22 June 2017

Is Islam Being Wrongfully Criticized?

Rebellious World Blind To Wall Writings [Daniel 5: 5]

There is a premise making the rounds.

It loosely reads: “replace 'Muslim' with 'Jew' and what does it sound like?”

This statement is attempting to highlight how some people incorrectly point fingers at all Muslims when thinking about certain radical and violent religious extremist groups or individuals; radical Muslims being a narrow interpretation and state of mind within a larger ideology - Islam.

The attempt is to bridge a similarity with Nazi Germany's treatment of Jewry a century ago, the Jews as a whole being attacked for the actions of a few influential Jews.

This is as far as the premise and accuracy goes...the bridge is actually a very short pier.

Jewish identity runs a wide gamut, being narrowly and religiously interpreted in some cases, irreligious while beholden to an ethnic identity in other cases; also a state of mind within a greater ideology - Jewish.

Both cases are perceived through the lens of an ideology, which is a belief in a god, or in something individually explained.

Many ideologies exist on earth and they are called religions (atheism included).

The premise of the phrase comparing Islam's critics to Jewish critics is wildly flawed, I think.

The phrase's premise can be called correct on the surface when only looking at individuals and blaming a group by extension.

Were Jewish individuals or a Jewish group within Jewry, whether wealthy or common, doing any of the activities that radical Muslims are currently doing?

Let's look at a short list and try a comparison:

- nefarious agenda for outright world conquest

- committing violent crimes, always justified

- invoking a so-called slanted religious interpretation

- hostile to surrounding culture

- conversion being the aim, with tribute or death the two other options

- funded propaganda campaigns promoting legitimacy

- desire to change world culture at all costs

- introduce an alternative interpretation of life contrary to how life has developed across the globe

I'm sure some parallels could be drawn depending on who is reading this article.

According to any individual's interpretation of the world, how they understand history, or history's revisions, they may bridge several parallels.

The internet flourishes with unfounded internet conspiracy theories, while there is factual evidence of conspiracy facts (this is a general statement).

For example, there is a popular conspiracy theory claiming the earth is flat, with some geometry and well-crafted arguments mashed together and effectively beguiling the gullible and suspicious.

There is a religious motivation behind the promotion and push for this theory.

Yet the theory is outright nonsense and has been for quite a long time.

Fortunately, no one is (currently) killing others for refusing to believe the earth is flat...though there was a time science and religious belief did end in bloodshed.

However nonsensical the flat-earth idea is, initially being an ancient concept before man circumnavigated the earth, reasoning and evidence today shows how easily people can be fooled by propaganda, whether in professional media (news) or in a YouTube video or FaceBook post...besides the notion of a flat or spherical earth.

There is an ongoing battle for the minds and hearts of humanity.

Ancient kings would declare edicts and send heralds throughout the land, promoting their propaganda quite convincingly; anyone who opposed the king's edict met with certain death.

Loosely affiliated tribes also enforced their local power through force, intimidation and whatever religious or mythical ideology was at their disposal.

Whether such beliefs were true or false were secondary to their effectiveness in forming popular opinion and exacting desired results.

Understanding, objectivity and depth are usually missing when people either make simple statements or accept certain interpretations of simple statements.

Simple statements can be profound and unequivocally truthful.

Simple statements can also be flat-out lies disguised as a truism.

The lies, quite ironically, are sometimes not intentional; they are simply based on faulty ideas perceived as truth or reality...the things legends, myths, ideologies and religions are made of.

Simple statements abound regarding the topics of politics, economics, religion, identity, and the many subjects which make up our conscious reflection of ourselves and life.

Yet the details are not synonymous nor vaguely similar.

The motivations, or identity of being Jewish (whether affluent or common), and the motivations, or identity of being Muslim (whether radical or common) begin to appear quite differently as one delves into the premise highlighted in the beginning of this article.

The fallacy becomes clear while the ignorance of the subject matter is ever-highlighted.

The claim against Jewish hegemony was an accusation from an economic grievance, with the religious and ethnic slant being the scapegoating tools playing on people's ignorance.

Germany's Hitler blamed a machination of the economy by certain individuals (not all who were Jewish, by the way), yet this reality of economy ruling over people has been the world's constant since before the first city-state.

How often do you see religious Jews evangelizing?

A century ago, were Jews demanding Germans to assimilate to the Jewish faith?

Was the Jewish faith even promoted?

