QuestionOfTheWeek: ““What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me’?”

 

 

What are your thoughts on this week’s QOTW –

“What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me’?”

http://www.gotquestions.org/questweek.html

18 Comments »

  1. Comment by David White

    How wonderful it is to have someone put so eloquently into words what had been revealed to me. Thank you.

  2. Comment by Mimi...YOUR Grace YOUR Grace, I could do mothing with out YOU LORD.


    Grace – Michael W Smith

    Jesus meant that HE wanted every bit of who we are. He wants us to follow HIM with ALL of our heart, soul and mind. To truly give HIM ALL we can give & in return HE wants to Bless us beyond what we can imagine, in both big and small ways…just to be with HIM and HIM with us<3
    By taking up the cross we are in communion with Christ's sufferings and He will give us the Grace we need to get through, what ever life throws our way. TRUST me some times life doesn't through things our way, but hurls it at us. His Grace is sufficient….

    II Corinthians 12:9
    And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.

    Grace enables you to make it, no matter what. No matter who turns against you, no matter what obstacles you face, no matter how many times you fail. God's incredible grace is there to pick you up, to revive lost hope, to heal broken bones, and to strengthen your weak will. It is never inadequate, nor is it ever depleted. It never spoils and it has no expiration date.

    How do I make God's grace a reality in my life? Simply by claiming the promises in His Word. Tell Him your need. Abandon your own efforts and trust Him to work things out. Be sensitive to see and hear the leading of His Spirit.

    His grace saves you . . .
    "For by grace are ye saved through faith . . . it is the gift of God . . ." (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    His grace guides and directs you . . .
    "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye," (Psalm 32:8). ". . . the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness," (Psalm 18:28).

    His grace hears your cry and carries your burdens and sorrows . . .
    "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth," (Psalm 145:18). "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," (Isaiah 55:4).

    His grace provides for all your needs . . .
    "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:19).

    His grace keeps you going . . .
    ". . . but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day," (II Corinthians 4:16).

    His grace never leaves you alone . . .
    "My presence will go with thee, and I will give thee rest," (Exodus 33:14).

    In Lord, I Need Grace to Make It Kay Arthur writes, "For the victorious Christian, the one who lives as more than a conqueror, grace is more than a theological term. Grace is a reality, a fact of life. It is by grace that one becomes a Christian, and it is by grace that one lives the Christian life."

    Precious Lord, thank You that Your grace is available to me any time I seek it, and that it provides everything I need to make it through life.

    By Ann Shorb
    ©Copyright Ann Shorb, 2006

    It is through suffering that we gain our greatest growth, many times. So don't be afraid to pick up your cross, a few splinters can bless us in the end.

  3. Comment by Nelson

    The command to take up the Cross may just demand a little bit more than being willing to die; it may require making preparations to die for the Name.

    If we our loyalty and commitment is not now – at this very moment – to the point of physical death, it won’t be later.

    The idea of “dying to self” is convenient since we determine what it is and under what circumstances we are willing to die. But to truly realize that the Cross demands the very physical (as well as spiritual) life, is to truly find what it means to be a Christ-follower, a disciple of Jesus, a witness of His life and a co-worker in his sufferings.

    Suffering and death at not apportioned at our convenience; loyalty is never demanded when all is well in our relationship with others.

    The point is that the time to die for Christ is now. Are we made the necessary preparations? If we have not prepared ourselves now for martyrdom, how can we know we will not later renege on our faith?

  4. Comment by Rd

    “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:2

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ……” Romans 1:16

    To full on For Jesus, matter the cost.

    Read the “Foxe’s book of martyrs.”

    Look at all the Jesus disciples. All died of a violent death For Jesus.

  5. Comment by Grandpa EC

    I appreciate GotQuestions’ answer to the QOTW; wouldn’t know how to improve on it.

  6. Comment by Edith Jane

    Amen! Amen! I have nothing to add or take away from QOTW! I once thought “Take up your cross…” meant to physically carry a burden but after awhile that didn’t make sense to me. Jesus died so that I wouldn’t have to do that. Christ carried the burden so that we wouldn’t have to. We call on the name of the Lord our Savior JESUS CHRIST and He is there!
    God bless you!!
    JESUS IS LORD!!

  7. Comment by Jasmina

    i have been hurt by alot of people and is there a way i cant get over it i just think about it

  8. Comment by Debbie

    Jasmina,
    Jesus Christ was hurt by alot of people as well. He died in the process. Cast your cares on Him and get into fellowship. Focus on the Word of God. If you are busy filling your mind with Jesus, you won’t be thinking so much about your hurt. Don’t let your anger and bitterness consume you life. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (HEB 12:15) It is a choice. We can either let it go or hang on to it forever….don’t become a Christian casualty!
    MARANATHA

  9. Comment by Mimi

    Jasmine forgive yourself and do better. Ask for forgiveness for those you hurt and then put it behind you. Draw close to the LORD and he will guide you with the rest.
    Colossians 3:13
    Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (NIV)

    God Bless You,
    Mimi

  10. Comment by John Thacker

    Your answer is historically incorrect. Taking up the cross and carrying it was first for rebels and was a final act of submission to Roman authority. What Jesus was saying was to submit to his authority. Go to the library and do some research. I have.

  11. Comment by John Thacker

    Your information is incorrect. History records that to carry the cross was the final submission to Roman authority, that is the reason that another was compelled to carry the cross. Jesus was telling the people to submit to his authority. Go to the library and do some research. I have.

  12. Comment by Edith Jane

    Jasmina #7,
    This life is going to throw a bunch of punches. You might be hurt by those who you thought were your friends but ALWAYs hang on to and count on Jesus Christ who sticks closer than a brother! I’ve been hurt by people… my own blood family! I haven’t spoken to them in 4 years and all the years before that were hanging on a very thin string. I’ve gotten over it by removing myself from them, this may not be the solution for you and I’m not suggesting you do what I did I’m only telling my story. My older sister is the one who I feel most hurt by but I have forgiven her but her hostility against me keeps me from her. It’s hard to get over these things – it has been for me – but it has drawn me closer to the Lord. It’s these types of hurts that shape you and your walk with Christ our Lord. Just remember that when Jesus went to His home town he was treated with the same hostility and was hurt by it too. You may be asking “Why does this have to happen?” well… you are an enemy of this world, you belong to God Almighty and you are standing in a place full of God’s enemies. When I’m going through the problems this life hands out I take it as a compliment. Problems tell me I belong to the King of kings and the Lord of lords!!!
    Remember, hang on to the Lord!
    God bless you sister!

  13. Comment by Mimi

    *Jasmina (I apologize).

  14. Comment by Rambo

    You go John Thacker! Also note that Jesus was first silent in His trial as an act of refusing to submit to Roman authority, Jesus did not acknowledge the court. “You have the right to remain silent…” Sound familiar? Pilate found nothing worthy of death, so he just had Jesus thrashed hoping to satisfy the “Pharisees.” No way do we have to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” Next time I’ll remain silent on that one!
    As such, Jesus was turned over to the Pharisees who demanded crucifixion when the Pharisees threatened Pilate that if he didn’t, Pilate would be dishonoring Cesaer.
    Never heard your point that Jesus’ aid with the cross further rebuked Roman jurisdiction. Great job John!

  15. Comment by Anonymous

    1 Peter 2:21 “because you were called even unto this; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.
    Who did no sin, no deceit was found in his mouth.
    Who, when he was reviled, did not revile back.
    When he suffered he did not threaten, but committed ‘fully’ to him who judges righteously.
    Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree.
    So we, being dead to sins, live unto righteousness.
    By his stripes we are healed.”

    Hebrews 13:12 “so Jesus also, because he sanctified the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.
    So let us go out to him, outside the gate, bearing his reproach.”

    Isaiah 53:6 “Yehovah has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
    He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.
    He is brought like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep is mute before her shearers, so he did not open his mouth.
    For the transgression of my people he was afflicted.
    He had done no violence.
    No deceit was in his mouth.
    It pleased Yehovah to bruise him.
    When You make his soul an offering for sin, he sees his children. He sees the anguish of his soul, and is satisfied.
    By his knowledge, My Righteous Servant justifies many; because he bears their iniquity.”

    The disciple of the Saviour is to have heart like the Saviour.
    Take up your cross?

