Archive for February, 2010

Birth of Islam

February 23, 2010

In an attempt to understand the complexities of Islam and its dedicated one-and-a- half billion followers, we must first turn to an unlikely source – to the Bible of the Jews and Christians. Interestingly, the Bible does provide some historical and spiritual insights on the origins and fate of the Middle Eastern peoples that gave birth to the Islamic faith. It turns out that the Middle East has had an ancient history of volatility and violence that is well established in biblical record. Islam has its root in Arabic culture mixed among the belief and tradition of Abraham and his son Ishmael fathering the tribes of the Middle East. If both the people of Islam and those of Judeo-Christian heritage claim Abraham as their patriarch, why have they been forever at each others throats?  The answer can be found in the scripture of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

What the Bible Says. We can gain some insight into this generations’ old conflict by picking up the story in Genesis 16 where Abraham and his wife Sarah were first known as Abram and Sarai. Abram was 86 years old and Sarai had never bore him any children, yet God had promised him that he would have a male descendent who would bring forth descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:3-5).

            Frustrated and impatient with the lack of God’s immediate fulfillment of His promise, Abram decided (with Sarai’s encouragement) to take matters into his own hands. 

He took unto himself Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant, and she bore him a son.

And the Angel of the Lord said to her [Hagar]: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son.  You shall call his name Ishmael [viz., God shall hear],  because the Lord  has heard your affliction.

He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man,  and every man’s hand against him.  And he shall dwell in the presence  of all his brethren.”                                                 Genesis 16:11-12, NKJV

Several things should be noted at this point. First, Abram chose to disbelieve God’s promised covenant with him and establish his own covenant by the flesh. Second, his partner in this fleshly covenant was the pagan, Hagar (meaning one who takes flight), the Egyptian. Third, it was God, not Abram, who chose the name of Ishmael for this son to be born outside of God’s chosen covenant with His people. Fourth, it was God who said at Ishmael’s conception, that he would “be a wild man;” and that “his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” At the same time “he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” 

It is important to note that the Hebrew word used for “wild” in the above verse means for one to be like a “wild ass” with no boundaries. The Hebrew word used for “hand” means the “open hand of power.” And who were Ishmael’s brethren? He had a Hebrew father, Abram, and a pagan Arabic mother, Hagar. His brethren at the time of his birth were both Jews and Arabs.

When Abram was 99 years old, he was still without a true heir by Sarai’s womb.  God then spoke to Abram and made this covenant with him:

As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram,  but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish My covenant  between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations,  for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants  after you.  Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting  possession; and I will be their God.                        Genesis 17:4-8, NKJV

Fourteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God fulfilled His intended covenant with Abram (now Abraham) with the birth of Isaac  to Sarah who was no longer called Sarai.

Abraham asked God if “Ishmael might live before You?” 

But God told Abraham, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.

“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation (Genesis 17:18-20, NKJV).”

God never intended to establish His covenant with Ishmael, because Ishmael was not the child of the promise but of the flesh. God could not establish His covenant with him, He could only bless him. While God blessed Ishmael with fruitfulness, He never made a covenant with him. God’s covenant was with Abraham and him only. And, unlike Abraham and Isaac, God never promised Ishmael and his seed that He would be their God.

Although Arabic Muslims claim Abraham as their heir, biblically they are descendants of pre-covenant Abram, the one who disobeyed God and disbelieved His promise of an heir through Sarah. God could bless Ishmael, but He could never establish His covenant with a sinful seed of the flesh.

Ishmael became the father of 12 Arabian princes (nations) whom God said that He would “multiply . . . exceedingly” (Genesis 17:20). Ishmael and Hagar were driven into the Wilderness of Paran to dwell (Genesis 21:20-21). This wilderness covers the eastern Sinai and the southern and southeastern borders of present-day Israel. 

Ishmael’s sons initially inhabited an area from Egypt and the Sinai Desert, the Arabian peninsula to Assyria (which includes present day Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and the lesser Arab kingdoms).

Remember, God promised that Ishmael and his descendants would be wild men whose hand would be “against every man.”

After the death of Abraham, some Bible translations of Genesis 25:18 state that the descendents of Ishmael “lived in hostility toward” or “in defiance of” all their brethren (New International Version, New Living Translation and North American Standard). Other versions (including the King James, New King James and Amplified Bibles) state only that Ishmael’s descendents lived “close to” or “in the presence of” their relatives.

Muhammad and the Muslims have found a simple solution to this dilemma of a negative biblical image. Muhammad asserted that Allah revealed to him that it was Ishmael, not Isaac, that Allah chose to test Abraham’s faith; and therefore it was Ishmael and all those who are descendents of him that are the true chosen people to fulfill Allah’s covenant.

Instead of God calling Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on a makeshift altar on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem (the current site of the Dome of the Rock), it was Allah who called Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael on Mount Mina outside Mecca.

