my father enrolled us in an Anglican-Lutheran school as they had a better English course. My brother, sister and I were the only Muslims in the school. Being half Americans, teachers would beat us and students would laugh at us. When the Bible class started, I would leave the class and remained outside waiting. One day, I walked in the Bible class and the class 'bully' stood up to fight. He shouted, "We don't want this half American and Muslim to be here!" I refused to get out and the lady who was teaching the class asked me to sit down. Since then, I changed the school's policy and for the first time, the school allowed a Muslim to study the Bible. For the next three years, I studied it despite all the mocking.
Later, my father transferred me to the Government school where I grew in the faith of Islam. I was fed the idea that one day, a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy by the Muslim prophet Mohammed would come to pass. This prophecy foretold a battle in which the Holy Land would be recaptured and the elimination of the Jews would take place in a massive slaughter.
This prophecy in fact is documented in Mohammed's Book of Traditions which states the following:
"The day of judgment shall not come to pass until a tribe of Muslims defeat a tribe of Jews." (Narrated by Abu Hurairah, Sahih Muslim, Hadith #6985; Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, #177)
When Mohammed was asked of the place this would take place, he said:
"In Jerusalem and the surrounding nations."
During my youth, like my father, I was always tuned to Islam and what our Muslim teachers taught. Believing in Muhammad's prophecy, I offered my life to 'Jihad' or 'Holy War' as the only means to obtain either victory or martyrdom. In Islam martyrdom is the only way you can ensure salvation and enter into heaven -- especially since Allah and his prophet Mohammed promised it. As the Quran states it:
"Do not think of whom are killed for the cause of Allah (in a Holy War), to be dead but living with their Lord receiving his blessing". -- Sura: The Family of 'Imran ('Al-'Imran, verse 169)
During school riots against what we called the Israeli occupation, I would prepare speeches, slogans, and write anti-Israeli graffiti in an effort to provoke students to throw rocks at the armed Israeli soldiers. We shouted, "No peace or negotiations with the enemy! Our blood and our souls we sacrifice to Arafat! Our blood and our souls we sacrifice to Palestine!" and "Death to the Zionists!"
I vowed to fight my Jewish enemy believing that I was doing God's will on earth. I remained true to my word as I participated in many riots against the Israeli army, always trying to inflict harm to them by all means and methods I could devise. I would start and participate in any riot I could initiate: in schools, streets, and even on the holiest place (the Temple mount site) in Jerusalem called by Arabs (Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa). All through high school I would always be one of the first to provoke a riot.
Many others got involved in terror tactics against the Jews using bombs and armed assaults on Jews in an attempt to force them to leave Israel. But they never could pluck them out.
Nothing could change my heart, I could only die or a miracle needed to happen. The simplest way to describe myself is that I was one of those one would view on CNN throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails in the days of the Intifada or 'The Uprising'. I was one of these who Jews would call a terrorist. The interesting thing is that I was not only terrorizing but I was terrorized by my beliefs which required me to gain enough merit and good deeds to go to heaven. But I never was sure if my good deeds would outweigh my bad deeds in the scale when I would be judged by God. Of course to die fighting the Jews would ease Allah's anger towards my sin and I would then be secured a good spot in heaven with beautiful wide-eyed women to fulfill my most intimate desires. Either way, I won and terror was the only way.
I remember one time in Bethlehem all viewers clapped their hands with joy in a jam packed theater watching the movie, "21 Days in Munich". The moment we saw the Palestinians throwing grenades into the helicopter killing the Israeli athletes, hundreds of viewers yelled, "Allahu akbar!" (Allah is the greatest). This is the slogan of joy used by Muslims for victorious events.
