Archaeology: The Stones Cry Out!

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he faced an interesting exchange with the religious Pharisees. Crowds gathered to adore and honour Jesus. The Pharisees were deeply offended. They rebuked him and suggested he should not be received and honoured with such adoration and dignity. In the midst of this spectacle Jesus answered very distinctly. He turned and indicated his disciples saying, if they did not praise him, the stones would do it! (See Luke chapter 19, verse 40) He might have said, My creation would declare Me!

October has been a rocks crying out month in Israel. It is as though the world makes an absurd declaration and creation screams, “Rubbish!”

Papyrus

images-1In October, the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled a 2,700 year old papyrus that predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by centuries. In fact radiocarbon dating has determined the papyrus is from the 7th century BCE.

Immediate debate over the authenticity began. A Professor Rollston from George Washington University said, ‘Ancient papyrus is readily available for purchase online. No modern forger worth his or her salt would forge an inscription on modern papyrus.”

A professor from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem debunked the criticism pointing out the wording used on the papyrus was very rare.

Amor Ganir (Antiquities Authority) said the writing was the first mention in Hebrew of the city of Jerusalem, outside the New Testament. It proved, he said, ‘Jews were in the city 2,700 years ago.”

Temple Mount

Another October gem was uncovered when Israeli and Muslim authorities worked together on the Temple Mount. The artifacts unearthed were the first dated to the time of the First Temple, more than 2,600 years ago. The limited scientific excavations were the first of their kind since the British Mandate.

“It’s the first time that we’ve found artifacts from this period in situ on the Temple Mount,” said Yuval Baruch, the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The digs were carried out between 2007 and last year after the Waqf requested authorization from Israel to perform maintenance work on infrastructure servicing the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Baruch teased further information will be published including findings uncovered while working on Solomon’s Stables.

Titus

A breach uncovered in the Third Wall of Jerusalem was the very place the Roman armies broke through in 70CE. That incursion led to the destruction of the Second temple.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western façade were scores of ballista and sling stones that they attribute to Roman forces firing from catapults.

“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple,” concluded Dr Rina Avner and Kfir Abib, excavation directors for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

 Jesus’ Tomb

images-2The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a prominent attraction for Christian visitors to Israel. It is also known as the Church of the Resurrection for some. A discovery, archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert called ‘astonishing’ came about through renovation work.

Working in the innermost chamber of the site, a restoration team peeled away a layer of marble to what is believed to be the rock surface on which the body of Jesus Christ was placed.

National Geographic is partnering with experts to document the work.

The circumstances leading to this treasure was sparked when Israeli police briefly shut down the building when it was declared unsafe by Israel Antiquity Authorities. This prompted the Christian denominations who share the space to OK the necessary repairs.

A media report gave a first hand account (“Restoration workers peel back ancient layers surrounding cave said to be Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem”, October 29, 2016, news.com.au)

“David Grenier, secretary of a group that oversees Roman Catholic church properties in the Holy Land, stood with a few other Franciscan friars, watching the work crew in awe. “What happened here 2000 years ago completely changed the history of the world,” he said. “To be able to dig, let’s say, to the rock where the body of Jesus was laid … it’s overwhelming joy.”

At one point, a National Geographic film crew documented the site as clergy burned incense around them in a daily church rite.

After the film crew cleared out, a pair of clergymen in brown frocks, and an Israeli policeman stationed at the church to help keep the peace, clambered over a pile of work tools, electrical wires and a yellow hard hat on the Edicule floor to lean into the inner chamber and snap cell phone photos of the exposed tomb.

“It’s a historic moment, huh?” the policeman said.

Clifford Wilson asked: “Does Archaeology Support the Bible” He wrote; “… archaeology has done a great deal to restore confidence in the Bible as the revealed Word of God. It has thrown a great deal of light on previously obscure passages and has helped us to understand customs, culture, and background in many ways that seemed most unlikely to our fathers in a previous generation. Archaeology is highly relevant for understanding the Bible today..”