  16. Comment by Nelson

    Jasmina,

    1. I am reminded of an interesting quote from the movie “Princess Bride” that went something like… “Life is pain and if anyone tries to tell you any different, he’s trying to sell you something.”

    2. An internet forum is not the place to share personal hurts and fears. Nobody can really give you any solid advice that would be relative to your unique situation; we can only offer generalitites, which may do more harm than good.

    3. Seek a trusted friend. Yes, they may be hard to find but God promises not to leave us on our own: he gives the lonely a family.

    4. My only advice, use the hurt to be sensitive to the needs of others.

    Not much else I can say.

  17. Comment by Mimi

    Jasmina,
    If you ever come back and read these comments, please ignore what Nelson said. No disrespect to you Nelson, I just see things differently.
    God Bless,
    Mimi

  18. Comment by Edith Jane

    I agree Mimi.

    Nelson #16,
    you said “2. An internet forum is not the place to share personal hurts and fears. Nobody can really give you any solid advice that would be relative to your unique situation; we can only offer generalitites, which may do more harm than good.” but then you said “3. God promises not to leave us on our own: he gives the lonely a family.” Did God say “I promise you will find a family but not on the internet, they don’t have very much solid advice so I’ll give you a family somewhere else.” no He didn’t. Yes trust in the Lord He always comforts you in times of need. I have a family and count all these people in here as part of my family also. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord! Why not take advice from the people here? Why not come to your extended family on here? I feel the Holy Spirit speak through people like Mimi, Debbie, Ceseeley, and all the others! Please don’t take what I say as a rude comment I’m just trying to stand up for the people you said don’t have much solid advice. I disagree.
    God bless you.

Posted via email from Christian Issues Digest

Watchman Nee: ""the Church rushes swiftly toward apostasy"

Back to the Cross

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We today are at the terminal period of the dispensation of grace. The hand of the clock is pointing at the midnight hour. Now is the darkest of the night. Soon, following the gloomiest hour, the day shall dawn. Meanwhile, the Church rushes swiftly toward apostasy, moving farther away from God: the power of darkness is unleashed; its evil influence is as damaging in the Church as in the world. The cross of Christ is the sole light that enlightens the current darkness. It is therefore time for the Church to go back to the cross, to the firm foundation of God. There, sins are cleansed and self is delivered. There, the redemptive facts of God are revealed for us to believe and enter in. There, the power of resurrection is experientially known so that the Church may once again be the true witness of Christ on earth. It is time for God's children to seek for high life and service, time to review the past and rededicate themselves for the days ahead.

At the closing of this age, the activities of Satan are intensified. How greatly are the children of God being attacked, oppressed and especially deceived. Now is the time for the saints to rise up and exercise the victory of the cross to resist and counterattack the Enemy. How fierce is the battle. Can the saints overcome without being fully armed? Saints of God, arise, stand on the victory of Calvary, and proclaim the victory of Christ. Your King is coming, and the days of the Enemy are numbered.

This present volume is a compilation of various writings and addresses given by Watchman Nee in the early days of his ministry. The passage of time, however, only increases the urgency of these messages which are as relevant today, perhaps even more so, than at the time of their first delivery. Would that God's children might return to the cross and be true followers of Christ crucified. May the Church of God be re-awakened to her calling as the light in the world, holding forth the word of life. May she stand in the victory of Christ and bring back the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Posted via email from Classic Christian Digest

Watchman Nee: ""If the children of God are to become a harvest that God can reap"

AN OPEN LETTER
Issue No. 1
The time of the Lord's return is at hand. For this reason we are reevaluating many matters in the light of the judgment seat. Are there not many publications today? Why add another one, The Present Testimony? If it were not of the Lord and if there were no special reason for its existence, The Present Testimony would just be a tiring reiteration of things already said, and it would be completely useless to those who are truly men of God. We publish this little magazine because we have received the commission from God to help His children specifically in matters relating to spiritual life and warfare. In every age there is a unique truth especially needed for that period. For those of us living in these last days, there must also be some specific truth which we especially need. By means of The Present Testimony, we intend to bear testimony to the truth needed in this present age.

Therefore, within the narrow confines of these pages, we would not present anything except "the deep things of God." We intend to make no mention of other questions. All general teachings or the meanings of scriptural passages are good, but they are outside our scope. You should not, therefore, expect to find articles on these categories in The Present Testimony.

We are deeply convinced that the present time is a preparatory period. If the children of God are to become a harvest that God can reap, they must first become ripe (Mark 4:29). We may say that the time of rapture is at hand. But the most important question is whether or not the church is ready. The Lord Jesus was caught up after His crucifixion; therefore, how can the church take a different path? We deeply believe that in the last days God will lead His children into a deeper experience of the cross of His Son so that they might ascend to the heavens. God's goal today is to quickly perfect the Body of His Son and destroy His enemy in order that He might usher in His kingdom. We can say that all of God's purpose in this age is being hindered by the church. We firmly believe that within a short period of time, God will surely gather His children into oneness so that His church might cease to be an object of hindrance, but rather would work together with God to accomplish His eternal ordination. We humbly desire that we might have a little part in this glorious work under God's hand.

All those who have eyes can easily recognize the darkness of the present age. It is heartbreaking to realize that if God's children were to rid themselves of all that is "of man," there would scarcely be anything left that is "of God." What is most apparent today is men's doings. Even in many good works which are considered to be spiritual, how much is there that is really God's own doing? The most pitiful thing is that many works which are done "for the Lord," "in the name of the Lord," "for the Lord's kingdom," and "for the church of Christ" are but activities of men's corrupted flesh. They are done by men without seeking the Lord's will, without listening to His command, and without trusting in the strength of God. The Lord's children do things merely according to what they think is good. Today, they have everything but God. Their thinking, planning, and working have replaced God. If the Lord's children do not turn back, they will find that they have no spiritual usefulness. They will damage the work of God and suffer loss themselves.

We know that we are unworthy; but by the grace of God, we would be faithful. We hope that the readers of these pages will not read with a critical spirit or with the intention of exploitation. If they have a humble heart and a prayerful spirit, they will inevitably receive some benefit. All that we write has but one aim: that the reader will give himself wholly to God in the new creation and become a person useful in the hands of God. Now we wholeheartedly commit our writing, our readers, and ourselves to God, who preserves men forever, and we hope that His Spirit will guide us into all His truths.

Posted via email from Classic Christian Digest

MyAnswer: Billy Graham "How to Be Happy Most of the Time"

 

How to Be Happy Most of the Time

I am the mother of one illegitimate child and am expecting the second one. Recently I was converted. Where can I begin the new life and how can I leave the old life behind with two children born in sin?

When a group of Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been taken in the act of adultery, Jesus asked them to cast a stone at her, whoever was without sin (John 8:1-11). When it appeared that there was no sinless one to cast the first stone, they departed. Then Jesus said to the woman, "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more." Repentance and faith are genuine and valid when the sinner enters a new way of life. There may be the reminders of the past with you, but you can have this assurance that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven to those who desire the new life that comes about through our faith in Jesus Christ. Begin by being the mother you should be, praying for your children and bringing them up in the knowledge of Christ. The time will come when they will recognize the transformation wrought in your life.

I cannot forget the abortion that was performed on me. Can you help me find peace of mind?

You did not give any details about your case. You must know that legitimate abortions are performed every day by doctors who sometimes have to take this course to save the mother and the home.

   Assuming that the termination of your pregnancy was for selfish reasons, it is clear that you have sinned, as did the parties who had a part in it. God gives life, and we have no right to take it. But we are not to assume that this sin is unforgivable. Moses once killed a man, but found forgiveness, and went on to become one history's great emancipators. Saul of Tarsus had participated in the execution of Stephan, but he had an encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, and became the first and perhaps greatest Christian missionary. To despair over the magnitude of your sin will only make matters worse. My suggestion is that you come to Him who said: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." No person, regardless of the extent of their sin, ever responded to this call without finding rest of soul. Don't you delay any longer. God is ready, able, and willing to forgive you and give you His peace.

I have been a loyal church member for many years, but I have never experienced the kind of peace that you are always preaching about. How can I get this peace? Should I leave my church and join another one in order to find it, or will God show me the way through prayer?

