Category Archives for Salvation

The Implications of Obedience

April 26, 2017

By William F. Harrell
William F. Harrell Ministries

“If you love me, obey my commandments.” 

When the average person thinks about obedience, they automatically calculate that it means that one should do what they are told.  While that is absolutely right, there is much more to the situation and we should be aware of what that word, obedience implies. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Religions: Conquest or Conversion?

March 7, 2017


By Ron F. Hale

After the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity grew rapidly as inspired evangels left Jerusalem “gossiping the gospel” along the paved highways and trodden trails of the Roman world. Conversely, the spread of Islam was wildfire fast after the death of Muhammad in 632 A.D.   

Contrasting these two Abrahamic faiths will reveal that one grew by the spiritual conversion of individuals (especially within its first 300 years) while the other grew by the conquest of peoples and the confiscation of properties and possessions.

By Conversion …

Of Christianity, Bruce L. Shelley and R. L. Hatchett share in Church History In Plain Language (4th ed.) that it, “… began as a tiny offshoot of Judaism. Three centuries later it became the favored and eventually the official religion of the Roman Empire. Despite widespread and determined efforts to eliminate the new faith, it survived and grew. By the reign of Constantine (312-337), the first Christian emperor, there were churches in every large town in the empire and in places as distant from each other as Britain, Carthage, and Persia.”

The New Testament declares that when the fullness of the time had come, Jesus came into a ripe and ready world. The Jewish world was hungry for a promised Messiah; their scattered synagogues throughout the world served as starting points by Christian evangelists who were ethnically Jewish. The peace of Rome allowed missionary travels on the grandest road system the world had ever known. Since the Greek language was a common language throughout the empire, the communication of the gospel went unhindered.

Sociologist Rodney Stark in his book, The Rise of Christianity estimates that by 300 A.D. there were over 6 million Christians in the Roman Empire. These numbers represent conversion growth for they predate the times prior to Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 A.D.

By Conquest …

With a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and a prestigious 30-year career at Harvard, Dr. Wilson B. Bishai wrote his very informative Islamic History of the Middle East in 1968. He shares how Muhammad’s prophetic message found limited success in Mecca but he was warmly received in Medina where he became not only their prophet but their political leader. Dr. Bishai says that this gave Islam, “the characteristic of being a state as well as a religion.”  

Muhammad converted few Christians of Mecca or Medina to Islam. Bishai shares that when the Prophet lost hope of converting them, “he apparently reversed his original esteem for Jesus Christ as a word from God, and announced that he was nothing but dust, created no better than Adam (Qur’an 3:59).”

The Jewish community took a harder edge towards the Prophet’s strong desire to convert them. Muhammad’s disdain of their attitude toward him was to change the direction of their Islamic prayers from the city of Jerusalem to the city of Mecca.       

The most ill-famed act toward Jews during Muhammad’s life happened around 627 A.D. to the Jewish tribe of Quraydha. Per Dr. Bishai, the Prophet approved the beheadings of seven hundred Jewish men, while their women, children, and property was divided and the Prophet received one fifth of the wealth of the tribe. His actions have served as an example for jihadists as over 100 conquests took place during his life and leadership.         

Dr. M.A. Khan (founding Director of Islamic Studies at University of Delaware University) in his book Islamic Jihad (2009) summarizes the Prophet’s legacy of jihad and how it served as the historic model for future jihadists after the death of Muhammad. The Prophet’s model is three-fold:

  1. Forced conversion of the infidels, particularly the Polytheists.
  2. Imperialism: the conquest of lands of the Polytheists, Jews, and Christians for establishing Islamic rule.
  3. Slavery and slave-trading: for example, the enslavement of the women and children of Banu Qurayza and selling some of them by Prophet Muhammad (page 71).

Dr. Khan’s historical perspective is that within a century after the death of the Prophet, Islamic jihadists had created the world’s largest kingdom or caliphate. The Islamic empire spread out of Arabia at whirlwind speed to Transoxiana (including all or parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) and Sindh (India) in the East, conquering all of Egypt and North Africa, and had reached the heart of France in Europe.   

Another noted expert and book, Dr. Andrew G. Bostom’s 759-page collection of welldocumented accounts of Islamic conquests and systemic social exertion of dhimmitude (the subjugation of non-Muslims to Islamic law conformity) is found in The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (2005). This work outlines from Islam’s genesis the Prophet’s hope of fulfilling his global vision of imposing the “one true faith” upon the citizens of the world.   