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Releasing the Spiritual Burden

unknown“I can only see the decline and fall of the US and the West as part of God’s just judgment. Our time in the limelight may well be over. We may well be entering into a new dark ages. Should the Lord tarry, we may be witnessing the collapse of the West, and the rise of heaven knows what – but it is looking very grim right now.” Bill Muelenberg wrote that last month. (billmuelenberg.com, October 20,2016)

His comment is stark, maybe  confrontational, but I believe he is right but there’s more. This from Macolm Muggeridge: “If, then, all the signs point to the decline and impending fall of what we continue to call Western Civilization, to be followed by another Dark Age, this no more represents any finality in human history than other such developments have in the past.

“I think of St. Augustine when in A. D. 410 the news was brought to him in Carthage that Rome had been sacked. It was a sore blow, but as he explained to his flock: “All earthly cities are vulnerable. Men build them and men destroy them. At the same time there is the City of God which men did not build and cannot destroy and which is everlasting.” – (The End of Christendom, Malcolm Muggeridge0

We are living in Days of Arrogance. Politicians proudly proclaim what they can do to change our circumstances. Sadly they come and go and the newcomers make even more boastful claims. Preachers too, make bold so-called prophetic proclamations that prove to be false. How many times have we preached on the Second Coming or the Last Days? In the midst of it all, the world has grown weary.

Power

The power to overcome is found in faith, in what Muggeridge called ‘The City of God.’ Despite the ugliness around us, God is in control. He will work all things together for good. He has prepared a mansion for us but it is in His Kingdom not ours.

There is an enlightening lesson in the Book of Daniel. It has to do with King Nebuchadnezzar who ruled the mighty Babylonian Empire. He rejected the authority of God and instead relied on his own arrogance and ego. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne to live with animals in the field for seven years. Daniel chapter 4, verse 17 says in part ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will, and sets over it, the lowliest of men.’ (The King James version says ‘the basest of men.”)

imagesMy thoughts go out to the people who had to suffer under such a selfish King. Even now when I hear preachers tell me how God is going to provide comfort and luxury for all believers, I argue, tell that to our brothers and sisters in Aleppo, Mosul or Sudan. The Bible is rife with stories of Christians who suffer. The circumstances highlight how awesome the promise of our heavenly kingdom really is.

Lessons

In 2002 Richard F. Ames wrote “There is a God in heaven who is working out a great plan here on earth. He is giving human beings and human civilization six millennia to experiment with religion, science, government, business, education and social institutions. God is allowing human beings to go their own predictable, carnal way of selfishness, war, and violence, but He often intervenes in order to teach lasting lessons of life and death.” (Rise and Fall of Nations, Richard F. Ames, tomorrowsworld.org)

Contrast that comment to another Malcolm Muggeridge classic quote: “So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”

The Chinese theologian Watchman Nee lived with brutal persecution. In his book ‘The Spiritual Man’ he said: “Man’s head damages people more than man’s heart! Were believers to learn how to distinguish the renewal of the heart from the renewal of the head, they would not commit the mistake of believing in man.” Nee draws an important line between the Burdens of the Spirit and the Weight of the Spirit. I want to address the difference because I sense there are many faithful believers who feel the weight in these difficult times.

First of all differentiate between the Burden and the Weight. Jesus will give us the Burden but the Weight is from the enemy. “Any weight on the spirit has no other objective than to oppress it; it therefore usually serves no purpose and produces no fruit,” Nee says. That same Weight can cast you down, quench your vitality and lead to a sense of hopelessness, certainly Satanic domain.

On the other hand a Burden of the Spirit will lead you to pray, to intercede, to gather with friends and to seek the Lord. A Burden may lead you to preach or teach. You may have guidance to share, to worship, to proclaim the almighty power of God into a specific situation. (I am constantly burdened to pray for the innocent who suffer under the brutality of terrorism.) Then having given that Burden to the Author of our faith we can enter again into His glorious Joy!

Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html

Internet Porn, A Click a WAY

images-1Recently I asked my Facebook followers to suggest topics we can consider here. Susan was first. She asked if online (internet porn) is ‘natural, harmless, destructive and addictive?’

Way before the internet, lust had powerful sway. One of the earliest reports described David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel chapter 11, verses 2-4). David saw Bathsheba bathing. She was very beautiful and ‘David sent messengers and took her,’ the Bible graphically reports. Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 28)

Years ago our Mens’ study fellowship was led by Rev Charles Widdowson. When asked how men could defend against lustful thoughts living in a city where beachside and bikinis flourished, he advised, we should praise God for female beauty and thank the Lord for His creation. (It is very hard to transgress when we bring the Lord into our thought-life).

The Bible says Christians should be ‘transformed by the renewal of the mind.’ (Romans chapter 12, verse 2) The world floods the mind with all manner of images. It is an all out war specifically attacking the mind.

Chuck Swindoll

The Apostle Paul addressed the issue. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans.” (1 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 1) Strong language, and note these remarks were addressed to the Christians in Corinth. Fifty four percent of pastors said they viewed porn according to a Focus on the Family survey. In that same poll 47 percent of those surveyed said porn is a problem in the home.

On his Insight for Living website Chuck Swindoll wrote: “The most recent studies available suggest that one out of every two people-that’s 50 percent of the people sitting in our pews, are looking at and/or could be addicted to Internet pornography… Truth be told, that statistic could be even higher…”

So powerful is internet porn, it killed Playboy magazine. The Playboy chief executive Scott Flanders said, “The battle has been fought and won. You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free.”

Pamela Anderson the last Playboy cover-girl spoke about pornography. “Girls and guys are affected by this because young people are looking at this thinking, ‘this is how I have to act and behave in a sexual relationship.’”

There are many clinical surveys that highlight lasting mental hang-ups from porn addiction. One major problem is a difficulty to achieve intimacy with a real partner. “It is toxic miseducation about sex and relationships,” said Dr Mary Anne Layden

In his book The Centerfold Syndrome, Dr Gary Brooks writes that women in porn are only seen as glossy pictures or pixels on the screen with no sexual or relational expectations of their own. Thus men are trained for fantasy without commitment.

School Children

images-2Paul Antonio, the mayor of Queensland city Toowoomba led a pledge against pornography. The Mayor conceded this initiative in a city of 100,000 people is just the first step but it is a start.

Last year the National Boys Health Forum learned boys aged 12-17 were the fastest growing users of pornography. 88 percent of porn sites aimed their aggression at women.

Jenni Murray, a UK radio host, last October, recommended school children watch sex videos together and then have open discussions.

At the Cheltenham Literary Festival she said, “We give our kids Jane Austen to read and we say, “OK let’s analyse it ‘We might show them a news bulletin that has been on television the night before. Why not show them pornography and teach them how to analyse it?

‘You put boys and girls together in a class and you show them a pornographic film and you analyse it in exactly the same way as you teach them to read all the other cultures around them.’

Before we pillary Jenni, she has highlighted a serious problem. The boys mentioned above, no doubt found their way to porn navigating their favorite online device.

How can we stop that now everyone has access to everything? We have an educational challenge. We have a relevance issue. Moral standards are a mess.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) ran a story last July ‘Internet Porn: Schools Warn of dangers of adolescent addiction.” “I deal with adolescents every day who have an addiction to internet pornography,” said teacher David Youl. “Many of these young men find it difficult to fulfil their normal daily duties including school work and spending time with family or friends due to a ‘need’ to access internet pornography for excessive amounts of time,” he said.

Mr Youl is just one of hundreds of concerned teachers who wrote to a Senate inquiry about the problem. A research paper issued to the inquiry claimed up to 95 percent of 16-year-old boys are regular users of porn. They added that children as young as six are exposed due to the easy availability of online devices.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13.