There is no church that can give you peace, otherwise more than sixty per cent of the people of the United States would have peace because more than fifty per cent of them are affiliated with churches. It should be obvious then, that church and religious affiliation can never guarantee peace. It may, however, act as a sedative and provide a temporary satisfaction. This would only deceive you. Peace with God comes through a personal relationship with Him. It is the kind of peace that was made possible by the sacrifice of Christ. The Bible says: "For He is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that He might create in Himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh" (Ephesians 2:14-17). This is the kind of peace that you need and you can only find it through that personal act of faith in Christ.

I am discouraged and afraid. My religion has failed me, and now I wonder if a change would bring new hope to me. Would you recommend that I make such a change?

Your plight reminds me of a man I know who had an outdated car which gave him a lot of trouble. He took it to several mechanics who tried to tune it up, but the old motor continued to start hard, miss and jerk. One day a smart mechanic talked him into installing a new motor, and that was the end of his trouble.

   For you to just "change your religion" would be like taking the old motor to a new garage. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to be religious without the "new life" that comes when we are born anew. It is like trying to start an old car by pushing it uphill.

   So my suggestion to you is: let Christ change your life so that your religion becomes something spontaneous and joyous. Confess your sin, your failures, and your doubts, and say: "Christ, from this moment on, you are in charge of my life." Just stop trying and trust, and you will be amazed at what will happen if you turn all the keys of your life over to Him. Repent of your sins and receive Christ by faith. This is conversion — and you need to be converted!

I'm very mixed up in my spiritual life. At times, I think I'm a Christian and enjoy all the things that Christians enjoy. Then I suddenly have a strong yearning to return to the old life of sin. I know I wouldn't be happy if I did return, but the fact that I sometimes feel like I want to bothers me. How can you explain such a thing?

Your problem is not too unusual although most people don't like to admit it. It is the age-old problem of the spiritual conflict that goes on within each of us. It may be an aggravated condition with you which makes it so serious.

   Paul once wrote: "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would" (Galatians 5:17). This is the battle or the tension that is present in us to a greater or lesser degree. So you see, the spiritual lag that you feel is explained in the Bible.

   That does not mean that you accept it as the way it should be. You should make all necessary preparation for this battle which the Bible says "is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces." In Ephesians, chapter six, the Bible tells what preparation you should make. In the meantime, always remember that "Where sin abounds, Grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20).

   You can have complete victory! We are told to submit ourselves unto God and the devil will flee from us. We are also promised that "Sin shall not reign over us."

I have always respected my father until a few weeks ago when I discovered that he had a prison record. Now I wonder if I shouldn't leave home and try to forget him?

You react to this discovery of yours just like so many people do. Of course a prison record is not a thing to be desired. But there must have been something fine about your father to call for your respect up until this time. Don't you realize that a change has taken place to make him a respectable citizen and a father you have been able to love? I do not believe that you should leave home for such a reason, nor should you hold it against your father. Be grateful that he did not continue in a life of crime, and encourage him by giving him your complete confidence. Remember that God has granted His forgiveness to us for the taking. He does not hold against us the past when we receive His Son as our Saviour. He freely forgives and forgets for the sake of His Son. It is this forgiveness and confidence that He shows us that provides the incentive to righteous living.

I have just completed a prison sentence of three years. Upon returning to my home, I find that I am not accepted in society any more. I have no work, and almost no friends. Do you think that I am wrong in being so resentful toward people who will have little to do with me? I want to go straight, but it seems that people want to push me back down where I was.

It is one of the problems common to every person who has violated the law and been imprisoned. Your problem is not new. What you must realize is that you have given them a reason for distrusting you, and now it is up to you to give society a reason for accepting you. It won't be easy, and it is one of the aspects of your punishment. I would suggest two things for you to do. First, face the fact that the burden is upon you to convince society of your purpose to go straight. This will take time and will be painful for you, but it will be worth the effort. Second, discover a power that will hold you true to the purpose you have set before you. You cannot go the road alone, for you too are a social creature. Remember that to begin with, God made you to have fellowship. Even though society cannot forget quickly your crime, God will forgive your sins the moment you take Jesus Christ as your Saviour. You have already gone halfway in repentance in being sorry for your sin. Why not go the other half of the way and turn to God who right now is seeking for your heart and for your faith? If you do that, He will sustain you through the days of readjustment, and even more, He will keep you to the end of life in fellowship that is more precious than the best friend can provide.

Some time ago I recognized my sinfulness and began going to church. For a time I felt better but I was not able to overcome the habits that troubled me. Must I always go on with this unrest in my mind? Is there a solution?

It is quite possible by church attendance and other religious exercises to quiet our conscience temporarily. We may even be helped considerably and our moral standards may be definitely raised, but this is not enough! For Jesus said: "Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven." A spiritual regeneration is an absolute necessity according to the words of Jesus. Do not let religion take the place of the new birth. Rather, I would urge you to make a decision to receive Christ into your life and experience the new birth. This way you will obtain a real victory. Then even the church will mean more to you.

   I would advise you getting alone with your Bible — read Romans 10:9 — quietly confess Christ. When you have had this encounter with the living Christ, your whole life will be changed.

A few months ago I think I became a Christian. I'm not really sure though, because the decision didn't solve any of my problems. In fact, I have had more trouble since then. Isn't Christianity supposed to solve problems for you?

Yes, a personal faith does solve problems for you, but it doesn't solve them in exactly the way you think they should be solved. You see, a vital faith doesn't take you out of the world, it doesn't pay your bills, it doesn't cure every sickness. You will still have those problems. Paul the apostle had a serious problem, and he prayed about it very earnestly. The problem remained, but God gave Paul enough strength to live with the problem, and that may be what you are supposed to do. The Lord said: "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

   A true faith in Jesus Christ completely solves a certain class of problems, principally that of sin. This is really man's greatest problem, and from sin come all of the other problems. Salvation is not like aspirin, dulling the nerves to feeling. Salvation goes to the root of the problem and makes a new person out of you. "Him who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

My mother committed suicide some time ago. I have since then been obsessed with the fear that I would do the same thing sometime. Can you tell me how to overcome such a fear?

Apart from any religious meaning, I believe you are suffering from a kind of identification with your mother, which is a common thing. No doubt you cared for your mother and also believe that you might have some of the same potential within yourself. You must recognize the fact that there is no reason why you should be compelled to do the same, unless it is a result of concentrating on it. You must divert your mind and begin to think on something else.

   Your problem is not only psychological but also spiritual. If you have given yourself completely to Christ and are absolutely surrendered to His control, there can be no thought of suicide. The Apostle Paul once said: "Don't worry over anything whatever. Tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding will keep your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus." The Apostle again said: "Fix your minds on the things which are right and pure and beautiful and good." Christ can so completely change your nature and control your mind that you can find complete relief and joy in serving Him. I would suggest that you see your minister and have a frank discussion with him.

I thought that when I became a Christian my problems would somehow be solved. I have had almost more since I became a Christian. What should we expect when we receive Christ?

You should not expect the easy way, for if you do you are certainly destined for disappointment. Any person who knows the Bible knows that the Christian life is likened to an athletic contest or to warfare, and neither one is easy. Jesus said: "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." In the Bible it is said of Satan that he, "Goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour," and that certainly does not speak of an easy way. Jesus warned His followers to count carefully the cost.

   But there is no good thing that comes without cost. The Christian life is most satisfying, but only when we actually go all out and all the way. It is the Christian who tries to compromise who finds life miserable, for he has all the problems without the fellowship that comes through surrender. For every trial and test, Christ supplies an abundance of grace with which to bear it, and in our weakness we are made strong (II Corinthians 12:10).

I have been told that there is no happiness without being a Christian. As a young person, I am finding my happiness in wonderful friends, amusements, and in wholesome activity. I sometimes think I should be a Christian and go to church, but many of the folks I find there are not as happy as I am. Their religion makes them sad and without the fun of life. Is this a part of the Christian life?

True Christianity is seldom found in any one person or even in a group. If certain qualities are present, frequently others are absent. There are many who actually believe that joy and happiness are worldly, while others seek only for the good time. The Christian life is the only genuinely happy life for the happiness and joy of the Christian does not depend upon circumstances. You said that you found yours all in such things as friends, amusements and wholesome recreation. But soon these will fail to provide your joy. Any happiness based on circumstances can quickly change. Only when our joy is founded upon an unchanging person and upon an unfailing love can it endure. Certainly you are not so foolish as to think that your joy will last. Seek the joy that comes from surrender to Christ, and you will have something that will abide through changing conditions and circumstances.