Was promotion even an idea or suggestion at the time, or even today, regarding Judaism, Jewry or anything obviously Jewish?

Is today's perceived scapegoat - fringe radicals misinterpreting the Islamic religion - the sole cause of concern for non-Muslims?

Is the waywardness of that religious fringe very different from the Islam that Muhammad exemplified and what his poetic stanzas teach from the Quran?

Are the supplemental testimonies (Hadith) where such waywardness is derived, holding the Quran free from criticism regarding violence, warring, conversions, taxations and justified killing?

The economic claim against wealthy Jewry a century ago, which is currently repeated, is the same claim leveled today against “capitalism” as a whole; a faceless enemy, scapegoating individuals and pointing to a larger group.

I think the real issue has more to do with ethnic jealousy, religious bias, and ignorance of how the world has always been (regarding affluent and influential people of any background in the past, and affluent and influential people of any background today).

The element that embitters and confuses the mix is religious ideology and indifference of identity.

Today, the enemy for the religious radical is a certain culture that is not their own, and which ignores their religious arguments for the rights of people regardless of religious judgment of morality and ethics.

In the news we see that the radical Muslim agenda doesn't only attack western strongholds, but also makes violence within ancient Islamic regions.

Similar to when warring between Catholic and Protestant groups were at their zenith, the several groups within Islam continue to battle for supremacy, or legitimacy, of their particular religious interpretations.

The ethnic and religious divide between Iran and Saudi Arabia being an obvious example.

What is ironic is how the western cultures are trying to be sympathetic to the Islamic dilemma.

There is a battle in media propaganda.

One side blames the Islamic culture as a whole for the acts of the murderers.

This is what the premise is highlighting.

Another side portrays the religion as peaceful, moral and neutral, while labeling the murderers as troubled individuals or mentally sick people.

This is what the premise desires to distinguish.

Yet some difficult questions are:

What inspires these wayward religious murderers in the first place?

Are their inspirations common or uncommon to Islam?

Is the ideology of the radical murderers something dissimilar to Islam, or does it have a genesis from the earliest efforts of Muhammad and his poetry?

What inspires people to blow up both themselves and innocent people who are either very different, or different in arguably minute (the adjective) religious details?

The elephant in the room is the discussion finding answers to these questions.

From the point of view of the murderers, their inspirational sources seem to be the Quran and Hadith coupled with ancient and modern interpretations.

Unfortunately for the apologists, the evidence can be read by anyone desiring to read it.

There is no argument the evidence has its roots in that religion's primary sources; the Quran and Hadith.

There is an undercurrent of fear having such a public discussion, because such a discussion can be interpreted as attacking that religion or the honored man who claimed to be a prophet of God.

This discussion has possible political repercussions...rooted in fear.

The fear is propagated in the media subconsciously - that such a discussion may incite the mass of otherwise peaceful and 'moderate' religious people to take a collective stand.

An argument suggests that the reason the radical fringe became radicalized in the first place is the historical reality of violence within the Islamic culture.

Another argument blames western culture, western encroachment, western empire building, and similar outside forces.

These arguments are also found and evidenced in the primary sources of the Quran and Hadith...besides the historical writings of ancient Islamic historians.

Just as the Nazis in Germany blamed their economic woes on wealthy and influential Jews, so do some impoverished Muslims blame their current situation and troubled regions on western culture.

Are the two claims accurate?

Is only one claim accurate?

Is the Islamic culture fatally flawed from its inception?

Is the Islamic religion God's answer to the world's waywardness; the execution of judgment upon the world as a whole?

Is Islam true and fully answers mankind's ills while establishing a moral and ethical standard for humanity?

Perhaps some of these questions can be answered when the individual sets aside a divisive identity, and sees the world as it actually is: populated by human beings who are all related, separated only by time and geography and ideas, but not actually separate.

As for the perception beyond the definitions of religion, ideology and who and how God is, the defining factor is how to go about those who do not religiously agree with you.

Do you love those who oppose you, or do you extinguish them?

Do you embrace those who perceive themselves as your enemy, or do you deal with them according to their actions towards you?

20 June 2017

The Spirit Of The Lord: Purpose

Acts 7: 55


Q: How does God speaks through whomever He chooses, not according to their will, but according to God's will and purpose?

A: the Spirit of God.