I remember students used to ask the teacher during our Islamic studies in Bethlehem High School if it was permitted for Muslims to rape the Jewish women after we defeated them. His response was, "The women captured in battle have no choice in this matter, they are concubines and they need to obey their masters, having sex with slave captives is not a ‘matter of choice for slaves’". This in fact was written in the Koran, for it says:
"Forbidden to you also are married women, except those who are in your hand as slaves, this is the law of Allah for you." -- Sura: The Women (al-Nisa, verse 24)
And in a different verse the Koran says:
"O prophet; we allowed thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowries, and the slaves whom thy right hand possesseth out of the booty which Allah hath granted thee, and the daughters of thy uncle, and of thy maternal aunt, who fled with thee to Medina, and any believing woman who hath given herself up to the prophet, if the prophet desired to wed her, a privilege to thee above the rest of the faithful". -- Sura: Confederates (al-Ahzab, verse 50)
We had no problem with Mohammed taking advantage of this privilege as he married 14 wives for himself and several slave girls from the booty he collected as a result of his victorious battles. We really never knew how many wives he had and that question was always a debatable issue to us. One of these wives was taken from his own adopted son Zaid, as Allah declared that she was given to the prophet while others were Jewish captives forced into slavery after Mohammed beheaded their husbands and families.
In an attempt to change the hearts of Palestinians, the Israeli TV station would show Holocaust documentaries. I would sit and watch cheering the Germans while I chewed on food. It was impossible for me to change my mind or heart concerning Jews, only a "heart transplant" would do that job.
They once took our school for a week to a Jewish camp on the coast of Eshdod to mingle us with other Jewish schools. That didn't work. On the contrary, every teacher who spoke to a Jew was mocked.
My mother on the other hand tried to teach me a different idea at home that she called God's plan. She spoke to me about Bible prophecy; she said that the return of the Jews was pre-planned by God and had been fulfilled. This, to her, was Gods miracle in our generation for the world to see that "His will shall be done."
She also told me about many future events to be fulfilled in our generation which is surfacing every day now. She told me of false Messiahs and counterfeits; but all that had little effect for my heart was set on fighting against the Jews.
My mother was influenced by an American Missionary couple who she asked secretly to baptize her. When she refused to be baptized in a pond full of green algae, the missionary priest had to plead to the YMCA in Jerusalem to clear the pool of men, and my mother was then baptized. No one from our family knew.
Many times my mother would take me on trips to several museums in Israel and I fell in love with archeology. I was fascinated with it. In my many arguments with her, I would bluntly tell her that the Jews and Christians had corrupted the Bible. She responded by taking me to the Scroll Museum in Jerusalem and showed me the scroll of Isaiah, still intact. There was no one taking pictures of any Biblical errors to prove of any corruption and I could not respond to my mother.
I remember when I still tormented my mother by calling her an "infidel" and a damned American Imperialist who claimed that Jesus was the Son of God. I'd show her the pictures in the newspaper of all the teenagers supposedly martyred as a result of violence demanding that she answer. I hated her and always asked my father to divorce her and remarry a good Muslim woman.
I would even pose with a grim and sad face for the school picture as if I knew that my turn to be in the paper as a martyr would be next. Many times I risked being killed during youth protests and clashes with the Israeli Army.
I lived in Israel during the Six Day War, the PLO resistance, the Jordanian Black September civil war, the bloody wars in Lebanon, and the war of Yom Kippur. With no hope to destroy Israel and all these losses, we still hoped for that one victory since that is all it would take to destroy them.
My parents worried a lot about me as I got thrown in prison by the Israeli Army. My mother went to the American Council in Jerusalem to try to get me out. She was so stressed her hair started to fall out. In jail, I learned more about the art of terrorism and when I got out, I was more fanatical than before.
When I graduated from high school, my parents sent me to the United States to seek a higher education. Of course I got involved with many anti-Israeli social and political events. I still remember my favorite sick joke I used to like to tell my friends, that I hated Hitler very much because he never got the job done, that is: he never finished the Jewish problem "once and for all".
With Hitler being my idol, and Mohammed my prophet, I went on with my life with little regard for Jews, Christians, or anyone who was not a Muslim. I believed that one day the whole world would submit to Islam and that the whole world owed the Palestinians for their losses in all the battles with Israel. I also believed that Jews were prophet-killers and that they had corrupted the Scriptures to serve their evil desires. This is what Muslims teach. They also teach that Mohammed is our only redeemer and God's favored prophet.
