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On Monday, the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem, finalizing the relocation of the U.S. mission to Israel from the previous location in Tel Aviv. Here are nine things you should know about one of the world’s oldest and most venerated cities.

1. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. Evidence indicates the area within present-day Jerusalem was settled as far back as the Copper Age, sometime in the fourth millennium BC. There is also some evidence that a permanent settlement could have existed as early as Bronze Age, around 3000 to 2800 BC

2. Jerusalem is not only one of the oldest cities in history but is also one of the most contested. According to historian Eric H. Kline, the city has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked an additional 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.

3. The name “Jerusalem” occurs 806 times in the Bible—660 times in the Old Testament and 146 times in the New Testament (not including synonyms used to reference the city). The first occurrence of Jerusalem is found in Joshua 10:1 (“As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai”). Some scholars also believe an allusion to Jerusalem appears in Genesis 14:18 with the reference to Melchizedek, king of Salem, because poetic parallel construction in Psalm 76:2 equates Salem with Zion.

4. Jerusalem is home to some of the most holy sites in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. For Christians, the city is significant because it was the location of Jesus’s Last Supper; of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion; of his nearby burial; of his resurrection and post-resurrection appearances; and of his ascension and promise to return. For Jews, the city is home to the Kotel, or Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount from the Holy Temple. As Erica Chernofsky notes, “Jews believe that this was the location of the foundation stone from which the world was created, and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Many Jews believe the Dome of the Rock is the site of the Holy of Holies.” (The Holy of Holies, located within the Temple Mount, is the most sacred site in Judaism.) In Islam, the Dome of the Rock is where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven after being transported from Mecca to the location where the Al-Aqsa Mosque now stands. This site is the third holiest site for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina.

5. After being anointed king of Israel, King David captured the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites (Canaanites) and made it the nation’s capital (2 Sam. 5:3-6). The city remained the capital of Israel until the Romans sacked it in AD 70. From that point until 1948, various non-Jewish factions controlled the city.

6. From 1517 to 1917, the city was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, and then from 1917 to 1947, by the British Empire. In 1947 the United Nations developed the Partition Plan for Palestine, a proposal to divide the city between Israel and Palestine. Before the plan could be implemented, though, war broke out in the region. The war of 1948 resulted in the division of Jerusalem, with the Israelis controlling West Jerusalem and the Jordanians controlling East Jerusalem, including the area known as the Old City with the religious holy sites. The city remained divided between Arabs and Jews until the Six Day War.

7. For two decades after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, tensions remained between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In May 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria began mobilizing their military forces and initiated a naval blockade of Israeli shipping and seaports. Israel responded by preemptively attacking Egyptian airfields and destroying 90 percent of Egypt’s air force. In the first three days of the war, Israel managed to capture the Gaza Strip, the Suez Canal, and the Sinai Peninsula. Although Israel had asked Jordan to remain neutral in the city of Jerusalem, the Jordanians began to attack West Jerusalem. On June 7, Israel captured all of Jerusalem and accepted a ceasefire with Jordan. Since then, Israel has controlled the entire city (Muslims in Israel have full access to their holy sites, though Palestinians in the West Bank have restricted access into the city).

8. In 1980, the Knesset adopted the “Jerusalem Law,” which stated, “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel” and that “Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court.” The United Nations Security Council, which had long criticized Israeli annexation of the city, responded by adopting Resolution 478. The resolution declares the Jerusalem Law to be a violation of international law and calls upon UN member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city. The resolution passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

9. In 1995, the U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which provides funding for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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“Present-day wickedness, apostasy and modern civilization cannot prevent revival.”

 

 

Let us pray for spiritual revival to sweep across our nation!

National Day of Prayer Theme for 2018
 
The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
 
Prayer brings people together. Prayer builds bridges between opposing persons and even political parties. Prayer reminds us that we are created in God’s image and He desires for us to represent Him everywhere we go. Prayer brings UNITY. In 2018, our theme will be Pray for America – UNITY, based upon Ephesians 4:3 which challenges us to mobilize unified public prayer for America, “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
 
Our hope is that individuals, churches, and spiritual leaders in America, will humble ourselves and unify in prevailing prayer for the next great move of God in America. We can come together in clear agreement that this is our greatest need. We can become a visible union, standing together in prayer. We can pray more than ever before, and practice extraordinary prayer for the next great move of God in America that will catapult the message of the gospel nationally and internationally.
 
Pray with us. Sponsor an event in your community. Become a volunteer. Order resources to help promote an event in your area. Support the National Day of Prayer financially. Together, we can mobilize unified public prayer for America!
 
“There is no great movement of God that has ever occurred that does not begin with the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.”
~Dr. Ronnie Floyd
Mar 07, 2018 by Alyssa Duval

Last week at the 75th annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren declared in a speech that the Church as we know it will not see the revival it so desperately needs without repentance and unity through addressing the sin of racism.