[background]: David was anointed king over Israel after God rejected Saul as king for disobeying God's commands as revealed through Samuel the prophet.
When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” 
“Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said. 
So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 
- 1 Samuel 19: 18-24
Notice that although Saul was previously told plainly by the prophet Samuel that God rejected him due to disobedience (1 Samuel 15), God still spoke through Saul via the Spirit at this time.

Notice not only did Samuel prophecy, being called to be prophet in Israel since childhood, but there were other prophets besides Samuel (whether only for a day like Saul, or in continual service to the Lord like Samuel).

Even the men sent to capture David (most likely military men - warriors) were used by the Spirit of God to prophecy that day.

Q: How does God protect those on earth He chooses to protect, and how goes God empower them according to His purpose?

A: by the Spirit of the Lord
Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. 
- Judges 14: 5-6
God endowed Samson with superhuman strength.

We are all uniquely endowed with certain gifts and talents, and we are all one in the Lord, God exemplifies unique qualities for certain purposes, for as seen through Samson, God can do similar with any one of us.

I don't think Samson, in his own mind, would have attempted to fight the lion.

I think this was because the Spirit of the Lord worked through Samson, with Samson as a vessel, perhaps previously willing but at the moment simply an instrument.

Consider what is mirrored in 1 Samuel 19 regarding how those men had no choice when God enacted His will through them.

Q: How does God use men as vessels to do His work, His will, and bring about His way?

A: the Spirit of the Lord / God's Spirit / the Holy Spirit.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” 
I said, “Sovereign Lord, You alone know.” 
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I Am the Lord.’ ” 
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 
Then He said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I Am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, My people, will know that I Am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” 
- Ezekiel 37: 1-14
This passage is portrayed as a vision and/or spiritual experience the prophet Ezekiel had.

Q: Do you suppose God needs someone in order to speak to mankind or convey a message to others?

A: No.

We read many examples of God speaking directly to mankind in His own Image.

In the form of a Son of Man (human - man) revealing the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 1: 27, 10: 20, Revelation 1: 14).

Other times in another visual reality, in full view of many people (Exodus 24: 9-11).

Q: If God doesn't need a human to reveal Himself, His will or His testimony, why then does God use men/mankind to convey messages or do His work and will?

A: Several reasonable answers.

One answer is that God chooses certain individuals for salvation in order to glorify Himself through us, as He did Himself as the Messiah.

The Holy Spirit is gifted to the believer for many reasons; salvation being one, participating in the divine nature another.

Q: What is God?...and what does God want from us?

A: God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (John 4: 24).

Q: Does God live among us? How?

A: We are, ourselves, our bodies, the Temple of God's Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6: 19).

This is why God calls us to be holy, because He is holy.

It is glorious to be called by the Lord of hosts, the King of kings, the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Living One who is eternal and has revealed Himself, for our sake, in the Messiah.

Praise, glory and honor be to our Lord, our God; His Holy Name Yeshua!

18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day Abraham


God spoke and made an everlasting covenant with Abraham.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I Am God Almighty; walk before Me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make My covenant between Me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” 
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is My covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” 
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!” 
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When He had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. 
On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him. 
- Genesis 17
Circumcision is believed to be the oldest known medical procedure, predating written history.

For a great insightful read that marries the biblical narrative with extra-biblical historical references, read a text-only version of Britannica's encyclopedic article on Abraham.

God desired that Abraham become the father of many nations.

This occurred through three women; Sarah, Hagar and Keturah.

Through Sarah came Isaac and the 12 nations of Israelites that, over time, went into the regions of Assyria (Iran), Babylon (Iraq), Europe, Russia, the Americas....and beyond.

Through Hagar came Ishmael and a multitude of nations that, over time, went into the regions of Arabia, North Africa, Europe, the Caucuses, India...and beyond.

Through Keturah came six sons and a multitude of nations that, over time, went into similar regions as their half-brothers...and beyond.

There are ancient references to kinship between those who would be called Spartans, referenced in 1 Maccabees 12, being also children of Abraham (list of scholarship discussing the fact or fiction).

In due time, genetic genealogy will answer the question about the Spartans, and the rest of those who are tied to Abraham in one manner or another.

For some people, genetic heritage means a great deal to them.

It is a means of deriving meaning and identity.

However, what is quite fantastic regardless of your ancestry, whether you can claim a heritage as interesting as Abraham's, or someone you consider notable, is this:
So in Christ Yeshua you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Yeshua. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
- Galatians 3: 26-29
For those gifted faith, the inheritance of eternal promises is realized when one is enabled to acknowledge who is King and their true Father.