As I lived in America, I could not forget the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who died just in the last 20 years in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and in every single Muslim nation. I had to get revenge for them and someone had to pay the price. Of course there was no question in my mind that the Jews had to pay the penalty, somehow we always managed to twist things together and make it their fault.
One day I fought with a man and struck his eye blind, I was so happy to learn that the man was a Jew.
I was fascinated with Islamic history and I learned that the Islamic prophet Mohammed extradited a Jewish tribe from Saudi Arabia and ordered the beheading of all the men from another tribe. The women were taken as concubines. I used to believe, as Islam taught, that only a Caliph (Islamic ruler) could rule the world. Islam is not a religion for one's personal and moral life, but a system of law and government to the whole world. If not achieved through peaceful means, it would have to wage war against all who did not submit to Islam. With one billion Muslims living today, I believed that it could happen.
I'll be honest, all my life, I was terrified every time I read the Koran, as, after every other verse, there was always threats of hell fire for this sin and that. All I wanted was to reach out to my Maker to say I am sorry, forgive me, give me another chance. But I failed to keep count of all my sins and my good deeds and I was sure that at the end, my sins would outweigh my good deeds. So, I lived my sinful life depending on the love and mercy of my Maker. I always wondered about my destiny. Lost in my fears and doubts, I really hated the idea of killing for my salvation and, in reality; I never had the heart to kill a rat! How then could I kill a Jew!
Sometime in 1992, I was fascinated when I read a book titled "Armageddon, Appointment with Destiny", by Grant Jeffrey. Some of the things explained in this book had many detailed prophecies about Jesus: his birth, life, death and resurrection and the re-creation of the state of Israel. Many of these prophecies came to pass just as God put them down in the Bible! What also amazed me was to find out that the chances for a man to predict hundreds of historic events written hundreds and thousands of years before their occurrences are one in zillions. What is more fascinating is that the margin of error had to be zero, especially when the fulfillment of many of these prophecies was happening in my generation. This kind of evidence had to come from a divine origin that origin had to be God Almighty.
The struggle began. I was puzzled. How could the Bible be a fake and corrupted by the Jews if the land I grew up in, spoke and cried out as thousands of pieces of archeological evidence surfaced from the land of Israel confirming the Bible? The book of Isaiah, discovered in the Qumran caves, was found by a Muslim from the town next to Bethlehem by the name of Muhammad Deib while looking for a lost sheep. From that discovery, they found the rest of the Old Testament which matched the Old Testament Bible in our hands today. It contained hundreds of verses predicting the coming of Jesus Christ.
I had to read the Bible to know who Jesus really was, to find out for myself. God finally led me to get to the bottom line as I started reading what Jesus said:
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, who was and is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8
Christ also said to the Jews:
"Truly, truly I say to you; before Abraham was born I AM (God)." John 8:58
It amazed me to find similar claims between Jesus and Mohammed. These claims were serious, as Mohammed said:
"I am the beginning of all creation and the last prophet."
He also said:
"I was a prophet of Allah while Adam was still being molded in clay."
Moreover, he claimed to be the intercessor for Muslims in the Day of Judgment, by all of these, claiming to be the world's last and final prophet and savior.
These things always puzzled me. If Mohammed claimed all that he claimed, than who was Jesus who claimed to be our Redeemer and Savior? That question troubled me a great deal. One of the two claims had to be a lie, if there were two redeemers; this would be association with God since God is the only Redeemer.
Christ or Mohammed had to be the Redeemer and Intercessor for mankind. The Bible or the Koran had to be correct. One of them was pure gold and the other had to be a fake, but which one...?
Vowing to make a decision for "The Truth", I stayed up late many nights comparing many details between the Koran and the Bible. At some point during my study, I prayed saying: "GOD, you are the Creator of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jacob, you are the beginning and the end, you are 'The Truth', 'the only Truth', the Maker of the true Scripture, the one and only word of God. I suffer to find your truth, I want to do your will in my life, I long for your love and in the name of 'The Truth' I ask. AMEN!!!"
I wanted real gold and would not settle for an imitation. I had to scratch very hard to look beyond the surface of the world's plastic religions.