Citing the biblical doctrine of the Imago Dei, Warren highlighted where the Christian community needs some serious help: “Friends, we’re failing at unity. The Church is more divided, more polarized, there are more tribes, and more splattered, more fractured, than ever before.”

“They were in one place, they were of one accord, they were of one heart, they had one purpose, they had one vision…When we have the unity of Acts, we’ll have the power of Acts,” Warren continued. ”We’re just not willing to pay the price for Pentecost. We’re not willing to set aside our petty differences and unify around one thing: the Lord Jesus Christ.”

While racism isn’t the only hurdle to overcome to achieve a unified Christian church, Warren noted, it is a major issue in his crosshairs.

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Heavenly Father,

Our nation is in desperate need for spiritual revival. Your Word and Gospel have been trampled on. We have not prayed nearly enough. Our knees do not have callouses. We have allowed other things to take the place of prayer. Father, send a fresh wind and a new fire that open up our eyes to the many compromises that have slipped into our lives and churches. We pray for our pastors and ask that you give them the spiritual courage to preach the Word without compromise. May you people in congregations across the nation love and encourage one another. As we approach Holy Week, we ask that lives will be transformed through the Gospel.

In Jesus’ Name!

Amen

William H. Curtis, senior pastor of the 10,000-member Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has drawn major criticism after his $230,000 Bentley Bentayga SUV was photographed outside the church.

“If ya pastor driving a Bentley truck … he’s sucking ur community dry with hope and tithes,” wrote Jarrell Taylor in a Facebook post sharing his photograph of the Bentayga in a parking space outside the church reserved for the pastor.

While the pastor’s assistant acknowledged that the church had received many reactions to the pastor’s vehicle, she reported to the Christian Post that a response would not be likely.

According to the church’s website, Curtis has served as the senior pastor at Mount Ararat Baptist Church since 1997 and is also an instructor at the United Theological Seminary in Ohio and co-owner of The Church Online, a technology and full-service marketing firm.

Under Curtis’ guidance, the church participates in a Community Tithe Program, which returns more than 10 percent of the congregation’s weekly offerings to other small churches, para-church ministries, and nonprofit organizations.

Samuel Cruz, associate professor of Religion & Society at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, shared with The Christian Post on Friday that “the Gospel was good news to the poor and I don’t know how owning a Bentley that’s worth $230,000 contributes in any way to the furtherance of the Kingdom and also how that could be justified.”

“To own a car that expensive you have to be among the top 10 percent of income earners or even higher of these United States of America, and I can’t consider how preaching could lead someone to so much wealth,” Cruz continued.

Noting that Curtis also earns income from his marketing firm, Cruz added that “at a minimum, I think that for a pastor to go to his church in a car that is worth twice the median of what homes are worth in his neighborhood, it shows me that this person has no common sense.”

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Most Christian churches in America are small. In 2012, the National Congregations Study found that the median Sunday morning attendance for churches in the United States was 75 people. The study also found that 43% of American churches had fewer than 50 regular participants, 67% had fewer than 100 regular participants, and 87% had fewer than 250.

Many of these small churches are located in small places. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow notes in his book Small-Town America that “there are more churches per capita in less populated areas than there are in more heavily populated places.” A recent Barna study found that in my own region of New England, 40% of churchgoing Christians live in small towns or rural areas (though, of course, some may commute to urban or suburban churches).

Small Churches in Small Places

Small churches in small places face certain realities. With 45 regular Sunday morning attenders (or 85, or 145), there will be few things outwardly impressive about your gathering. Your meeting place will likely be humble — perhaps not always well-heated or air-conditioned. You probably won’t enjoy the sound of professional-level musicians, see visually appealing graphic design, or hear preaching that generates thousands of views online the following week. The natural pleasure and encouragement of welcoming new visitors on Sunday morning may not be an experience you enjoy very often. With many in your congregation aging, your church will have lots of accumulated wisdom, but may struggle with health, energy, and a willingness to venture into new things.

“Most Christian churches in America are small.”

Beyond these realities, there will be an ever-present awareness of fragility. You will know that if even a few of the regular attenders move out of town, tire of coming, become offended, opt for a more exciting church, get sick, or die, your church could suffer. Even if a few people stop giving, or if a few get laid off, your church likely won’t meet its budget and your pastor will need to find a part-time job. It will always feel possible that the church doors could close for good sooner or later.

Minnows in a Small Pond

Faced with these realities, you will find there are some things you can work to improve. As a church, you may patiently, prayerfully grow toward God-glorifying excellence in your facilities, your music, your pulpit ministry, your small groups, and much else. But you will eventually reach a point where you recognize that, no matter what you do, you will always be a small church in a small place. Even if God brings revival, and you double from 45 to 90 people, you will still be a small church in a small place. At the point of this realization, you will have a very important choice to make.

