Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
Jesus, The Good Shepherd (part 2) - by Pastor Mike Taylor -
"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated" Thomas Paine
The opening paragraph was written by Thomas Paine during the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He was calling to arms those who loved freedom and hated tyranny. We have reached a similar junction in the road we now are faced with in this age of technology and the upheaval that it has caused to allow our government to intrude on every portion of our lives,. The problem will only strengthen as the days grow more treacherous and dangerous as we continue this journey to the end of the days of man's rule upon this earth.
We live in a world in which many people if not most, are engulfed with fear and anxiety. Some fear the future; and they're anxious about what's going to happen in that future. Others fear the past and they're anxious about what has happened. And still others fear even the present as anxiety has gripped their souls and they cannot imagine how they can cope with the ugliness of present circumstances in their lives. Thousands of people each day wake up with untold burdens to bear and anxiety with which they must deal with. Are you one of these? Are you bearing secretly a heavy burden? Are you worried about the future? Are you worried about your finances? Do you see your way of life slipping away, your families future, or the present world around you? Do you worry about the world stage with ongoing terrorism, the failing world economy (at home and abroad) and life in general with all its trials? The world is fearful of the rise of Islam with it's indiscriminate attacks on a peaceful people. The world has been rocked lately and are fearful with indiscriminate school shooting that make no sense, or the past terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, or the attack in Paris, France of armed Muslim thugs who kill "infidels" for their false god, allah and submit to a god that is the antithesis of a loving God found in Christianity. We fear the loss of freedom and the life we have enjoyed up to this point, as the past administration in government appeared to be stripping away our basic freedoms. That has calmed down for the moment with the present POTUS, but how long will evil be kept at bay and not engulf all who call the USA our home?
How can a person cope with what's around them, if they are only relying on themselves feeling so vulnerable to an evil ideology, or for that matter, the evil that resides in our own halls of government and enslave us to the concept of a "new world order"? Many would take up arms and create civil unrest, or break away entirely from the USA, as Texas has threatened or California, but is that the path any of us should take?
Please understand, I feel your pain, as many of those who read this are doing what is required of them in this society. There are those who will not assimilate to the culture of the USA or the rest of the free world. They live in another parallel "dimension" that is governed by hateful beliefs of superiority to other religions and only wish to enslave those who only wish to remain free.
Now look at yourself and what are you trying to do? You may have gone through school, some college, got married, working hard, following what is required to make a living in a peaceful world, but you still are anxious about the future and life in general. You have good reason. How should we respond? The most important question then becomes, "how does God want me to respond to the anxiety in my life?" Thomas Paine wrote the above passage calling on the citizen's physical response to a world ruled by tyranny. I wish to look at how we should respond today, in our time to our world and look at the source of our strength in these troubling times.
LOOK TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD, OUR LORD JESUS.
Like all the great questions of life, scripture affords us an answer. I've been dealing with Roman's chapter 8 in the last few messages, and now let us go to a promise found in the Old Testament of how we can cope with this world from the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. I'm talking about the promises found in a most beloved passage found in the Psalms. In Psalm 23, David gives us the example of how we're supposed to trust in God. Most Christians have put to memory this "pearl" of the Psalms, but never take time to ponder its deep meaning and how it applies to our everyday life. Let us jump back in time, to another time period that was fraught with evil and men that shed blood quite easily. Let us look at the time period from shepherd boy that grew to be a king.
KING DAVID WROTE OF HIS "GOOD SHEPHERD".
There is a lot of commentary on when David actually wrote this Psalm. This was a time when written that David may have been running from Saul, who was trying to kill him, as most people feel this was the history behind this Psalm. Psalm 23 then provides a model for us. It is one of the many paradigms of truth to be followed though-out our lives that is found in your Bible as we respond to all the difficulties and worries that come our way.
The Psalm has two basic divisions, each one providing part of the answer to our question about worry. The first four verses focus on God as the faithful and good Shepherd of His people. It calls us to trust Him as such. The second section made up of the last two verses, focuses our attention on God as a gracious host, preparing a splendid meal for a guest, and results in our rejoicing over His grace toward us.
Take some time and stop for a moment and read this lovely Psalm before you go on. Have you read it? Good, let's move on.
When I examine this lovely Hebrew song in detail, I have the firm conviction that it reaches a perfect climax in the person and the work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I see in the character of the Shepherd, the sweet fragrance of our Savior as I breathe in His Word. This Psalm may not be strictly Messianic in its prediction of the coming of the Jesus the Messiah, but it suggests thoughts that point in the direction of His coming.
Let's jump over to Isaiah 40:10-11:
"Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming day when "the Lord God will come with a strong hand and His strong right arm ruling for Him. He will come to lead us to greener pasture, and return the earth to her former pure state. There will be no need for fear, as the lamb will lay down with the lion.