I grew up in a Christian home, but a few years ago I began chasing around with the gang, and did things I'm ashamed of. Now I've met a wonderful girl, and want to be decent. How can I get rid of the ugly memories that torment me?

Truly repent. Get down on your knees and ask God to forgive you. Of course you don't deserve it, but God loves you. He sent His Son to wash away your sins. Accept Jesus as your Saviour. Follow Christ. Let Him lead you into a new life. When you've made a fresh, clean start, God will wipe away all record of your sins. He will remember them no more. You must do the same. Forget the past, except to profit by it. Press on to the future, always asking Christ what you should do.

   Say, as Paul did: "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). The high calling Paul is speaking of is service. Think not of yourself, but of others. Have you harmed anyone? Then make restitution just as soon as you can. If this is not possible, plan to add to the security and happiness of someone else.

   I can hear you say, "Billy, nothing I can ever do will right the wrong I've done." Well, do the best you can. Then give thanks for Christ. He alone can save you! Accept Him at His word, surrender your life to Him, and you will find peace.

Posted via email from Christian Issues Digest

MyAnswer: Billy Graham "Solving Problems on the Job."

 

Solving Problems on the Job

Is it always right to tell the truth, especially when you know it will hurt someone? If I tell the truth about my business affairs, it will ruin chances for the happiness of my family.

I would rather answer you by stating the matter in quite another way. It is always wrong to be dishonest. Dishonesty is never justified. God will never approve, and even your own conscience will rise up to condemn you sooner or later. I have not known of a single instance when a man has been ruined or his family injured because of his basic honesty. It may not always be either wise or expedient to publicly announce all of your personal affairs, but to conceal the truth from persons involved is never the right course of action.

   If you had been sure of the matter, you would never have raised the question. The Bible says: "But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Do nothing until all the doubts are removed. This is a fairly safe procedure in all matters.

In my work as an accountant I am constantly in knowledge of the dishonesty of those who work in this organization. It doesn't involve my work in any way, but how can I be silent about it and still know that it is going on?

Recently the American people have been told of the largest swindle in history. It is the daily dishonest practices of men in business of all kinds, making use of legitimate channels to increase their income at the expense of the company. If such men held up a bank or store at the point of a gun, would you report it? I'm sure you would regard it as an act of a good citizen. Once when the children of Israel were being plundered, the Edomites stood by and watched, but gave no aid nor reported it. God said: "For the violence done to thy brother, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his substance, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast one of them" (Obadiah 10-11). Thus God held a people responsible because they, knowingly, watched and did not protest against evil being done. You have a responsibility you cannot shirk and maintain a clear conscience.

I am a partner in a small manufacturing concern. Due to business reverses we have been forced into bankruptcy. When the people of my church learned that I had filed bankruptcy, they insisted upon dropping me from the membership. Was my action so wrong that I can no longer have the fellowship with Christians?

That depends entirely upon the reasons and upon the motives of bankruptcy. Personal bankruptcy in order to avoid the payment of just debts is certainly not honest and not Christian. However, even men in the world of business recognize that there is a legitimate cause for bankruptcy when it is intended to avert law suits and litigation, in order to give you opportunity to make good debts that have been honestly incurred. People unfamiliar with the procedure of business are not able to detect what your motives are. You will, however, have to give an answer to the Lord. Our prayer for you will be that your reason was to glorify Christ by being honest in all of your relations and this was merely a method to accomplish that in the least possible time. Meanwhile, do not condemn the people of your church for their action. They simply did not understand your reasons and acted most likely according to the best light they had.

I have a job in an office which is so large and in which there is so little supervision that some of the girls do practically nothing all day long. They say they are "riding the gravy train" and got mad when I said they were stealing. What is right?

The accepting of pay for which a corresponding service is not rendered is dishonest. I think, from what you write, that you are correct in saying these girls are stealing. But I am not sure you have approached the problem in a helpful way. If you are a Christian, your first obligation is to see that you yourself give a full day's work for your wages. Then, as opportunity presents itself, you can wisely bring up the discussion of what is right and what is wrong. If such a discussion is started in a proper spirit, some of these girls may be led to be more faithful in their work. If all tactful methods fail, it would not be unethical to suggest to the head of the office force that some system of supervision be set up to insure more effective work by all. One of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt not steal." There are many ways of taking that which is not our own. Many of us have been guilty of failing to do all that we could to earn that which we are paid. Make this problem a matter of prayer. See if there may be other Christian girls in the office and ask them to join in praying about it. Above all, do not assume a holier-than-thou attitude. Be sure you are living as a Christian, not only in relation to your office work but also in other ways.

I am one of the policemen who was converted in one of your meetings. The other night I caught a young man involved in a crime and led him to a personal faith. He promised to go straight, and I didn't turn him in. Was I wrong in this and did I fail in my duty?

You are to be commended for speaking directly to the spiritual needs of the young man. It is always thrilling to hear of policemen who are witnessing for Christ. You did more than catch a criminal and punish him. You were used of God to change his life.

   But he must have wronged someone in the crime, and you are given the duty to protect such persons. Since I do not know all the details, you may have acted within your right as a law-enforcement officer, but it does not seem wise to dismiss such a person. After coming to Christ, the young man should have been made to see that he has a debt to society. Even God does not let the sinner go scot-free. Christ had to bear the penalty of our sins in order for us to be forgiven. While you have done a wonderful thing in leading him to Christ, it is possible that you have been guilty of a misjudgment.

I am a clerk in a small-town bank. I have reason to believe that the cashier is dishonest. I am afraid to report him lest I lose my position, yet I believe it should be checked on. What is my responsibility in a case like this?

Your report would never need to be made known. The bank examiners would appreciate any information and it would be kept in strictest confidence. You have a higher responsibility than to a dishonest employer. You are a servant of the community and you have a responsibility to them. To remain silent would be to participate in the crime just as much as we sin when we give assent to the sin of others. The Christian has a great obligation to be ethical and honest in all things, even sometimes at personal hazard. It is in the difficult situation that the qualities of a Christian are seen. They may go without notice in normal conditions, but when the crisis comes, then the distinctive qualities of the Christian are clearly seen.

In my business in order to make a profit, we always depend on outwitting our clients and customers. Seeing this is a standard way of conducting this kind of business, do you think it is right for me as a Christian to follow that practice?

For the true Christian, there is no double standard. The ethics of the Christian faith are truly expressed in Luke 3:10 through 14, that nothing less than absolute honesty has the approval of God. The moral collapse of our times is due to the fact that we have based our morals on social custom rather than on the word of God, which alone provides an absolute standard.

   The Bible says: "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is His delight" (Proverbs 11:1).

Can a Christian be a member of a labor organization? I have been advised not to join, but unless I do I will continue to be out of work.

The Bible does forbid our being unequally yoked together with unbelievers, but only where that yoke forces us to partake in their wickedness. A labor union as such is not evil. In fact, some of them have had definitely beneficial effects on the entire history of labor and industry.

   Today, a few of them have gotten into the hands of unprincipled and unscrupulous men that have brought disrepute on the entire organization. In unions, as in politics, this has happened because men with high standards and Christian convictions have withdrawn and turned the entire movement over to the forces of evil.

   Now at last, many good Christians are aware of their former errors and are taking places of responsibility in the world, not willing that wicked men should have the control. Take your place and accept responsibility, but never with the intent of compromise or participation in the evil practices. Commit yourself to Jesus Christ, and then go on to extend the gospel and Christian standards. Remember that Jesus said: "Ye are the salt of the earth," and also that "Ye are the light of the world." We cannot do our duty unless we invade the world for Christ.

I am a Christian and a worker in the church. I want my life to be an example for the Lord. I work as an accountant for a large business firm. Recently, I was approached by the owner of a large night club and gambling house to become their accountant. I would have the same work I now have with a greatly increased salary. Would you advise such a change?

I do not wonder that you were sought out for such work. Even men who earn their living through dishonest and questionable means appreciate the honesty of the Christian. Certainly this man would like to hire you at such a high salary, for he would no doubt save it by having one he could trust with his money. Although the world may at times laugh at the Christian for his simple faith, it will admire the standards and the life of those who so believe.