If you need help I suggest covenanteyes.com. Download their free eBook “The Porn Circuit.” They can also recommend a qualified Christian counselor.

Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously hewas radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

 

Clinton-Trump Flawed? Me Too!

clinton-trumpjpegHillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in the US presidential race share one thing, negativity ratings north of fifty percent. It is hard to understand how either became their party candidate. Personally, I follow US politics closely maybe because of the years I spent reporting news in Israel. America with its superpower status effects nations all over the world and the US President holds great power. The negatives out of this campaign have been hard to take. One thing after another claimed headlines and provided topic fodder for the gossip hungry media.

Speaking about abortion Hillary Clinton said,”and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Writing for Charisma News Ron Cantor wrote: “It used to be, you were considered compassionate, caring and humble to embrace the values of the Bible. Now you are the enemy … according to Secretary Clinton and President Obama. It is only going to get worse.” (Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International, Israel). Hillary has mounting concerns over many other issues but suggesting we can rewrite or dismiss Bible teaching is a major concern for me at least.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump for gossip seeking journalists and commentators is the gift that keeps on giving. He supposedly represents the Republican Party but most of his party leaders have denounced and disowned him. As headline after headline brings more negativity he slugs it out maintaining support from a nation tired of the political playbook.

It is time to take a deep breath. What headlines would appear if our biblical hero David ran for office today? His victory over Goliath would be a great start. He arrived onto the public arena with enormous public support. He is instantly hailed as a deserving hero, only sling and stones you say? What a champion? Even the incumbent King Saul is feeling threatened by his popularity. In line with the Clinton-Trump campaign, we must seek to destroy him! Saul cannot wait to meet David face to face to say, “You’re fired!”

To report on King David we have to study the Old Testament books First and Second Samuel. As King he lacked suitable administrative skills and relied heavily on his cousin Joab. But if we are searching for headlines appropriate for our modern media, I think we have it. David had one of his own soldiers killed so he could take his wife, behavior that angered God (1 Samuel chapters 11 and 12). The reports would carry the story for weeks and surely our ratings jump high. The Bible refuses to sugarcoat the character of its heroes.

Sinners

In fact the Apostle Paul speaks very clearly, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Romans chapter 3 verse 23.

Our Bible heroes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel and Elijah all had sinful moments. The famous Apostle Paul persecuted Christians zealously, Peter denied Christ, the Bible tells us the truth. There is no politically correct cover up, just the facts.

imagesYears ago I watched and admired Archbishop Fulton Sheen on his television broadcasts. He was an eloquent and courageous communicator. Thomas Reeves wrote a biography of Sheen, ‘America’s Bishop, The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen.’ (Encounter Books). Here is a brief quote: “Fulton had appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. He had accepted the invitation against the advice of his cardiologist, Dr. Bruno, who accompanied him to the event. Officials asked Billy Graham, who was present, to be ready to fill in should Sheen be unable to carry on. Graham wrote later, “Even as he made his halting way to the podium, I silently prayed that God would grant him the necessary physical and spiritual strength.”

“Mr. President,” Fulton began, turning toward the chief executive and his wife, “you are a sinner.” Having everyone’s undivided attention, he then pointed to himself and said, “I am a sinner.” He looked around the huge ballroom at the sophisticated and influential spectators, and continued, “We are all sinners, and we all need to turn to God…” Graham wrote, “He then went on the preach one of the most challenging and eloquent sermons I have ever heard.”

If we want a sinless leader there is only One, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

The real danger comes when we are so downtrodden by sin that we refuse to rise up and allow God to bless us with His love. Every hero in the Bible, apart from Jesus, is a sinner. Every politician who stands for office, is a sinner. You are a sinner. So am I. But we do not have to live there or be burdened by it. It matters not the colour of our skin, the nation of our birth or the differences we created, we are all sinners but Jesus sets us free and washes us clean.