Another Hebrew prophet in similar vane saw the coming of the Messiah as Lord and Shepherd:
"And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I, The LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them: I, the LORD have spoken". (Ezekial 34:23-24)
Keep in mind that King David had been dead six hundred years when Ezekiel was writing this prophecy! The prophet is speaking of a even greater One, greater than David. He is the Messiah who will come at the end of this age and He will shepherd His people being of the root of David.
JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO LEADS AND GUIDES!
Even though the soul is tossed about with events that are beyond our control, we have solace in the One who walks with us through it all. I am a firm believer that God allows nothing to come against His chosen "sons of God" unless it is in His will and for our ultimate good. I am reminded of the verses found in Romans, and as you may know, one of most favorite chapters that Paul wrote and I must repeat it here:
"For we know that all things work together for good, to those who love God, to them that are the called, according to His purpose.
For whom He foreknow He also predestined to be conformed the image of His Son, that He may be the first born among many brethren,
And whom He foreknew, those He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified, and these He justified, He also glorified.
What shall we say of these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not, along with Him, give us all things? (Romans 8:28-32)
Did you catch that? "along with Him, give us ALL things"....what has God given His only begotten Son? Answer: everything and we will share in that glory. Mind boggling, is it not? It is emphasized in prior verses and these confirm one another:
"The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed with suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time, are not to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:16-18)
It is a glorious promise that God has given to each of us, who call upon the name of Jesus in faith and believing for His Atonement on Calvary's cross and His ultimate resurrection and glorification, sitting now at the right hand of the Father for each of us who embrace this truth.
But you ask, when reading this lovely, poetic verses that Paul wrote, "what can I do right now, in these troubling times?" As mentioned, you need someone to guide you through the mine fields that are the sin soaked earth your feet rest upon. Let us take God's promises, one of thousands listed in the Bible, that let you know God is with you. Jesus leads you and Psalm 23 is a God given promise of being led by God's Holy Spirit in a place where we do not fear, but rely on our Shepherd, Jesus Christ.PSALM 23: A GLORIOUS PROMISE
"The LORD is my shepherd: I shall not want". Psalm 23:1.
There is security in the presence of the good shepherd. The Psalmist David dares to reach out and call Jehovah his very own Shepherd. It is intimately personal. Our God is a personal, loving Father. He is my Shepherd, and He wants to be YOUR Shepherd. You must have faith, as King David did, that God is your guide in this life.
David uses the name of the Lord who is always seen as absolutely faithful to His people. He had a vibrant, living faith in the LORD God. Therefore he can say confidently just as God is faithful in meeting his present needs, God will also meet all his needs in the future. With the LORD as his Shepherd, David looks forward to the future. He will never "suffer any want." Just as the good shepherd provides all that his sheep needs, the LORD will provide all that His people will ever need.
Remember Romans 8:32 quoted above? If you possess the LORD, who possesses all things, then you lack nothing. David thought of God as his protector and provider, but also as his King. He also, thought of Him as his Shepherd, with all the meaning it had in the Near East in general and in the Law in particular. Because the LORD was David's provider, he lacked or wanted for anything. A good shepherd by his very nature will always supply all of the lamb's needs. In a similar way, a good Father will provide for every need of His children.
Some people mistake what the Psalmist is saying here. I had the same problem at one time. Looking back, this troubled me as a small child. I thought that David was saying "I shall not want" or David didn't want God as his shepherd, but I came to understand that it meant, he was not in "want of anything". God will provide.
SATAN TRIES TO STEAL THOSE PROMISES
Note that Satan has attempted to portray God, in mankind's history as a begrudging giver who only provides when He must. Satan desires to deceive those who trust in God, and wants them to believe they are lacking and deprived of the good things in life. This is the picture Satan tries to paint in suggesting that God had withheld the fruit of every tree of the garden from Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:1). God is also portrayed as a begrudging giver in the temptation of our Lord when He was in the wilderness for 40 days (Matt. 4:1-11). Why would anyone listen to the author of all lies? Jesus didn't, why should you?
The mentality behind David's words is completely opposed to the Madison Avenue propaganda where we are constantly being told that we have many needs, all of which can be met by buying some new (or old) product. We need "sex appeal" so we must buy a new toothpaste, a new kind of mouthwash and a new brand of soap. We need self-confidence and a better self-image, therefore we must wear stylish clothing determined by the garment industry. Our whole mode of thinking is "want centered". David tells us that to have God as our shepherd is indeed to have everything we need or want.
As we seek God, we are not getting second best from Him. He is a faithful Shepherd to give us only what is excellent according to His own purpose and divine will. Can we trust Him for that?