According to the Qur’an, Abraham prayed to Allah: “’My Lord! Grant me [a son who shall be] of the doers of good deeds [that is, righteous].’ So We gave [Abraham] the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when [Ishmael] attained to working with him, [Abraham] said: O my son! Surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see. He said: O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah please, you will find me of the patient ones. So when they both submitted and [Abraham] threw [Ishmael] down upon his forehead, and We called out to him saying: O Ibrahim! You have indeed shown the truth of the vision; surely thus do We reward the doers of good: Most surely this is a manifest trial (surah 37:100- 106).” 

This version in the Qur’an of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son strongly contradicts the biblical story.   “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about (Genesis 22:2).’” Notice that God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s only son. That is because only Isaac was God’s choice to fulfill His covenant with Abraham – not Ishmael, the son of the flesh.

In the Genesis account, Isaac had no prior knowledge of his role in the sacrifice.   “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’

“’Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.

“’The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’

“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son (Genesis 22:7-8a).’”

Because of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son and not withhold him from God, God promised Abraham that “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me (Genesis 22:18).”

From the present day and historical perspective of the daily violence against mankind by the followers of Islam, it is hard to see that this was God’s plan for blessing the nations of the earth through the descendents of Ishmael. Among the descendents of Isaac, however, was Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who brought salvation to the world by the shedding of His blood and not that of another human being – truly a blessing to all who will receive Him.

Excerpted from Islam & Christianity

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Ecuador: Land of Splendor (Part 1)

February 23, 2010

Cotopaxi Volcano (19,347 ft.), Ecuador

(Ignore the date on the photos.  Despite numerous attempts, our camera insisted on back dating photos two years before we got the camera.)

What can I say about Ecuador?  My wife and I have never been outside the U.S. except for a few brief trips across the border into Canada.  We had never considered going anywhere exotic until a long-lost friend of 30 years ago called from Ecuador and invited us to visit.

We had no idea what to expect.  Most people we knew did not even know where the country was, much less visit there.  Of course, most of what Americans tend to hear about Latin America is filtered through the news of the Columbian drug cartels or the anti-American rants of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  So, although we had some apprehension, we decided to forge ahead with our great post-retirement adventure on January 13 of this year.

 

Cuicocha (crater) Lake, Cotacachi, Ecuador

The five-and-a-half hour flight from Atlanta to Quito at night was less than thrilling but uneventful.  When we landed in Quito at 11 PM it was breath-taking (literally).  At 9,300 feet, low land Americanos feel the impact of thinner air immediately, as if someone threw you to the tarmac and put a heavy foot on your chest.  You immediately take several deep breaths and your gate slows considerably. 

Looking down and East on Quito from 13,500 ft.

The center of Quito at a little over 9,100 feet makes it the second highest capitol city in the world.  Situated about 15 miles south of the equator (hence the country’s name, Ecuador), this elongated city of about 1.5 million people is nestled between two north-south running Andean mountain spurs.  It is a picturesque Spanish colonial city dating back over 500 years (much longer if one considers the pre-Spanish occupancy of the area by the Quitu Indians.

Scenic views of Quito and distant towns from near the top of volcanic mount Pichincha (15,337 ft.) on the western rim are spectacular with vistas to the East of well over 50 miles.

If you go there expecting to be able to communicate in English, forget it.  With a population of 99.9% Ecuadorian very few speak any English at all.  You are forced to learn some Spanish words and phrases quick for survival.  Like: “Donde esta el bano?”  That is, “Where is the batyhroom?”  “Bano?” or “Bano!” with a look of panic on your face also works.   We were very fortunate in that our native Ecuadorian friend is bilingual (Spanish & English) or we would have been culturally and geographically lost.

For North Americans, once you get over the initial cultural shock, Ecuador begins to seep into every fabric of your being in the most pleasant of ways.  In the larger cities, with the noise and non-stop traffic of thousands of buses, taxis, trucks and cars on weekdays, life on the surface seems chaotic.  On the pedestrian level, however, life takes on a new meaning as Ecuadorians appear to take everything in stride in a peaceful, collected manner with no urgency or panic.  We were quick to notice several admirable qualities among the natives.  Despite the press of humanity on crowded streets and buses, people were polite and courteous, never getting angry at others or being boisterous or pushy.  No matter how crowed a bus was (signs stated that a bus had a capacity of 46 sitting and 112 standing), there was always room for one more weary passenger – even if fellow passengers had to hang to him or her so they did not fall out the open door.

Even children of all ages were polite and well-behaved.  I iknow this sounds like a fairy tale, but one cannot help but to notice how much this stood out to Americans who are, unfortunately, too used to seeing rowdy children screaming and running in supermarket aisles or backtalking their parents or other adults.  In our entire three weeks in many places in the Ecuadorian sierra we never heard a parent raise their voice or strike their child.  Adults did not even raise their voice between each other.  More than likely, to get another’s attention, both men and women would use the ancient skill of a shrill whistle.  This worked to get the attention of any taxi cab driver, bus driver or anyone within a hundred yard radius.