I believed in the Koran as the word of God because it had modern scientific laws and only a book with a divine origin could have scientific facts written a thousand years before their discovery. I spent a month using a computer program searching for scientific clues in the Bible. Every verse in the Koran that was a scientific miracle that led me and millions of Muslims to believe in the Koran was already in the Bible. Many stories in the Koran had serious errors and with my knowledge of history and archeology, I knew that the Koran had serious faults.
With many of these discoveries, my claim that the Koran was a miracle was in question. The Bible had all of its miracles hundreds and thousands of years before. My foundation shook and I felt the sinking sand under me. Even the nations mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 38, whom God would destroy -- most of them were Muslim nations growing towards Islamic Fundamentalism today.
What also helped me was that God led me to discover, through my study of the Bible, hundreds of detailed and unique verses concerning prophecies fulfilled to the letter. No man has ever presented such detailed predictions of future events without having more errors than truth. God is the only one that holds the key to future events and only the Bible has the key, not the Koran which lacks those most important elements of "Salvation and Redemption". I knew at that moment I would have to be a fool knowing all of this and continuing worshipping a different God than the God of the Bible. I really thought with my prayer, that God will lead me to the Koran, but that was not the case with me. In fact it was the other way around, I had to give up my pride and be open-minded to truth.
God said in the Bible:
"For I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things are not yet done, saying: My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure." Isaiah 46:9-10
God not only foretold future events, but declared them and brought them to pass, unlike the Koran which simply used terror tactics to conform Muslims to believe. Since I did not believe that the Bible was corrupted, I spent many days searching the Bible for Mohammad, as he claimed to be in it, but never found him. If the Bible had been corrupted it had to have happened after the prophet Mohammed since the Koran always addressed the Bible that was 'between his hands' at his time. From that time until now Muslims have failed to provide one single Bible from the face of the earth to prove the corruption, and not one historical or archeological evidence has been discovered to disprove the Bible.
Even the death of that Muslim prophet was different than the death of Jesus, as Mohammed died on the lap of his favorite wife, Aisha, while Jesus died on the cross in order to redeem man's sins.
I felt sad that hundreds of millions of Muslims today live without ever hearing or being challenged with this kind of evidence.
It was astonishing to me to find that Muslims and the rest of the world recognized three main religions that worship God even though God said that He is One and his Word is One.
I was blind, but with the Bible only, I began to see -- I mean really SEE!!! With so much Biblical prophecy fulfilled showing the return of Israel from the grave and the attitudes of Muslims and the world towards Jews, the end time is near.
Man has never changed. He still kills his brother as Cain killed his brother Abel. The only difference is that we don't behead and stab each other in battles as much as we used to. We simply wage chemical warfare to exterminate each other like bugs as human life is becoming less and less valuable. I began to see that sin was the source of all man's problems and that the Devil was man's worst enemy, not the Jews, of whom Hitler exterminated 6 million less than 50 years ago. Ironically today, there is tons of literature being sold denying the incident even occurred. I wondered what would happen if a Hitler or a Mehdi or an Islamic Khalifa (Caliph) came to power and has what we have today: all these nuclear bombs capable of destroying earth seven times over. God led me to look at the world that I live in and ask myself if the world today so foolishly denies the Jewish Holocaust despite all the evidence we have, why should I still wonder why most of the world today denies the Messianic claim of Christ and the accuracy of the Bible -- especially when the evidence is all around.
God opened my heart and mind and led me to see how people today deny all the proofs He has provided for us in His Word, adapting themselves to false forms of worship.
The Lord began to show me the satanic influences which affected my way of thinking. Regardless of my Islamic background, I used to think these influences were from God.
I was led to a new view of the world and the meaning of life and saw the need for salvation. Today, we all can see man's goal for a world government waiting for the Devil to be the king!