So then, if we lack anything in our lives, then God is not our shepherd. Simple as that, as there are only two options. If this world is our shepherd, then we are in want. Or if alcohol or drugs are our shepherd, or hard rock music, or money, sex, or pornography, then we are never satisfied. Be honest with yourself, as no one is looking as you read this. You know that we are forever in some kind of want, some kind of need if we are depending on this world. Because if you will own up to it, we never know exactly what is best for us, especially when things go sour and we don't know where to turn to next. Just step back for a minute and look around you, or read the latest horror reported on your locals newscast, or your published newspaper headlines. Do you need a shepherd?
Point being, we are sheep. The idea is analogy of a sheep going astray. Sheep get into everything self destructive, and they stray easily. Ever been around sheep or goats? Some really dumb animals, but then God says I am one! Kind of hurts your feelings at first, until you realize, you know, He's right. I am a sheep. Without Him as my guide, I'm forever in trouble. We are all prone to wander. Isaiah said it best in chapter 53 and it's a wonderful prophecy about the coming Messiah and a description of Him, of His suffering and why He had to take our place.
"We are all like sheep who have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him, the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)
I know my tendency toward self-indulgent individualism, of going my own way and doing my own thing. That's me. I'm a wandering sheep. And if Jesus Christ is to be my shepherd, I have to admit that I need one. It is difficult, but that is where we must start. Once we admit that need, we discover the truth of what David is saying. "We shall not want."
In this Psalm, David enumerates the ways in which the Good Shepherd meets our needs. The first is found in V.2 and part of V. 3:
"He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water: He restores my soul."
Our God meets the needs of the inner man. Meditate a minute on that verse and the symbolic picture a flock of sheep beside a still, crystal clear pool of water. There is lush green grass all around and perfect peace and harmony. The sheep are in no fear. For men, it is the feeding on His Word. We draw upon Him and we are satisfied. We look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith. Pools of living water, is synonymous with the Holy Spirit that God gave us on Pentecost. And with His Holy Spirit, we should never fear.
"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6:27-35)
The Word of God does this for us. It brings us, first, to the person of Jesus Christ. "Beyond the sacred page", as the old hymn says, "we see the LORD." We see Him , and we eat and drink of Him, and we discover Him to be the resource of what we need. Let's now read what Paul says in II Corinthians 4:15-18:
15 "For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Look at verse 16, "Though the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day,". Our souls are restored. How you say? As we feed upon Him. As we come to know Him, believe what He says, and act on His Word, we discover that the inner man is fed. We draw strength and courage, because of true faith in the true Shepherd of mankind, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, our Lord, the Good Shepherd does another blessing to each of us and that is to give direction in our lives:
"He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake." Psalm 23:3.
The Hebrew word translated "paths" means "a well-defined, well worn trail." That indicates again how easily led astray sheep are. Because even when the trail is well laid out and well traveled from use, they still need a shepherd. They are still inclined to wander away, no matter how obvious the trail may be. The Good Shepherd knows the trail. He has been there before, and the sheep trust Him. People worry about the world's future, the direction in their lives and where they are headed. How will it affect my family, my loved ones around me, my business, my associates? Government tyranny, loss of freedoms, Obamacare, the rise of terrorism even in this country and a world economy teetering on the edge of oblivion. We saw the loss of jobs, no matter what the idiots in Washington spew out to the contrary. We have been given a reprieve as the economy and jobs are growing, but how long will that last? Remember, the tribulation is right at the front door of this world. You may have lost your job in the past. You may also have lost your home or taken a part time job, or even two or three, just to make ends meet. If you're relying on yourself, then I don't blame you for being scared. There is anxiety at every turn.
There is a classic story of a man undergoing basic training in the army. He was pulling KP and was given the assignment of sorting potatoes. There was a huge mound of them and the sergeant told him to put all the bad ones in one bin, and all the good ones in the other bin. The sergeant came back about two hours later to find the man just looking at one potato. There was nothing in the bins. The sergeant yelled, "What the matter, don't you like the work, soldier?" The soldier said, "Sarge, it's not the work, it's the decisions that are killing me."
I often feel that way and I know you do too. We are not afraid of the work, but we have to make countless decisions, day after day, which touch the lives of our children our spouses, and our loved ones in the extended family. We need wisdom. We need somebody who has the answers. We need someone who knows the trails, and someone whom we can trust. We must submit wholeheartedly, to the leadership of the Shepherd. That is the basic attitude we must maintain. Unless we are willing to admit that we don't know the way through the wilderness and faithfully submit to His leadership, we will never find the way. Just ask any newly homeless person who is lost in despair, or the latest suicide attempt placed on suicide watch at a local hospital what they fear the most. To most is a loss of hope, or a loss of any control over their lives.