   It would be a doubtful change for you to make. Remember, you are not dealing with a person who is possessed of the scruples you appreciate. The increased salary can never compensate for the deadening influence such a place would have on your spiritual life. In the place where you now work, the small salary is still legitimate and justly earned. There are principles that we must hold to maintain a clear conscience. You cannot afford to sacrifice the influence of your life for the questionable increase in salary. Take it as a token of recognition from the world of the sterling qualities of the Christian, and thank God for what He gives you honestly.

I am interested in going into a small business for myself. If I do so, I will be sometimes involved in Sunday work. I would like to have your opinion on the use of Sunday for business purposes.

I wish it would be possible for all of us to reserve Sunday as the Lord's day and as a true Christian Sabbath. This would give free opportunity for everyone to engage in Christian worship and activity. Nothing hinders the progress of the Gospel in and through the church more than the increasing secular use of the Lord's day. If you can do so, you should reserve the one day in seven for unhampered worship and service for Him.

   On the other hand, Christians are in constant danger of a legalistic attitude toward Sunday and toward other Christian observances. We must retain the Gospel freedom that has been purchased by Christ. Nothing should be cherished more than our liberty in Christ. We must not submit to a legalistic Christianity that is encumbered with commands and prohibitions. Our first and greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore, you must make the final decision in this matter. You will ultimately be required to answer to God for the use you make of your money and of your time. I believe you will make no mistake if what you do is done in sincerity that is enlightened through a study of the Bible. Above all, do not allow your proposed business to ever become an obstacle to your devotion and service to Christ.

I am a Christian and am trying to make my life count for God, but I work in an office where racy stories and sexy conversation is in vogue. How can I cope with this without being prudish or appearing "better-than-thou"?

A Christian businessman from Florida who faces a similar problem writes that he has found an effective way to lick this problem. He says that he keeps a New Testament on his desk in plain view of everyone. He says that he has yet to have anyone come into his office who did not respect his "silent reminder" and refrain from profanity or smutty stories.

   There are many ways that we can rebuke those who are given to obscenity without being offensive. I find that the average person respects a person with ideals, if we let them know by our manner of life where we stand. As a rule, it is the person they are in doubt about, in whose presence they spill out their filth. So make sure that your testimony is clear, and that your life is of a quality that will inspire respect.

   Woodrow Wilson once told the story of a man who used profane language in the presence of the President's father, a Presbyterian minister. "I beg your pardon," the man said to Wilson's father. "Oh sir, you have not offended me," he said. "All profane language is an offense toward Him whose name is profaned."

I am a pupil nurse in a very large hospital. Most of the doctors treat all of us with respect and consideration but one of the most famous surgeons curses before us and makes vile jokes about the nurses working with him. I am a Christian and willing to take anything I should but this seems too much.

It seems to me you have several definite courses of action. Get one or two of your fellow nurses and face this doctor with what he is doing. Ask him if he would be willing to have his own daughter subjected to what you are subjected to. Tell him you will do any work which he requires of you and try to do it faithfully and to the best of your ability but that you will not submit to his actions further. If this does not get the desired results you should report the situation to your superintendent of nurses, and to the hospital administrator, if necessary. It is my understanding that all hospital staffs have a committee which deals with personnel problems, where necessary. It may be that you should appeal to this committee. In any case, be sure that you keep your Christian witness clear. You have right on your side so stick to your guns. The Bible says: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

I am a Christian, a trained office-machine worker, and have a good job. My problem is that all day long I hear talk about things which are either suggestive or downright vulgar. What should I do?

The easy way out, except for losing your job, is to quit. But the easy way is not always the right way. I can advise you but you should do nothing until you have acted on this advice. Make this a matter of definite prayer. God knows the situation and He loves all of those people who are now indulging in vulgar talk. Tell Him you are willing to do whatever He leads you to do, then ask Him to show you what it is. It may be that God will give you the wisdom to talk to these people, not in a prudish way but by saying there are so many good and lovely things to talk about and by helping you to change the general habits of conversation in the office. Let those around you realize that their talk distresses you but be sure you do this with both tact and patience. I know of instances where this very thing has transformed an entire office. Once it happened in a shop where one Christian man was used to change the entire atmosphere of the place. As a Christian, remember that you are both light and salt. Let your light shine and be sure that your life gives forth the savor of salt which is good. If you do this, your witness will certainly be blessed: to a few, or possibly to a larger number.

I am a woman who works in a laundry. Our work is very hard and uninteresting. All day long there is complaining by those with whom I work. I have been very troubled about this matter lately. Can you help me find an answer to his problem?

If we live for this life alone, then there are no doubt situations and conditions that would cause one to complain. The difference between the genuine Christian and the non-Christian is more noticeable here than in most places because complaining seems to be such an accepted thing. For the believer in Christ, and for the one who has placed his life in God's hand, there is little cause for complaint. We are told that we are to do our assigned tasks "Not in the way of eye service, as men-pleasers: but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as unto the Lord and not unto man" (Ephesians 6:6-7). Faith in God and surrender to Christ involves the whole of life. Your life is planned, and your complaint is against His plan. If "All things work together for good to them that love God, even to those who are called according to His purpose," then you will glorify God by your present disposition. Pity those who complain, and try to use their complaint as an opportunity to present God's plan for their lives as the solution.

I am a Christian businessman, but somehow I never prosper as many others do who are not Christians. In fact, God seems to overlook their wickedness and prosper them. This troubles me, though I don't intend to forsake my faith because of it. Is there any explanation that will put my mind at rest in the matter?

There have been others who have had the same dilemma. One who spoke with authority, David the Psalmist, was confronted with the problem and it troubled him for a long time. Not until he got a vision of the final judgment did he see the issue. What you are doing is looking at the matter without any perspective.

   When David finally got the right point of view, he wrote it down for our help and said: "Behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the world, they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain." In other words, he felt for a moment that righteousness did not pay. Then he said, "When I thought to know this it was too painful for me, until I went into the Sanctuary of God, then I understood their end" (Psalm 73:12-13, 16, 17).

   You must never look upon the immediate profits of any action, but upon their outcome in the final judgment.

Since becoming a Christian I have the problem of being in business with a man who is not one, and who does not conduct the business on Christian principles. My life's investment is in the business, so I can't very well leave without tremendous loss. What shall I do to make him change?

Your problem is a complex one for it also involves the matter of your Christian stewardship. You want to live your life and conduct your affairs as a Christian, and at the same time you must be custodian of your earnings and regard them as a stewardship. Many prosperous men make the mistake that is warned against in the Bible saying: "My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth." We have the right to say only that it is the Lord who "giveth thee power to get wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:17).

   But your partner has a conscience even if he is not a Christian. He will recognize the merit and rightness of the "Christian way" even though he may not accept the redemption provided in Christ for sinners. Get him to conduct the business on Christian principles as a trial and then depend upon God to change his heart.

I work in one of the shops in our city among some very ungodly men. Our work is done on a quota basis, and over the established quota we receive a bonus. The men are not producing a fraction of what they could, but they still insist that we chisel on time so the bonus will be easy to get. My conscience bothers me so much that I feel that I must report this matter to the authorities. Would I be wrong in doing so?

I believe that every employee should be an honest worker, earning his total wage. I also believe that the employer should deal honestly with his workers and give them the full reward for their efforts. I do not see how you can cover the dishonest practice of your group when you know what they are doing and when you approve their actions by doing so yourself. Most of the troubles, if not all, that go on between labor and management would cease if both would adopt such a policy. It is not likely that either of them will do so unless there is a beginning somewhere. Perhaps you are to be the one who acts according to the highest ethics, and in so doing you may influence your entire working situation. The men with whom you work do not need to know how the employer received knowledge of their dishonesty. He will carefully manage such situations. If he does not, you had better find your employment elsewhere. A basic principle of Christianity is fair play and fair work. Non-Christians will be deeply affected by such courage and forthrightness.

My husband and I want to teach our children the dangers of drinking alcohol but we are invited to parties where, for business reasons, we may find it necessary to take a sip or two so as not to hurt the feelings of our hostess. What shall we do?