More to come . . .

 

 

We the People, Volume I & II

February 17, 2010

Laying the Foundation                  Birth of a Nation

 

We the People Accolades

 

Modern America has developed cultural amnesia, but the documents and speeches in We the People are a valuable resource for recovering our heritage and identity

Rev. Peter Marshall

Peter Marshall Ministries

 

At a time when the schools…have forgotten or deliberately obscured the true history of the United States, along comes We the People to remind us of the uniqueness of our founders’ inspiration.

Joseph Farah  

CEO/Editor, WorldNetDaily

 

I think Volume I is terrific and will make an important contribution to an understanding of America’s foundation.

Howard Phillips 

President, Conservative Caucus Foundation

 

Here is a book that literally speaks for itself…Valuable historical research that makes for refreshing and inspiring reading.

Dr. D. James Kennedy  

President, Coral Ridge Ministries

 

This is a book that should be on a shelf in every library and required reading for every young person of college age.

W. J. Rayment   

Conservativebookstore.com

 

Here one can find in one reference book those documents which were key to establishing our country’s principles and laws—find them as they were originally penned, not revised to suit present philosophy or political correctness.

Kathleen Carper   

President, SC Assn. of Indep. Home Schools

 

The book would be tremendously helpful for students and teachers.  It should be required reading in our schools, ‘should’ being the operative word.

Monty Rainey   

Chairman, The Junto Society

 

These are important documents that we hope will be treasured by all Americans.

Lynne Cheney

 

What an amazing and wonderful resource…This is a definite must have for every family…I can’t wait to get my hands on Volumes Two . . .

Diane McNett   

Books4Homeschool

 

In post-modern America, the need for teaching the foundations of our nation is greater than ever….A look at foundational documents is vital. 

…We the People, is a complete treasure house of those documents.

Susan Stewart

The California Parent Educator

 

[Volume II] is a superb compilation of historically significant documents which ought to be available to every citizen and especially to America’s young people.

Howard Phillips  

President, The Conservative Caucus, Inc.

Volume I, 2003 and Volume II, 2005 are available at Authorhouse.com or other online bookstores.

 

Islam & Christianity

February 17, 2010

A Revealing Contrast

Foreword

Americans are bombarded daily with conflicting commentary on the relativity of Islam to Christianity and the debate between Islam as a peaceful religion to one of terror and bloodshed. If we are to take these issues before us and deal with them responsibly, we must not only be informed of what is being presented to the world, but we must also be well-informed on the truth behind this fast-growing religion. To stick our heads in the sand and just take everything at face value may come at great cost, not only in our earthly future, but when we stand before the throne of Christ. As responsible Christians, we have the privilege and responsibility to stay engaged in what is taking place around us and seeing that God’s Kingdom continues to move forward.
There is an abundance of information grabbing for our attention in the world on the topic of Islam, as well as numerous different slants and opinions. To be valid in the life of a Christian, God’s Word must be held up as the comparison, the element that, if you will, “tips the scale” towards what is true. Without this mirror, one is left defenseless in discerning what they read and hear through the media, and much less effective when trying to pray for and explain the truth of the gospel to a Muslim. With the fast-moving world we live in today, none of us are exempt from the issue at hand. We hear it on the news, read it in the paper or as we are sharing car pools and PTA meetings with Muslims in our own community. To take the Great Commission seriously, we must know what we believe, what the world believes and how to share truth with them, when the opportunity arises.
Many within the Islamic faith do not totally know what they believe; they take everything at face value, but find their hearts empty and searching. My visits to the Middle East have brought me in contact with Christians who were former Muslims and who have shared how empty they felt, and knew that their faith was not meeting their needs. It was only after they were introduced to the truth of the gospel message that they were able to see what they were longing for. These living examples give even more relevance that we must be students of not only God’s Word, but also understand what the Muslim faith professes, that we may present the truth of God’s Word to them, holding it in contrast to their holy book, the Koran. It is up to God to do the rest; our part is to be informed and ready to share when the opportunity arises.
Dr. Gauss has presented an effective resource in Islam and Christianity for the average reader. Here you will find many of the issues addressed that are forefront in the minds of Muslims, comparing clearly the lives and ministry of Christ with that of Muhammad. God’s Word is clearly compared with the Koran and gives you a hands-on resource to use in your witness, as well as in your prayer life for the Muslim world.
As Christians, we understand that the root we must recognize is not social, political or economic, but it is spiritual. May this book assist you in standing with God in bringing many locked in darkness into His marvelous light.

Dr. Tom White, Director
The Voice of the Martyrs

Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2009.

Available through your local bookstore or online bookstores worldwide.