Like a good shepherd, our Lord and Savior delivers us from the feelings of anxiety and promises that He will always be with us, and will never forsake us. But first we have to submit to His direction, His leading and realize that we don't know the way through this crooked path in front of us, which is our daily lives, We need a shepherd that does know the way. We must look to Jesus for our guidance through this world in which we are but pioneers, sojourners in a land that is not our home.
I call upon you to put your faith and trust in the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He has died to save each of us, who call upon His Name in faith believing. I'm throwing you a life-line right now....grab onto it and hold tight, don't ever let go and put your total faith and trust in the only true Friend you will ever have, the Lord God, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Do it today, and you will have hope that you never experienced before, because Jesus and His Holy Spirit will be right there to guide you."For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18)
Grab a hold of the Holy Son of God and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is the Son o f God, who died for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world, was raised to life by the Father in heaven, having defeated death, hell, and the grave...who is sitting right now, at the right hand of ABBA Father in Heaven, and who is coming again to reign and rule on this earth for 1000 years, but before that, He will remove His church from this planet in what the Bible in Greek, calls the "harpazo" or forceful removal of His Bride from this planet. We will be changed instantly into immortal beings...and friend, it could happen tomorrow, next month, but happen it will soon...How soon, only God knows the day or the hour, but we are definitely in the season of the return of our Lord called the "rapture of the Church" or mentioned, the "harpazo" that Paul spoke about in 1st Corinthians, and 1st Thessalonians....we are waiting with undying hope of His soon return....Confess the Lord now, and join us in the climatic event that will throw the whole world into complete chaos.....The Tribulation is at hand, and Jesus is coming first to remove us from planet earth. Let the Shepherd guide you into all truth and keep you until that day of His return for His bride.
"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 10:8-11)
This is Pastor Mike Taylor, praying you find and receive my Lord Jesus, the Shepherd of our lives....if you need prayer, counseling, or just a friendly listening ear, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ,, God bless you all.
In Islam, Jerusalem is not Mecca - by A. Z. Mohamed -
Intriguingly, only when non-Muslims are in control of Jerusalem do Muslims seem to remember the city. Otherwise, as history shows, Muslims have never attached real significance to it. They never claimed Jerusalem as the capital of any country or empire. In fact, Muhammad instructed his people not to pray toward Jerusalem, as they had done previously, but to Mecca:
"And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith." - Quran 2:143, Sahih International.
Certain Quranic verses, moreover, emphasize Jerusalem's connection to the Jews and contradict its Islamization. The Quran does not promise Muslims to enter or rule Jerusalem. In fact, one of its verses quotes the Prophet Moses instructing the Jews to enter the Holy Land (al-ard al-muqaddesa) that God has given to them - including Jerusalem. This is a verse, however, that the majority of Arabs and Muslims choose to ignore:
"O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah 's cause] and [thus] become losers." - Quran 5:21, Sahih International.
An interpretation of the verse identifies al-ard al-muqaddesa as Beit al-Maqdis, or Jerusalem and its surroundings (here, here), or the region stretching from Egypt to Euphrates river (here).
In another verse, God Himself instructs the Children of Israel to dwell in the land:
"And We said after Pharaoh to the Children of Israel, "Dwell in the land, and when there comes the promise of the Hereafter, We will bring you forth in [one] gathering." - Quran 17:104, Sahih International.
Again, "the land" in this verse is al-Sham (Levant), a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and north of the Arabian Peninsula and south of Turkey.
"It was for the British that Jerusalem was so important - they are the ones who established Jerusalem as a capital," said Professor Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, a historical geographer at Hebrew University, to the New York Times. "Before, it was not anyone's capital since the times of the First and Second Temples," Ben-Arieh added.
In December 1917, the British general Edmund Allenby seized control of Jerusalem from its Ottoman Turkish rulers.
In December 1949, the State of Israel decided to hold its Knesset sessions in Jerusalem and declared Jerusalem its capital. Then, In 1980, its Knesset passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel and declared Jerusalem, complete and united, to be Israel's "eternal and indivisible capital."
Jerusalem was not even mentioned in the original Palestine National Charter (1964) or in the 1968 amended Palestinian National Charter. In the 1996 amendment, Jerusalem (Al-Quds) was only mentioned in the context of talking about UN resolutions relating to the status of the city.
Only in the transitional constitution of the Palestine authority (the Palestine Basic Law, approved by PLC in 1997, signed in 2002), does one find an article stating that Jerusalem is the capital city of "Palestine."
It is remarkable that in spite of almost 1,200 years of Muslim rule, Jerusalem "never served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state, and it never became a cultural or scholarly center. Little of political import by Muslims was initiated there." Islam and Muslims' real connection to Jerusalem only came about six years after Prophet Muhammed's death, when in 638 CE, the Caliph Omar and his invading armies captured Jerusalem.
Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Omar was given a tour of the city, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When the time for the Muslim prayer came, Omar declined the invitation by Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, to pray inside the Church and instead prayed outside. Omar's fear was that that Muslims who would come after him might establish a mosque in place of the church if he would pray at the site. Omar, then, was conscious of what belonged to the Muslims and what belonged to the Christians.
Jerusalem's Temple Mount and the Rock (or "Foundation Stone") located there have been sacred to the Jews for millennia in their daily lives. According to Jewish tradition, the Rock is where Abraham, the progenitor and first patriarch of the Hebrew people, had prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Temple Mount was also the site of Solomon's Temple and its successor, the Second Temple (also known as Herod's Temple). Since the Temples' destruction -- the First Temple at the hands of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BCE, and the Second Temple at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE -- the "Western Wall" of the Temple Mount (a retaining wall) is all that remains of the Temples, and the Temple Mount has since been the the direction towards which Jews face when praying.
According to al-Tabari  and Ibn Kathir , when Omar arrived at the Temple Mount, he prayed with his back to the Rock, facing Mecca in the southern corner of the platform, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque was later constructed.
Omar was therefore the first Muslim to pray on the Temple Mount. However, he clearly showed that the Mount and the Rock were no longer Muslims' Qibla (the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays). The Mount was the direction of Muslim prayers till 622 CE, when it was changed to the Kaaba in Mecca for eternity (Quran 2:142-145). However, the Mount and Rock were still sacred, and supposedly Islamic, because in 621 CE Prophet Muhammad told his followers that he had ascended into heaven from the site of the Rock.
In an attempt to transform Jerusalem into an Islamic sanctuary, or to Islamize it, the Dome of the Rock shrine was built over the Rock in 691-692 CE, and Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in 705 CE by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān, some 55 and 70 years respectively after Muslim armies captured Jerusalem.
Although the Dome of the Rock structure (Arabic: Qubbat al-Ṣakhrah) is "the oldest extant Islamic monument," it is not a mosque and does not fit easily into other categories of Muslim religious structures. The Dome's "grand scale and lavish decoration," as well as the extravagant services to its visitors, prompted some Muslim historians, such as Ibn Kathir and Ibn Taymiyyah to report that the Damascus-based Abd al-Malik built the Dome in an attempt to divert Muslims away from the Kaaba and toward Jerusalem while Mecca was under the control of rebels led by Abdullah Ibn al-Zubayr. That was probably the first time the Muslims had used Jerusalem in an internal political rivalry.
Scholars have also argued that Abd al-Malik built the Dome to proclaim the emergence of Islam as a supreme new faith. According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
"The Dome's grand scale and lavish decoration may have been intended to rival that of the Christian holy buildings of Jerusalem, especially the domed Church of the Holy Sepulchre. According to this view, the message of Islam's supremacy was also conveyed by the Dome's Arabic inscriptions, which present a selection of Quʾrānic passages and paraphrases that outline Islam's view of Jesus-i.e., denouncing the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, while emphasizing the unity of God and affirming Jesus' status as a prophet."
Notably, Ibn Taymiyyah decried not only the lavish decoration, but also the construction of the Dome itself as a kind of bidaa (heresy).
In a further Islamization of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount mosque was named Al-Aqsa, meaning in Arabic, "the farthest mosque", the same phrase used in a key passage of the Quran called "Al-Israa, the Night Journey":
"Exalted is He who took His Servant [Mohammed] by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing." - Quran 17:1, Sahih International.
Naming the Jerusalem mosque Al-Aqsa was an attempt to say that the Dome of the Rock was the very spot from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, thus connecting Jerusalem to divine revelation in Islamic belief. The problem however, is that Mohammed died in the year 632, which was 73 years before the first construction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was completed.
For Muslims, Jerusalem's significance is dependent upon political and religious rivalries; its importance appears evident when non-Muslims (including the Crusaders, the British, and the Jews) control or capture the city. Only at those phases in history did Islamic national leaders claim Jerusalem as their holiest city after Mecca and Medina.
Unsurprisingly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas once decried Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar, claiming that the latter had minimized Jerusalem's significance by saying that "Jerusalem is not Mecca," when Abbas had insisted on 2006 legislative elections being held in Jerusalem. If Al-Zahar had said that "Jerusalem is not Mecca and is not sacred," he would have said the truth.
In Islam, Jerusalem is only blessed, but not sacred. Mecca it is not.
A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.
 The History of al-Tabari Vol. 12: The Battle of al-Qadisiyyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine A.D. 635-637/A.H. 14-15, pages 194-195. Published by State University of New York Press, Albany, 1992.
 Ibn Kathir (in Arabic, Bidaya), published by Maktabit AlMaaref, Beirut, 1966, II, page 96; VII, pages 54-56.