Some small churches and their pastors will become dissatisfied with who they are. This may manifest itself in a restless striving to implement the latest program from some big church in some big place. It may result in a pastor applying the latest terminology he has heard (in the city) to his own small context, in manifestly absurd ways (like a small-town pastor exhorting his church to “love their city”).

“Without Christ’s sustaining grace, no church will last, or have any lasting impact.”

Or it may settle into a long, slow simmer of discontentment and restlessness and endless tinkering and yearning for something more and better. I once participated in a gathering of fellow small-town and rural pastors. We were a bunch of no-names, but passionate lovers of Jesus and of people. We met in a wealthy suburban mega-church that had a worship band good enough to sell out concerts, a sound board as big as a dining room table, and huge hi-tech projection screens. I’ve wondered since then whether this was a parable of the contemporary American church: a group of small-place, small-church pastors, lifted out of our own contexts and set down, wide-eyed, in an enormously impressive facility that bore little resemblance to what most of us knew, quietly yearning for the resources, personnel, and excellence of a bigger place.

God Tends Bruised Reed

We have another, better way to respond to our small church’s manifest weakness and fragility. Yes, prayerfully improve what we can. Yes, plead with God for conversions. And then receive — as a gift from God — the manifest weakness of our small church in our small place.

Every church, big or little, urban or rural, is utterly dependent upon its Head. Without Christ’s sustaining grace, no church will last, or have any lasting impact. Every church must receive and reckon with this knowledge. But the particular gift God gives to small churches in small places is that their weakness is so very evident.

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Christmas gift giving can, and should, be a wonderful experience — but too often it’s full of relational complexities instead of wonder. We all would want love to be the motivation behind our gifts, but if we’re honest, other motivations often muddy the waters.

Like other people’s expectations, for example. We often give gifts because we fear disappointing or offending others. We can feel obligated to give certain people a certain number of gifts at or above a certain financial threshold. Motivations like these distort Christmas gifts into appeasement offerings.

And then, of course, we have our own expectations. The kind and quantity of gifts we give others and expect from others can have more to do with us than them. Maybe we use gifts to recapture nostalgic Christmas experiences of our past, or to pursue ideal experiences we feel we’ve missed out on. Or maybe our gift exchanges have more to do with generational traditions than the real people we’re giving to. Or maybe we errantly believe our value and others’ value correspond to the expense or quantity of gifts we give and receive.

These motivational currents make for muddy Christmas waters, and they are strong in our culture. The powerful American Christmas economy is, I suspect, driven more by fear, obligation, manipulation, and personal preference than good will toward men.

To whatever degree this is true for us, it need not remain true for us. Change is possible, even this year. Gifts can once again become wonderful. For God has shown us a more excellent way.

God Shows Us How to Give Gifts

That more excellent way is found in the most famous verse in the Bible: “God so loved the world, that he gave . . . ” (John 3:16). Stop there and linger for a moment. God so loved that he gave. God is revealing something profound here. What’s the connection between love and giving? It is the very nature of love to give. And since God is love, it is the very nature of God to give (1 John 4:8). Love expressed is love given. Love given is true gift.

Now let’s complete that most famous verse: “ . . . that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If love expressed is love given, supreme love expressed is supreme love given. If love given is true gift, supreme love given is the greatest of all true gifts.

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Revival begins here.

Revival!

“…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7.14

Ministers of Scotland: Lectures on Revival
The Rev. John Bonar, Minister of Larbert and Dunipace
“Such being the nature of revival, it will not be difficult for us to appreciate the state of religion which most requires it – which at once demonstrates it as most needful, and yet declares it far away, unless it be brought nigh by much prayer and the outpouring of the Spirit in answer thereof.”

Revival is a work of God’s Spirit, in which believers and their churches are renewed in joyous experience of Christ, fervent love for His Word, and an earnest desire to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to one and all. Revival comes when God’s Spirit moves suddenly and deeply upon a community of His people, bringing them to repentance, creating in them a hunger for more of God’s Word, and renewing them thoroughly from the inside-out. Revival does not come unless God’s people seek the Spirit, and prayer is the appropriate setting for this. God calls us to pray for revival. He has revived His people many times during the course of church history; and He has awakened significant, even astonishing, numbers of lost soul as His churches are revived and renewed. Let us not be found among those who insist that revival is “far away.” Rather, let us labor to bring it nigh with prayer, eagerly looking for a fresh upwelling and outpouring of God’s Spirit.

Do you pray regularly for God to send revival? Do you lead your church to pray for revival? Do you expect revival to come apart from praying for it, specifically, repeatedly, earnestly, and with your fellow believers?

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