Notable the lineage of kings of Israel which culminated in Yeshua HaMashiach the King of kings.

Embrace those who are your fathers in the flesh.

Embrace those who are in the cloud of witnesses (whether a father spiritually and/or only fleshly).

Embrace, praise, acknowledged and thank the Father in heaven who revealed Himself in a way mankind could possibly understand Him:
For to us a child is born, 
   to us a Son is given, 
and the government will be on His shoulders. 
   And He will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
- Isaiah 9: 6

13 June 2017

Songs Teach Us What We Already Know


I was having a conversation about forgiveness with a friend recently.

Forgiveness is a fundamental principle of life, of living life peacefully and fully.

It is not easy to forgive, but it is essential to push past the lulls in life when we are challenged to grow and mature.

While it may seem easy to forgive those who ask for forgiveness, or a situation where you feel good about forgiving, what about the thought of forgiving the unforgivable?

What about those who are not asking for forgiveness, but would desire to kill you?

How difficult it is indeed to forgive such as these.

I misquoted the lyrics of a song that I happened to be playing in my mind prior to starting this conversation with my friend around the idea of forgiveness.

I repeated the second part correctly, about love, but the first part I guessed incorrectly:

'I got a feeling, we're holding the hands of time'.

The actual lyrics are as follows:
I got a feeling we're holding back the tide 
I got a feeling we may never show 
All the love we hide 
Lyrics by: Talk Show
I found the message subtle yet profound.

How many times have we hid love inside?

Isn't this all of us?

We are afraid to open up our hearts to others, even those closest to us.

We hold back the tide, afraid of letting love spill out...afraid of what may come out.

What are we truly afraid of?

To realize our commonality?

To realize that love is the basis of us all?

Yet many avoid love, either feeling it, expressing it or experiencing it.

Looking at my mistake in quoting the original lyrics, aren't we also holding the hands of time?

I have had friends and relatives pass into eternity without me fully expressing my heart to them.

I know and believe they can hear me even now, but it is a very different experience (and challenge) opening up in front of someone in person.

If Today you have something you should have shared with someone; a kindness, loving word, forgiving them or asking them for forgiveness, please do not delay.

Time quickly slips away, while the love we have inside grows beyond ourselves and our concepts of eternity.

10 June 2017

Knowing God According To His Terms

Many Still Don't Know God, Though They Claim To

No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life. 
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. 
- 1 John 2: 23-27
What is the big deal about acknowledging the Son?

Very simply; the Son is the manner God revealed His heart and His very Self to all mankind.

It is very difficult to make negative claims against Yeshua's testimony as expressed in the Gospel.

To argue against Yeshua's message (love, peace and blessings to all mankind) could be seen as a hostile and futile effort.

How can someone argue against love?

How can someone not like the idea of peace between people?

Surprisingly, enough earthly minds and hearts justify their reasons to oppose Christ by weaving together an argument formulated according to human logic.

Very interesting how a human's logic can promote love while also justify murder.

Such arguments can be made and explained in a logical, rational and reasonable manner and many people are convinced by such hypocrisy.

Yet, such arguments are based on earthly reasoning, not heavenly wisdom.

Why do people have a difficult time in accepting what is believed about Yeshua?

Most reasonable people can at least accept Yeshua's positive and noble message, so why not Him?

The short answer; faith.

Faith is a gift, not something attained by effort like one pursues a degree or license.

Faith is not “oh, I cannot explain it, I simply 'believe it' and don't think much about it”.

That is a kind of polemic from an atheist perspective against a believer.

However, sometimes that polemic is correct in addressing ignorance on the part of the believer.

Does such ignorance mean the believer is incorrect or wrong in their belief of who the Son is?

Many scientific theories were proven after they were initially theorized, while some theories are still being developed and expanded upon, but are still theories (unproven ideas).

The placebo effect shows how faith causes the body to cure itself of disease, yet not all who say they believe are healed.

Paradox.

Can faith in the unseen be rationalized as an argument to others when a believer has seen and heard things that a doubter has not, yet cannot reproduce such experiences?

People who in the past dove to great depths in the oceans, prior to the invention of cameras or video, shared their experiences with others.

Such experiences were sometimes believed simply because the divers had no reason to be making anything up.

But some hearers doubted, of course, just as some divers elaborated their stories.