Where's God? - By Jonathan Brentner -
I'm deeply grieved by what I see today. I fully realize that evil has existed since the Garden of Eden, and I also know that past civilizations have exhibited the same wickedness, or worse, before their demise.
However, three things make today unique in history:
The convergence of biblical signs pointing to the coming time of tribulation
The rapid growth of godlessness and violence in our nation and world
The wide acceptance by so many churches of sinful and shameful behavior
The foremost evil that saddens my heart is abortion. Scripture teaches that life begins at conception, but in America we not only murder these precious children, but sell their body parts.
Then there is the epidemic of sex trafficking. Just as with abortion, the most innocent among us become the victims of heartbreaking violence. To make matters worse, pedophilia is taking the same route to acceptance in our culture that homosexuality took years ago. They are making the same arguments and promoting this hideous behavior under the banner of love. Sadly, they are gaining acceptance in many places.
In addition, our country is divided as never before. Conservatives and those who hold biblical values are harassed and chased out of restaurants. Politicians threaten violence against our President and those who support him. Violence erupts on our streets as Antifa seeks to suppress opposing viewpoints through force, much like the KKK did in the past.
If you are like me, you sometimes wonder, "Where's God in all this? Does He not see the ever increasing wickedness and bloodshed?"
The Lord responded to my questions by turning my attention to the book of Habakkuk, named after a prophet who ministered in Judah shortly before Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and took the people captive.
The Lord Sees
As I read the first chapter of Habakkuk, I again saw the eerie similarity of the prophet's remorse to what I see today. Notice his complaint in verses 2-4:
"O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted."
Habakkuk saw the evil around him in Judah and asked the same basic question so often on our minds, "Where are you, Lord? Do you not see the evil, violence, and injustice?"
God's answer to the prophet in verses 5-11 likely surprised him. Not only did the Lord see the wickedness and perversion of justice in Judah, He told him that judgment was on the way. "Look to the nations, and see," the Lord told Habakkuk. God was bringing the Babylonians against Judah because of her sins.
In a similar way, I believe the Lord might say this to us today, "Look to the nations and see the many, many signs of the quickly approaching tribulation. Judgment is on its way; it's only a matter of time."
God sees the evil and violence to our most vulnerable, and I believe it grieves Him more than it does us to see innocent lives destroyed before they even have the chance to take a breath.
God's Judgment Will Surely Come
Habakkuk, however, was not too pleased with God's answer to him. How dare He use the godless Babylonians to punish His chosen people? Does He not know the extent of their great violence and wickedness? (See Hab. 1:12-2:1)
The Lord responded by assuring Habakkuk the Babylonians would not escape His wrath. He would bring judgment against them as well. Notice the words of the Lord in Habakkuk 2:3, "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."
I believe God revealed His plans to the prophet for the near term as well as for the distant future. This becomes clear in His promise of a glorious future time when the earth will be "filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (2:14). We still wait for this glorious day.
Do you see the connection to today? God's judgment will surely come; He will deal with the violence, immorality, and evil all around us. At times the Lord's response to these things indeed seems slow, especially for those of us who are eagerly waiting for Jesus' appearing.
It seems like a long tiring wait, does it not?
In His mercy and patience, God is waiting until He has no other choice than to send judgment, until He has given our nation and the world as much time as possible to repent and turn to Him.
Delay or no delay, I believe Jesus is coming soon. At times I'm surprised we are still here. At other times I recognize God's patience, and realize I cannot even hazard a guess as to when He might be coming for us.
However, one thing remains constant. If you have not yet put your trust in our wonderful Savior for the forgiveness of your sins, now is the time to call upon the name of the Lord. Please turn to Him in faith while you still have time. When Jesus comes for His church, He will do so quickly!
Jonathan C. Brentner
Are Things Really All That Bad Today?
- Nathele Graham - email@example.com
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:28.
Times are tough, but is it really all that bad today? Haven't crimes happened since the Garden of Eden? Yes they have, but it's getting worse. That shouldn't surprise Christians because Scripture tells us things will get worse as we draw closer to the end of time. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." 2 Timothy 3:1. Perilous? That English word doesn't have quite the impact that the Greek word "chalepos" has. This word means "harsh, fierce, savage". Is it really that bad today? Most of us don't catalog news headlines. When a perilous event happens we watch the news, feel sickened, then move on because the media moves on. When the next big event happens we're horrified, but then move on once again. These perilous events are happening more frequently with violence and hatred growing stronger. The end times are upon us, but are things really all that bad today?