Why ask me? By your own admission you consider the feelings of your hostess more important than setting an example for your children. Never forget this: you cannot fool your children with pious phrases if they see inconsistencies in your life. There are many people in the world who, "for business reasons," have compromised their convictions. Such compromises hurt the individual and they hurt those they love. Years ago a man left his home, walking in the snow, to go to a place of ill repute. As he left this place he met his son, taking giant strides through the snow. When asked what he was doing, the little fellow said, "I am walking in your steps, Daddy." If you want your children to grow up to be good men and women, surely you must set them such an example in your own home.

I am associated with a man in business who is active in his church on Sunday but who cheats his customers during the week. This has disgusted me with Christianity.

Some of your customers may possibly pay you with a ten-dollar bill which proves to be a counterfeit. Will you stop accepting ten-dollar bills because of a counterfeit? If your business associate is a hypocrite, it is he who is wrong, not Christianity. One can but wonder how you are working out the proceeds of the cheating you mention. If you are profiting by it, you are just as guilty as he. To be perfectly frank, one can but wonder if your so-called disgust with Christianity is not really an excuse for not being a Christian. You know that all of us need Christ. He alone can change our hearts and give us the grace and strength to live as a Christian should live. You evidently have high ideals for Christians. That is fine. See that you live up to those ideals in your own life. You are probably right in your disgust with your associate. Let me urge you to give your heart to Christ so that you can set the right example before him. If you do this, both of you will honor the name of the Christ you profess.

Posted via email from Christian Issues Digest

RonGraff&LampertDolphin: Thy Kingdom Come "Historical Developments: Israel Scattered," (Chp 5)

Chapter 5


Historical Developments: Israel Scattered,
The Church Age, and The Rise of Islam

 

This chapter serves as an annex to Section Two. It traces the major movements of Israel and the church during the past two thousand years. It includes some highlights of the rise of Islam as it affects Israel and the church. Some readers may not be interested in all these details. In that case, we suggest you skip to the beginning of Section Three: The Tribulation Saints.

The birth and growth of the early church was a tumultuous season of change as God began to move in the power of His Spirit to bring men and women into the New Covenant relationship which Jesus had instituted through his disciples at the last supper. The book of Acts tells us about the first three decades of the Works of the Spirit through the Apostles, beginning with Peter's mighty sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Within months the believing community in Jerusalem, (all Jews), who followed Yeshua, numbered several thousand.

The Apostles instituted a division of responsibility in the church by appointing elders to oversee teaching and deacons to be responsible for serving and meeting the immediate physical needs of people in the assembly. Among the newly appointed deacons were two great teachers: Philip the Evangelist and a young man named Stephen. Stephen's stirring speech (Acts 6-7), recounting the history of the Jews to the assembled crowds on the Temple Mount, resulted in his own death by stoning--and this was quickly followed by growing persecution of the "Way" of Yeshua. The opposition came from the traditionally-oriented elements of Jewish leadership.

Jews who had given their allegiance to Yeshua moved in large numbers to other countries beginning what would be later known as the great "Diaspora" of the Jewish people--their exodus from their own land which would prevail for the next 1900 years. Later, as Jewish rebellion against Roman rule continued, the Romans began to forcefully expel the land of its residents, leaving Eretz Israel nearly empty of the Jewish people of all classes and belief.

It was soon obvious to the followers of Yeshua The early church) that God in His sovereign movement in history was also adding multitudes of Gentiles to the Body of Christ. A young Pharisee named Saul, who had been present when Stephen was killed was suddenly converted on the road to Damascus and within a decade became the mighty Apostle Paul--called specifically by the Lord to spearhead the world wide evangelism of the Gentiles. 

Peter meantime led the apostles who were to focus on bringing the good news of Yeshua to Jewish communities beyond the borders of Israel. The other disciples scattered near and far carrying the message of Yeshua to all lands and peoples.

So it was that the focal point of Christianity moved quickly out of Jerusalem to Antioch--about 300 miles to the North--in Syria. While there remained a strong but persecuted church in Jerusalem, the rapid growth of the church was now in Asia Minor, in Africa, Europe and India. 
Jewish resistance to Roman rule in Jerusalem increased in cycles until finally Jerusalem became off limits to Jews all together. Most of the Jews in Israel were forced to flee to foreign lands. They remained in these countries for the next 19 centuries in small communities where their culture and values could be preserved.

The history of Israel in the Diaspora is an utterly amazing chapter of world history, virtually unknown by most Christians today, yet it is a subject most worthy of study. Often ill-treated, forcefully converted, persecuted and frequently killed, these amazing people persisted. God watched over them as he had promised through Ezekiel long ago. He would bring them back to the land when the out-calling of the church was complete:

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, your brothers--your brothers who are your blood relatives and the whole house of Israel--are those of whom the people of Jerusalem have said, 'They are far away from the LORD; this land was given to us as our possession. ' "Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.

"Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again. ' They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 11:14-21)

The definitive history of the Christian church has not yet been written--the book of Acts was just the introduction, the whole story remains yet to be told in full. But all the evidence suggests that the end of the age of the church is now very near.

After most of the Jews left their homeland in the second Century of this era, the land fell into disuse. Once cultivated land reverted to desert and fresh water lakes became useless silted marshes. The land was rocky and devoid of mineral resources in the first place, of little use to anyone except wandering tribes of Bedouins with their flocks, and a few caravan-route travelers. The great ancient civilizations that had ruled the ancient world--Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome had long since faded away and the Holy Land settled in to be an unimportant part of the Byzantine empire. The Emperor Constantine had made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire with headquarters in Constantinople. Foreign rule of Israel by the shifting Gentile world powers (as Jesus predicted) continued. Israel was visited by occasional tourists but the surrounding nations were also poor and backward, not at all the great world powers they once had been. Small numbers of Jews continued to live in the land. They succeeded in preserving the Jewish heritage so that it could later blossom again into life in the Return to the land in our day.

In the 7th Century A. D. a new religion, Islam, burst mightily upon the world scene. The prophet Mohammed was born in Mecca about 570 A. D. By the year 608 the main shrine in pagan Mecca, Arabia was there, called the Kaaba. After receiving profound revelations, supposedly from an angel, and stirred by the polytheistic paganism and disorder at the Kaaba, the prophet went forth, rejected by his people, on his Hijra (migration) from Mecca to Medina. The Hijra of Mohammed in 622 marks the beginning of the Islamic era. Two years later Mohammed's followers defeated the Meccans at the Battle of Badr and in 630 Mecca was conquered by Mohammed and became the spiritual center of Islam. The prophet's goal was to unite the factioned tribes under one chief God, whom he called Allah.

The prophet died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr as the first caliph. The official version of the Koran was established in 650 during the reign of Uthman, 18 years after the prophet's death. By 656 there was considerable civil war within Islam among the "descendants" of Mohammed - disputes of all kinds about who was the legitimate, appointed heir to the faith. Shi'ite extremism in Iraq was part of this revolution and began in 685. These root disputations persist to the present day --Islam is a divided religion in many ways.

During the years 633 to 637 the Arabs conquered Syria and Iraq, followed by Egypt, then Persia in 640 through 643. They because of the charge they believe was given to them by Allah through his prophet Mohammed. Arab armies moved into the Holy Land and were in full control there by 638.

Historian Steve Runciman recounts the conquest of Jerusalem:

On a February day in the year A. D. 638 the Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem, riding upon a white camel. He was dressed in worn, filthy robes, and the army that followed him was rough and unkempt; but its discipline was perfect. At his side was the Patriarch Sophronius, as chief magistrate of the surrendered city. Omar rode straight to the site of the Temple of Solomon, whence his friend Mohammed had ascended into heaven. Watching him stand there, the Patriarch remembered the words of Christ and murmured through his tears: "Behold the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet."

Omar is said to have been shocked at the filth and rubble that lay strewn about the Temple Mount. Because the holy site had been neglected, it is said that he made the Christian Patriarch Sophronius grovel in the muck. Afterward Omar set about clearing the site. He built a wooden mosque on the compound. Most scholars believe the mosque was built on the foundations of an early Christian church.

One well-known historical account contains the following details:


The great mosque of Jerusalem, Al Masjid al Aksa, the " Further Mosque," derives its name from the traditional Night Journey of Mohammed, to which allusion is made in the words of the Koran (xvii. 1): "I declare the glory of Him who transported His servant by night from the Masjid al Haram (the Mosque at Makkah) to the Masjid al Aksa (the Further Mosque) at Jerusalem" - the term "Mosque " being here taken to denote the whole area of the Noble Sanctuary, and not the Main building of the Aksa only, which, in the Prophet's days, did not exist.