By Contrast …

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to become a Christian. Later, Theodosius the Great decreed Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 A.D. These two men wedded and welded Christianity to the power of the state. A religion once pruned enduringly by persecution and martyrdom was now sanctioned by imperial power.  

Politically-motivated men and half-hearted pagans with their symbols and superstitions intact rushed under the umbrella of the state-church of Rome by the thousands. The name of Jesus would be marred and scarred as the emperors of Rome protected and expanded their power and prestige. When Theodosius spitefully slaughtered 7,000 Thessalonians in one day, Bishop Ambrose refused the ruler communion until he confessed his great sin.    

Both religions can point to blood, gore, and guts. Only one can point to the Prince of peace! Jesus drew no sword. The only blood shed – was His very own.  

HOW JOHNNY CASH GOT “THAT CHRISTMASY FEELING”

December 22, 2016

 

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared here and is used by permission of the author.“That Christmasy Feeling” was one of the songs on Johnny’s 1972 album entitled The Johnny Cash Family Christmas produced by Columbia Records.  Johnny and June Cash loved singing about Christmas and produced many television specials and albums in the 1970s, and into the 80s. A miracle in a dark Tennessee cave made these songs and shows possible.

It was a hopeless day in 1967 that Johnny literally crawled into a deep dark cave to die.  The accumulated pain and shame of a decade of doing drugs, popping pills, ruined relationships, while always riding the rapids of whiskey river brought him to the mouth of Nickajack Cave on the Tennessee River north of Chattanooga.All his “uppers” had turned to “downers,” but Johnny wasn’t blaming anyone but himself. He knew that he had been his own worst enemy. The “Man in Black” would die in total darkness that day!

Parking his Jeep, Cash walked into this underworld that he had explored years earlier during happier times. He knew that many had gotten lost in this large labyrinth of connecting tunnels and chambers stretching all the way into Alabama and were never seen again.Dave Urbanski writes about this day in The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash, “I never wanted to see another dawn. I had wasted my life. I had drifted so far away from God and every stabilizing force in my life that I felt there was no hope for me.”Cash walked into the cave, then crawled for three hours until his flashlight died before he could. Engulfed in pitch darkness Cash remembered, “The absolute lack of light was appropriate, for at that moment I was as far from God as I had ever been.”Waiting on death, Johnny realized that he could not crawl into a hole deep or dark enough to escape God’s grace. “I thought I’d left Him, but He hadn’t left me.”

Cash testified to a sudden awareness of utter peace, clarity and sobriety overwhelming his mind and body.  He says, “There in Nickajack Cave I became conscious of a very clear, simple idea: I was not in charge of my destiny. I was not in charge of my own death. I was going to die at God’s time, not mine.”

This spiritual revival presented a new dilemma. Johnny had crawled in to die and no exit strategy existed. He had no earthly idea of which direction to crawl and utter darkness only intensified his confusion.

Driven by a simple urge to begin moving, Cash painstakingly crawled like a blind crab until he felt a faint breeze. Honing in on its direction, he crawled toward the breeze until it felt stronger. He crawled until a faint shade of light was sensed. Pulled toward the light like a dying man crossing over into eternity, Johnny finally surfaces.

Overjoyed with a second chance, Johnny finds his mother and June Carter parked by his Jeep with water and a basket of food. God had been leading them too!

On the long road back to Nashville, Johnny confessed, “God saved me from killing myself.” Johnny spoke sincerely of committing himself to God and doing whatever it would take to kick his drug habit. His promise turned to reality as he gradually regained his physical health and emotional well-being.

After destroying his first marriage, now a new man, Johnny married June Carter and little John Carter Cash was born on March 3, 1970. Life was getting much better!

Recording his Live at Folsom Prison album was a turning point for Cash’s career. The song had been a huge hit. Soon ABC television offered him The Johnny Cash Show. For two years, Johnny and June entertained as the show was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Johnny invited guest singers from every genre of music – from Bob Dylan to Louis Armstrong and a lot of country in between.

The dark cave that Johnny crawled into represents a scary place – for most of us are just one step from stupid even on our best days. Over 40,000 people kill themselves in America each year. Many more are slowly crawling with feelings of hopelessness.

If Johnny could find a new reason for living, so can you! Job once said,

He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light (Job 33:28, ESV).

Johnny discovered “the light of world” and realized that he didn’t have to walk in darkness anymore! Life is better “saved, sober, and sane.”[i]

Only by the grace of God could Johnny Cash sing about Christmas!

 

1 2 3 55