In telling Timothy of the perilous last days, Paul described various things to watch for. "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers ,false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." 2 Timothy 3:2-5. All of these attitudes have been around for a long time, but it's getting worse. The self-centeredness of so many people is astounding. Whatever they can get without giving is fine. The natural affection that parents have for their children is growing cold. Every time I read of a parent who's abused or killed their child my heart breaks. The natural affection of a godly marriage is being replaced by perversions of one night stands and homosexual relationships. That's far from natural. Blasphemers? The mocking of our Lord is getting more outspoken and "hate speech" laws protect everyone except Christians. Despisers of those who are good? Today good is considered bad and bad is considered good. When a so-called comedienne can gain fame for pretending to hold up the severed head of the US President, that's having cold heart. We are in perilous times, but are things really all that bad today?
To get better idea of what "chalepos" means, we need to turn to Scripture. This particular word is used twice in the New Testament. Paul uses it in 2 Timothy 3:1, but the other place it's used describes demon possession. "And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way." Matthew 8:28. This time "chalepos" is translated "fierce". Matthew lets us know in one word how evil this demon possession was, but Mark uses more words to describe it. "And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs crying, and cutting himself with stones." Mark 5:2-5. In Luke 8:27 we find out that this man had been demon possessed for a long time and also that he wore no clothes. That's pitiful but he chose this. In order to possess a person, demons need to be invited in. By using mind-altering drugs or dabbling with other occult practices you give them an invitation. Are things really all that bad today? Many people have had sexual encounters with demons. Do you believe that? If you haven't done any research then you probably think this doesn't happen. Demons are very real and very evil, and the occult is permeating our society. The entertainment industry is leading way in making demon encounters seem normal. Mind altering drugs allow demons to have possession of a person and that starts at a young age. A very large number of children are prescribed drugs to alter their minds. Are they unruly? Give 'em drugs. Do they have too much energy? Give 'em drugs. Do some research on the mass shooters and you'll find that they're all on some form of mind altering prescription drug and most hear voices telling them to kill. Also pay attention to the rising number of public nudity coupled with violence and superhuman strength. These things are demonically inspired. Occult practices are on the rise and are openly embraced today. It's now the theme of movies and television programs. The internet can be a wonderful tool used to spread God's word or it can be used for evil, such as the slender man delusion which was the evil behind two young girls who brutally stabbed a friend numerous times and left her for dead. Indeed, these are perilous times, but are things really all that bad today?
There's no doubt that Satan is pure evil and he's a liar. Satan and his minions encourage violence and desire to destroy humans. Satan rebelled against God and a third of the angels followed him in that rebellion. These unholy angels mated with human women and had offspring called Nephilim. They corrupted the human genome, but these evil beings also corrupted all of creation and God was force to do something to protect the remaining uncorrupted creation. "And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them." Genesis 6:7. Noah and his family remained true to God and stayed genetically pure. God's judgment came by a flood and destroyed everything except for Noah, his family, and some animals who survived in the Ark. Jesus said that the end times would be like in the days of Noah. "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Matthew 24:37. All of creation was being corrupted and people were just going on as if all was well. Are things really all that bad today? Scientists in labs around the world are corrupting the genetics of humans, animals, and plants. Babies are being born with a triple helix DNA instead of the normal double helix. Human/animal hybrids are grown in Petri dishes. Food is being genetically tampered with, pigs and sheep are genetically altered to grow human organs, and so much more horrible tampering with God's creation happens around the world. If that isn't bad enough there's artificial intelligence. Have you seen Sophia? This robot looks human, carries on spontaneous conversations in any language, and has a sense of humor. Elsewhere, scientists are enhancing humans to have super-human abilities. Look into transhumanism and be horrified. Science fiction of yesterday is science reality today, and that's not good.
When Jesus walked the Holy Land with His disciples there was a lot of persecution and many of the Jewish people were looking for the Messiah to rescue them. Unfortunately most of them didn't recognize Him. As the time drew near for Jesus to be crucified a few of His disciples asked Him about the end of the age. At that point they didn't know they were chosen to establish the Christian faith nor did they know about the Rapture, so they didn't ask about that. They wanted to know about the last days. Jesus gave a long list of what to look for, including "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." Matthew 24:7. These things have always happened, but it's all getting worse as we move closer to Daniel's 70th week. Today we see civil unrest within nations and wars among the nations. The United States is on the brink of a civil war with the demon-inspired hatred and venom from the liberals becoming more and more violent. In Venezuela the people are ready to rebel against their socialist government. The people of Iran are turning against their rulers. In South Africa the government is taking land away from white farmers who have been there for generations. Muslim immigration into non-Muslim nations is causing tension as they try to implement sharia law. Tensions between nations around the world is at an all time high. Jesus went on to talk about persecution, betrayal, false prophets, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Matthew 24:12. Beginning in Revelation chapter 6 we read about what happens after the Rapture. God's wrath will be poured out upon all who've rejected Christ and remain on earth. The judgments begin as Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, begins to open the seals of a scroll. When He opens the second seal a red horse is released. "And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." Revelation 6:4. The word "kill" is translated from the Greek word "sphazo" which means to butcher or slaughter and put to a violent death. Are things really all that bad today? Remember, the question the disciples asked was about the end, not about the Rapture, and Jesus described events leading up to the Rapture, as well as afterwards. As the end of time draws near we see these signs all coming clearly into view. As that time period looms on the horizon the days are becoming more and more evil. It seems as if every day there's a news story of someone killing their girlfriend then eating her or a child being kidnapped, abused, and killed. In America the radical left seem to be crazed by demons as they violently attack anyone who has a different opinion. Hearts are waxing colder and colder. Times are indeed becoming perilous.