According to the received account, Mohammed was on this occasion mounted on the winged steed called Al Burak "the Lightning" and, with the angel Gabriel for escort, was carried from Makkah (Mecca), first to Sinai, and then to Bethlehem, after which they came to Jerusalem. "And when we reached Bait al Makdis, the Holy City," so runs the tradition, "we came to the gate of the mosque (which is the Haram Area), and here Jibrail (Gabriel) caused me to dismount. And he tied up Al Burak to a ring, to which the prophets of old had also tied their steeds. " (Ibn al Athir's Chronicle, ii. 37. ) Entering the Haram Area by the gateway, afterwards known as the Gate of the Prophet, Mohammed and Gabriel went up to the Sacred Rock, which of old times had stood in the center of Solomon's Temple; and in its neighborhood meeting the company of the prophets, Mohammed proceeded to perform his prayer-prostrations in the assembly of his predecessors in the prophetic office Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others of God's ancient apostles.

From the Sacred Rock Mohammed, accompanied by Gabriel, next ascended, by a ladder of light, up into heaven;... Passing through the seven heavens, Mohammed ultimately stood in the presence of Allah, from whom he received injunctions as to the prayers his followers were to perform. Thence, after a while, he descended again to earth; and, alighting at the foot of the ladder of light, stood again on the Sacred Rock at Jerusalem. The return journey homeward was made after the same fashion - on the back of the steed Al Burak and the Prophet reached Makkah again before the night had waned. Such, in outline, is the tradition of the Prophet's Night Journey, which especially sanctifies the Rock and the Haram Area in the sight of all true believers.

After the capitulation of Jerusalem to 'Omar in 635 (A. H 14), that Khalif caused a mosque to be built on what was considered to be the ancient site of the Temple (or Masjid) of David. The traditional position of this site, 'Omar (as it is stated) verified, by the re-discovery of the Rock concealed under a dunghill from the description that had been given to him, 'Omar, by the Prophet, of the place where he had made his prayer prostrations in Jerusalem on the occasion of his Night-Journey.

The Dome of the Rock

In A. D. 691 Caliph Abd el-Malik commissioned the best architects to build the Dome of the Rock. His plan was based upon a Fourth Century Christian shrine on the Mount of Olives marking the site of Jesus' Ascension. The Caliph's new shrine was deliberately built as a political, economic, and religious counter attraction to Mecca. Medina and Mecca, the two cities holy to Islam, were under the control of a rival Caliph. Abd El-Malik sought to build up the importance of Jerusalem as an Islamic center for pilgrimage and worship. The holy spot of Judaism was now to be identified with the spot where Mohammed's horse ascended to heaven.

Another indication that Jerusalem was not considered of great importance to the Muslim armies is the fact that it was one of last cities taken by the Syrian Muslims after the death of Mohammed. It was conquered by a mediocre commander, and not by Omar himself. The Arabs first called the city Ilya (Aelia Capitolina) rather than Beit el-Maqdas (the holy house). An early Muslim proverb says, "One prayer in Mecca is valued as ten thousand prayers; a prayer in Medina is valued at one thousand prayers; and a prayer in Jerusalem at five hundred prayers." 

Although Abd El-Malik had commissioned the structure, it became known as "The Mosque of Omar. " The structure, however, was not (and is not today) a mosque, but rather a shrine.
Inside the Dome is an outcropping of the bedrock of Mount Moriah, the "Sacred Rock. " On the rock's pock-marked surface is one indentation which is believed to be the footprint left by Mohammed as he leapt into heaven. (Pilgrims over the centuries have whittled off pieces of the rock---the Crusaders especially were known to chip "holy souvenirs" from it.) Mount Moriah is a long, extended hill in Jerusalem, extending north from the City of David and extending beyond the present North wall of the Old City. That same hill is the traditional site of Abraham's sacrificial altar for Isaac, the threshing floor or Araunah, and the site of the First and the Second Temple. 
The Foundation Stone is not solid, beneath it lies a cave and a well, known as "the well of souls."
East of the exposed bedrock in the Dome of the Rock is a tall cupboard where it is believed hairs from the beard of Mohammed are contained. Within the hollowed out chamber of under the rock are the "places of prayer" of Elijah, Abraham, David, and Solomon. The Muslims call this cave the "well of souls" where they believe the dead meet twice a week to pray.

In medieval times this spot was considered to be the "center of the world" and was marked such on maps. Since the rock under the Dome of the Rock, where the cave is, shows the effects of quarrying above the level of the cave, it is logical to hold that the rock stood higher originally and that the threshing floor surrounded the rock and the cave.

The exterior of the Dome is covered with tiles from Persia as well as marble. The "Golden Dome" is not made out of gold but rather anodized aluminum. The original dome was wooden, later covered with brass, and then lead sheathing in 1448. The excess weight of the lead-clad dome caused grave concern for the entire building because of periodic severe earthquakes in Jerusalem and finally the anodized aluminum dome. Most recently, in 1993, a million dollars in gold foil was provided by the government of Saudi Arabia as a gift. As of this writing the installation of the gold leaf has now been completed and the dome is today resplendent in brilliant pure gold.
During the seventeen centuries of the Dome's existence it has undergone many repairs but it has not been substantially changed in overall appearance since its completion in A. D 691. After one of the earliest renovations in A. D 820, Caliph al-Mamun removed the name of Caliph Abd el-Malik from the dedication plate and inserted his own name instead. However he neglected to change the dates and his fraud is there for all to see.

The Dome's beauty

Writing about A. D 985, Mukadassi, the famous Muslim traveler born in Jerusalem, wrote:

At the dawn, when the light of the sun first strikes on the cupola and the drum catches the rays, then is this edifice a marvelous site to behold and one such that in all Islam I have never seen its equal; neither have I heard tell of aught built in pagan times that could rival in grace this Dome of the Rock.

A Denial of Christianity

From the Muslim point of view the Dome of the Rock was an answer to and a denial of the attractions of Christianity and its Scriptures, providing the "faithful" with arguments to be used against Christian theology. The inscriptions are seven hundred and thirty-four feet long in all, amongst the lengthiest inscriptions in the world. There is a great amount of repetition and many quotations from the Koran.

The following extracts are relevant:

Inner Face: South Wall. "In the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no God but Allah alone; he has no co-partner. He is the Kingship and His the praise. He giveth life and He causeth to die, and He hath power over everything."

South-East Wall. "Verily Allah and His angels pronounce blessing upon the Prophet. O ye who have pronounced blessings upon Him and give Him the salutation of peace. O, People of the Book [i. e. the Jews and Christians, always referred to as such by the Muslims] do not go beyond the bounds in your religion and do not say about Allah anything but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is but a messenger of Allah and His word which he cast upon Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe only in Allah and of his messenger, but do not say "Three" [Trinity] and it will be better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory that he should have a son."

North Wall. "The Messiah will not deign to be in the service of Allah nor will the angels who stand in his presence. O Allah; pray upon Thy messenger "the servant Jesus - [N-W Wall] the son of Mary and peace be upon him the day of his birth, the day of his death and the day of his being raised alive. That is Jesus, son of Mary - a statement concerning which YOU are in doubt. It is not for Allah to take for Himself any offspring, glory be to Him."

West Wall. "Allah bears witness that there is no God but Him, likewise the angels and the people possessed of knowledge [S-W WALL] - Upholding justice. There is no God but He, the Almighty and All wise. Verily, the religion in Allah's sight is Islam."

Outer Face: West and North-West Walls. "In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate. There is no God but Allah alone. Praise be to Allah who hath not taken to himself offspring. To Him there has never been any person in the sovereignty. Mohammed is the messenger of Allah, may God pray upon Him and accept his intercession."

"Praise be God who has not taken unto himself a son and who has no partner in sovereignty nor has He any protector on account of weakness."

If religious Jews are offended by the presence of this Islamic shrine on their holy mountain, Christians have even more reasons to take offense at these misrepresentations of the character of their God, and the deliberate insults to Biblical revelation which the interior inscriptions clearly intend.

Since it is an historical fact that Mohammed never came to Jerusalem, why is the Temple Mount considered holy to Muslims? One passage from the Koran does link Mohammed with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. It is the seventeenth Sura, entitled "The Night Journey. " In this Sura there is a dream or vision by Mohammed in which he is carried by night "from the sacred temple to the temple that is more remote, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show him of our signs."