If we really want a sinless leader, Jesus is the only answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Hezekiah Really Did Destroy Idols

imagesThe accuracy of the Bible is continually confirmed. Recent excavations in the Tel Lachish National Park in Israel have revealed a ‘gate-shrine,’ dated to the period of the First Temple, about the eighth century B.C.

“The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem,” said excavation director Sa’ar Ganor. In her ChristianHeadlines.com article editor Veronica Neffinger observed: “King Hezekiah really did destroy idols, consistent with the Bible account.’ Some like to doubt and debate the historic value of the Old Testament but this evidence is conclusive.

2 Kings chapter 18, verse 4 says that King Hezekiah “removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles,” Veronica Neffinger observed. (Israel: New Discovery Confirms King Hezekiah Really Did Destroy Idols – ChristianHeadlines.com, September 28, 2016)

Archaeologists found evidence of the destruction of pagan artifacts. Included in the discovery were horns on the pagan altar which had been “intentionally truncated.”

A latrine was also found at the site. It was built as a purely symbolic statement. It was a desecration. Even this warped practice was reported in the Bible. “And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.” (2 Kings chapter 10, verse 27) How brilliantly and accurately detailed?

Idolatry

Are we as fastidious as King Hezekiah? Has idolatry simply become a way of life for most of us? It seems appropriate to take a long hard look at the way we embrace celebrations at Christmas, for instance.

At the risk of being tagged a wowser, I am concerned at the serious debt some suffer to buy expensive gifts in what amounts to pure and simple materialism. It flies in the face of Jesus lowly birth in a manger.

I am amazed by statistics that show how many are paying off credit card debts from last year as many overspend on stuff. Stop to think a minute. The very name Christmas means ‘mass of Christ.’ It was a heathen celebration on the birthday of Sol, the Sun God, December 25. It is, actually, an ancient rite of BAALISM, which the Bible condemns as the most abominable of all idolatrous worship! King Hezekiah did not fool around with Baal and neither should we. (“You should have no other gods before me”, comes to mind)

I am not against a joy-filled Christmas celebration but I am concerned about the materialism, which has taken Jesus off the throne. It is also a curse when people who cannot afford with the mounting costs of ‘keeping up’, carry a huge burden into the New Year. Jesus came to set us free not to make life a bondage.

In a sermon on idolatry Rev John Piper said, “The only light in the universe that can bring light to the heart is the glory of God. If we exchange it for other things, we will live in darkness, no matter how brilliant we are or how many fires we may build or candles we may light.” (The First Dark Exchange, Idolatry, Romans 1: 21-23)

images-1Little Children

At Christmas we can often be like little children. I delight to watch a baby play with the wrapping paper, while the expensive gift is left unattended. Many of us display great joy over some gift on Christmas Day and hardly remember where we put it a few weeks later.

The gift to be thoroughly embraced is Jesus and frankly we should be aware of the enormity of His grace and blessing every day.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans chapter 1, verse 21)

No one enjoys Christmas more than little children. I look forward to enjoying my grandchildren right throughout the holiday season. But let us plan for Christmas this year with children in mind.

Throughout the first letter of the Apostle John, there are two words that he often repeated – paidia and teknia, both can be translated ‘little children.’ Paidia correctly refers to ‘babes in Christ”, new believers. Teknia more accurately means ‘beloved children.’

“An ancient historian relates, that when the Apostle (Paul) was so enfeebled by age as not to be able to preach, he was frequently brought into the congregation in his chair, and just uttered, Beloved children, love one another. He could not have given a more important advice. And equally important is this which lies before us; equally necessary for every part of the Church of Christ. Beloved children, keep yourselves from idols.” (John Wesley, Sermon 78, Spiritual Idolatry)

Author and preacher Max Lucado invites each of us to embrace Christmas with a Christ-centred focus. “Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him–and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.”

It is appropriate to remember our most wonderfully wrapped gaudy and expensive gifts will never save us. Christ is the reason for the season and we can enjoy His gift right now.

Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html