Are things really all that bad today? Yes. The end times events have begun and are becoming stronger. As Christians we're admonished to live differently than the worldly people around us. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" Titus 2:11-12. The world we live in is our temporary home. No matter how bad things may seem today our eternal home is with our Lord. Only Christians have hope for eternal life, whether through our own death or by the Rapture. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." Titus 2:13-14. If you haven't accepted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ then you will face the horrendous time of Great Tribulation. Accept Christ's sacrifice now because tomorrow may be too late. If you have accepted Him, then start living your life to honor Him.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham's previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is "theopneustos" God breathed.
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Daily Jot: The sky is falling "journalist" protest - Bill Wilson - www.dailyjot.com
As news comes in about the news-writers whining that they are not promoting fake news at the expense of democracy, let us consider an excellent example that clearly demonstrates why these leftists who call themselves journalists are actually biased propagandists. The mainstream media refusal to even consider that Hillary Clinton and the immediate past president were behind the entire genesis of Russians influencing the election by collaborating with Donald Trump is evidence of extreme bias. It's similar to global warming where the news media covering climate change refuses to acknowledge the proof that the very scientists who were advocating the position fudged the data to support their cause.
The entire narrative of the Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election and Trump's alleged collaboration, began with a false dossier on Trump assembled by British spy Christopher Steele, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign to FBI. This information was used to authorize a warrant from the secret FISA Court for spying on Trump under the direction of the immediate past president. The entirety of these events were part and parcel to the establishment of the Mueller Special Counsel and the ongoing attempt to remove a duly elected President from office since before he took office-a coup attempt.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Request of government watchdog Judicial Watch confirm, according to the organization's president, Tom Fitton, "the shady, cash-based relationship the [sic past president's] FBI had with Clinton operative Christopher Steele. The anti-Trump Russia "investigation" had Christopher Steele at its center, and his misconduct was no impediment to using information from his Russia intelligence collaborators to spy on the Trump team. The corruption and abuse is astonishing." These are facts and evidence supporting an entirely different narrative where Clinton, the previous president, his Justice Department, State Department and FBI conspired to attempt to prevent a president from even taking office, and set in motion a massive effort to remove him from office.
Yet the mainstream leftist journalists refuse to even consider these documented facts. Instead, they cry aloud that the President characterizes them as purveyors of fake news and a threat to democracy. While the sky may not be falling in reality, we are witness to an Isaiah 59:13-14 type of moment: "In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter." If the Lord is truth, and these so-called journalists are transgressing against truth, who are they against?
Daily Devotional: The Master Class on Prayer - By Greg Laurie - www.harvest.org
"When you pray, don't babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again." -Matthew 6:7
Imagine if you could go to a university and hear from the most learned people who have ever lived. You could study music under Beethoven, political science with Thomas Jefferson, drama with Shakespeare, or philosophy taught by C. S. Lewis. Or how about this? How about a class on prayer taught by Jesus Christ?
That is what the Lord's Prayer is. And who better qualified to tell us about talking to God than God himself? This is the master class on prayer. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gives us what is known as the Lord's Prayer. By the way, the Bible never calls this prayer the Lord's Prayer. We refer to it as such because it's known that way. However, this is a prayer that Jesus himself never would have prayed, because one of the petitions is "forgive us our sins" (verse 12 NLT).
This is a prayer for us. It's a model prayer, and we should look at it very carefully. Although nothing is wrong with praying the Lord's Prayer verbatim, it is also a model for all prayer. Jesus is basically saying, "If you want to pray effectively so that God will hear you, then pray this way."
The problem with the Lord's Prayer isn't the prayer itself; it's with us. It may be the single set of words spoken more often than any other words in the history of the world. The difficulty is they are so familiar. We have said these words so many times that we don't hear them anymore.
We need to slow down and break it down. Every word that Jesus used was intentional. Every phrase was meaningful. The very order of the prayer is significant. We want to look at it very carefully, because from it we can learn how to pray.
FROM THE HEART
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