Islamic tradition identifies the first temple as Mecca and the second as Jerusalem. Mohammed's journey was with the Archangel Gabriel. Muslim belief says they rode together on a winged steed called El Burak ("lightning"). El Burak is not mentioned in the Koran, its first mention is two centuries after Mohammed's death in a document called Hadith, a collection of oral traditions.
After they arrived at the Temple Mount, Mohammed and horse ascended through the seven heavens into Allah's presence. Various spots on the Mount were later indicated as the place where El Burak was tied up before the ascent into the presence of Allah.

A later account of the night journey states:

The prophet of God said: "While I was sleeping within the wall of the Kaaba, came to see me Gabriel and kicked me with his foot, so I sat up, but not seeing anything, I lay again on my bed. He kicked me then once more, and I sat up and did not see a thing, so I lay back on my bed. He then kicked me a third time and I sat up, whereupon he pulled me by the arm and I rose, and went to the door of the temple. There was standing a white beast, between a mule and an ass in size, with two wings on its thighs, digging its hind legs in and placing its forelegs as far as it can see. Gabriel carried me on the beast, and we went together at the same speed." So the Prophet of God journeyed, and with him also Gabriel, until they reached the temple in Jerusalem. He found there Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among other prophets, and he led them in prayers. Then he was given two vessels, one filled with wine and the other with milk, so the prophet of God took the vessel with milk and drank it, leaving the vessel of wine. Seeing that, Gabriel said to him: "You were guided to the true religion [Islam] and so was your nation, for wine is forbidden unto you."

El Aksa Mosque

El Aksa is mentioned in the Koran in a vision of Mohammed's Ascension. It means the "distant place." This refers to its geographical location far from Mecca. El Aksa is regularly referred to as Islam's third holiest shrine after Mecca and Medina. The present mosque is believed to stand over the area where Solomon built his magnificent palace south of the Temple.

The El Aksa Mosque was built between A. D. 709-715 probably by Caliph Waleed, son of Abdel-Malik, the man who constructed the Dome of the Rock. Throughout the years the mosque has been destroyed several times by earthquakes and subsequently rebuilt. The most prominent remains of the original mosque that has survived are a few supporting columns east of the cupola.
The most important reconstruction was after an earthquake in A. D 1034 when the mosque was enlarged to house 5000 worshipers. The builders used capitals and columns of destroyed Byzantine churches in their reconstruction work.

Jewish Hopes Under Islam

The conquering Muslims brought a different attitude with them. In contrast to the Byzantine and Roman conquerors who let the Temple Mount remain in ruins as a proof of the destruction of Jewish nationalism, the Muslims restored worship to the Mount. Yet the worship was not of Yahweh, the God of the Bible, but of Allah.

When the Muslims became the rulers in Jerusalem some matters became easier for the Jews. They were officially allowed to live in the city and there is evidence that on certain holy days they were even permitted on the Temple Mount.

Reports say that the Jews would march in procession around the walls of the Temple Mount on feast days and pray at the gates. A document written in the tenth century indicates that one of the conditions for allowing the Jews to pray at the gates was that the Jewish community would be responsible for keeping the Mount clean. The Jews, the document states, were responsible to sweep the Mount. Other accounts indicate that Jews were employed in the Mosque area and that Jewish craftsmen made lamps for the Mosque.

The Mishna (Berachot 9:5) reveals that the Jews of all ages are required to show reverence for the site of their former temples:

"No man shall behave frivolously when standing near the eastern gate, which looks to the Holy of Holies: he shall not enter the temple mount with his cane, his shoes, his purse, or the dust on his feet, nor shall he use it as a short cut, still less shall he spit there."

Inscriptions have been found at the gates of the Temple Mount that were probably put there by Jewish Pilgrims during the early Arab rule. One such inscription, when translated, reads:

"You Lord of Hosts build this House in the lifetime of Jacob ben-Joseph, Theophylactus, and Sisinia and Anistasia. Amen and amen. "

The names on the inscription indicate they were Jews from a Greek-speaking country. Though the Jews were allowed more access than in the Roman or Byzantine period, they were still far from their desired goal of retaking Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

The Crusaders Capture Jerusalem

In the last 1300 years, with only one exception, the Temple Mount has been in the hands of Muslims. On July 15, 1099 Jerusalem was taken from the Muslims by the Crusaders from Europe. The Crusaders slaughtered the inhabitants of Jerusalem in an unjustified carnage. The Dome of the Rock was converted into a Christian church called the Templum Domini - "Temple of our Lord."

The Crusaders then began to use the El Aksa Mosque as headquarters for the Knights of the Templar who officiated the Temple Compound. A remnant of the Crusader occupation still exists today, the tombs of the assassins of Thomas Beckett the Archbishop of Canterbury (1118-1170). After murdering Beckett the assassins traveled to Jerusalem and took up with the Templar Knights. Their tombs are situated near the main entrance.

The Western world rejoiced that Jerusalem was in the hands of "Christians. " The victory, however, caused Muslims to immediately launch campaigns to regain the city and the Dome from the Christian infidels.

The Crusader occupation was relatively short-lived. The Muslim leader Saladin (Salah al-Din) proclaimed a jihad, or holy war, to retake the land of Palestine. After ninety years of Crusader control, Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin's army on October 2, 1187. In contrast to the brutality of the Crusaders, Saladin treated the defeated Crusaders with kindness and mercy.

The golden cross that was placed on the Dome of the Rock was torn down. Saladin rededicated the Templar's headquarters as a mosque. The Dome was covered with beautiful mosaics and a prayer niche facing Mecca was added.

Jerusalem was back in the hands of the Muslims and Europe was ready to avenge the defeat. A Third Crusade was undertaken (1189-1192) to free Jerusalem from the armies of Saladin. Richard the Lion-hearted led England and other Crusaders in a fruitless attempt to retake the city. To this day, the Temple Mount remains in Muslim control.

Jerusalem Lies Desolate

In 1267 the Jewish sage Nahmanides wrote a letter to his son. It contained the following references to the land and the Temple.

What shall I say of this land? The more holy the place the greater the desolation. Jerusalem is the most desolate of all... There are about 2,000 inhabitants ... but there are no Jews, for after the arrival of the Tartars, the Jews fled, and some were killed by the sword. There are now only two brothers, dyers, who buy their dyes from the government. At their place a quorum of worshipers meets on the Sabbath, and we encourage them, and found a ruined house, built on pillars, with a beautiful dome, and made it into a synagogue...People regularly come to Jerusalem, men and women from Damascus and from Aleppo and from all parts of the country, to see the Temple and weep over it. And may He who deemed us worthy to see Jerusalem in her ruins, grant us to see her rebuilt and restored, and the honor of the Divine Presence returned.

 

An account exists of Napoleon's visit to the Temple Mount of the 9th of Av, the day of the commemoration of the Temple's destruction. When asked what all the crying and wailing was about, Napoleon was told that the Jews were mourning their Temple which had been destroyed 1900 years previously. Touched by the incident the French Monarch said, "a people which weeps and mourns for the loss of its homeland 1800 years ago and does not forget - such a people will never be destroyed. Such a people can rest assured that its homeland will be returned to it."

Jerusalem Under Turkish Rule

The Ottoman Turks, non-Arab Muslims, became the dominant power in the 15th century. In 1453 they captured the city of Constantinople and brought about the final destruction of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine). They renamed the city Istanbul and made it the center of their empire.
In 1517, under Sultan Selim I, the Turks captured Jerusalem and all of Israel. The rule of the Turks over Jerusalem would last exactly four hundred years. The walls which today surround the Old City were built by Suleiman the Magnificent, son of Sultan Selim. Suleiman restored the Al Aksa Mosque and some of the present stained glass windows date from this period. 
The Arabs found themselves under the domination of the Turks. For four hundred years of Turkish rule the Arabs did not possess even a single, independent state.

Jews Hope for Return

Even during the Jewish exile extending over many centuries, the people continually expressed hope for a return to Jerusalem, for the rebuilding of the city and of the Temple. Two eighteenth century rabbis, Jacob Emden and Jonathan Eibschutz were fierce rivals.

Posted via email from The Last Chance Bible Study

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