"Babylon" is being revived from the grave to unite the world one more time; we have only changed its name to "The New World Order" when it should be called "The New Babylon". I started reading the Bible and began to wonder why Zechariah prophesied:
"For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem, the city shall be rifled, and the women ravished." -- Zechariah 14:2
In Islam I was taught that the second coming of the Messiah was in Islamic prophecy. He was portrayed as the one to break the cross and kill the pig, another setup for Muslims to follow the "false" messiah, the Mehdi, the coming Antiochos Epiphinias.
Contrary to Mohammed's prophecy, the Bible prepares its readers that the outcome of the siege in the time of Jacob's trouble will not be the total annihilation of the Jews but that Christ himself will descend on the Mount of Olives for judgment as He fights the enemies of Israel. Unfortunately, it will be too late for repentance and redemption for non-believers.
The saddest part is that hatred towards Jews is not an old out-moded idea from the far past. Millions of Muslims today have the same sick idea that one day they will do the same to all Jews in the Holy Land as Mohammed did to the Jews in Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the permission to kill Jews and Christians and to take their wives as concubines was engraved in the Islamic "Holy Koran" and is the main cause for the hatred of Jews by Muslims to this very day.
The word "Truth" was stuck in my heart day and night, pounding on my soul as I continued to compare the two books and to finally conclude that the Bible could be proven beyond any shadow of a doubt to be true gold. Not only by hundreds of ancient prophecies that came to pass, but by one ancient word created by God from the time of Jacob until our generation. For all who doubt, that word was and still is 'Israel'.
Israel's existence today, and the re-gathering of the Jews from ALL parts of the world is an irrefutable proof that the Holy Bible is the true Word of God. God scattered them throughout the whole world and then re-gathered them again from ALL nations back to their original land in fulfillment of His promises in the far past, until our present, for He said:
"I will gather you from ALL the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive." -- Jeremiah 29:14
The true God has never changed, He is still the same. I also learned that my enemy, the Jews, were chosen by God to write God's Word and God's plan for salvation through Jesus the Messiah, the only Messiah and Redeemer for man. I also learned that Jesus, the man from my hometown, was a Jew and that even my hometown was Jewish 'Beth-Lechem', which means 'Home of the Bread', as He said:
"I am the Bread of Life, he who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." -- John 6:35.
Beth-Lechem was given its name before Jesus came to this world. Jesus was from the people of my enemy, the Jews. Yet, He died for my sin. I had never heard of an enemy who died for another enemy and loved him so much that he allowed Himself to be beaten, spat on, mocked and finally crucified. Would your enemy die for you? Yet He said:
"Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." -- Matthew 5:44.
The Truth was in front of my very eyes, knocking constantly on my heart, and wanting to come in. I called on The Truth and He answered, I was blind and sought the truth, and now I see. He knocked on my door and I opened, and now had set me free! Christ said:
"I am The Way, The Truth and The Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me." -- John 14:6
My way of thinking, my feelings, and my goals in life began to change. I began to feel for the Jewish people. All the hatred left me. The desire to see them hurt was no more a thing in my life. Now, I hurt for them and pray peace for Jerusalem continually. Instead of laughing at images of the Holocaust on TV, I weep for them. I am even ready to give my own life for them, as did my Lord. I say it despite the outpouring of hate that could come from my own fellow Arabs and Muslims.
Yes, I say it to the whole world, I love Jews. I love them because of their Messiah. I love them because they brought Light to the world and through them came the Light and the Truth and for that I love Jews. I no longer despise them and I know from the Bible that the Jews are God's chosen people to give light to Arabs and to the whole world if we only allow them. For God made them a blessing to the world and we need to love and support them as God said to Abraham:
"I will bless those who bless you and I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." -- Genesis 12:2
Knowing the truth transferred my way of thinking from believing in Hitler to believing in Christ, from believing lies to knowing the truth, from being spiritually sick to being healed, from living in darkness to seeing the light, from being damned to being saved, from doubt to faith, from hate to love, and from evil works to God's grace through Christ. This transformation taught me that without the (true) word of God, things could look good on the surface but in the core lies deception. I accepted Jesus the Messiah who died for all of our sins as my Lord and Savior; to Him I submit.
Jesus said:
"Come to me all you labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." -- Matthew 11:28
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for fulfilling your promise.