Maybe there was a time people believed that diving deep enough into the oceans would allow passage to the other side of the world.

Such a thought seemed reasonable enough because the ocean floors had yet to be realized, tracked and surveyed.

Digging into the earth on both land and in the ocean has revealed that the journey isn't only water from one side of the earth to the other, but solid mass and specific layers, even below the ocean's floor.

The defining and dividing factor that distinguishes between science and faith is this: science measures what can be reproduced and caused to be repeated...experiments being predictable and consistent.

The things of faith, once again, are gifted by an allowance of faith and cannot be reproduced or induced by man's will.

This includes understanding something that is not understood by science.

Imagine two people of equal wisdom and schooling, yet only one has this gift of faith.

The one with faith understands, although holding equal wisdom and schooling, the world according to God, while the other understands the world according to the world.

The things of faith are not dependent on the material world, but occur independent of material limitations.

The matters of science have largely been made of the measurable material world, and science is getting closer to understanding what has long been understood by the faithful regarding the invisible and unmeasurable world.

I was discussing with a new friend recently about the dark arts that some people unfortunately participate in.

He mentioned briefly dating a woman who talked about witchcraft, black magic, and so on.

He said he doesn't believe in such things and neither does he believe there is One Above.

I told him plainly and clearly that not only is there One Above, but the sinister things of darkness do occur here on the earth below.

I shared with him that such realities are not dependent on people's belief that they exist.

Why?

I shared with him that I have personally experienced spiritual realities from both the light and the dark.

I can tell by the look on his face he had a difficult time in taking my words seriously.

What am I selling that I need to convince him or anyone else about my faith or my experiences?

The deep sea diver doesn't need to prove themselves unless they are trying to gain financial support for more deep sea explorations, or to sell a book, or to gain notoriety of some kind.

What of the diver who simply has a passion for exploration of what is deep?

Or perhaps the diver would like to share his findings with others, so they may better understand not only themselves, but the world in which they live.

I personally know people who have seen and heard the supernatural, even beautiful visions of His glory, and still doubt after having such experiences!

Paradox, again.

The diver knows very well what they experienced...and it wasn't so much 'blind faith'.

Such has occurred with this man (me).

I told my new friend that I hope he never sees anything from the side of darkness / evil.

I pray from my heart that instead, he sees things of the light, enough so, that my friend would be fully convinced that He is good and allows certain things to happen for specific reasons, always to bring forth good to those gifted with His faith.

Much good came out of my journey into the depths of darkness, and the bearing of such fruit was not from my personal effort of diving too deep into such darkness.

I personally was not participating in the dark arts, but had unfortunately and unwittingly been associated with someone similar to who my new friend was acquainted with.

Sometimes, our journey into the depths of this world, or the vast parched deserts beyond perceived safety, are part of the journey that brings forth great fruit for ourselves personally.

One should not attempt certain journeys in order to dark or parched places to hopefully bear fruit.

This is not the message.

The message is; when you find yourself having traversed such places, for sadly we find ourselves there after the fact, and if you have the faith, then you will surely realize the fruit after a time of drought.

Such experience is seed for those who would 'hear' us, not by fleshly ears, but spiritual ears opened according to His gift of faith.

May this new friend, his past acquaintance, and even my past acquaintance, find and keep such a life saving gift of faith...to the praise and glory of He who has always been enthroned Above, even when He momentarily traversed the earth in the flesh for our sake.

So what, then, is the big deal about the Son?

Well, the Father calls the Son “God”:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful Word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the Name He has inherited is superior to theirs. 
For to which of the angels did God ever say, 
   “You are My Son; 
      today I have become your Father”? 
Or again,  
   “I will be His Father, 
      and He will be My Son”? 
And again, when God brings His firstborn into the world, He says,  
   “Let all God’s angels worship Him.” 
In speaking of the angels He says,  
   “He makes His angels spirits, 
     and His servants flames of fire.”  
But about the Son He says 
   “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; 
      a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 
   You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; 
      therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions 
   by anointing you with the oil of joy.” 
- Hebrews 1: 1-9
Is the Father talking about another god or an associate with Himself?

No.

The Lord our God is One.

Read the Hebrew passage again (and again if need be), and may God grant your heart wisdom regarding how God describes Himself.

Notice how God defines Himself apart from the angels, and explains Himself as proclaimed through the Son.

The Son is how God has allowed mankind to perceive Himself, according to His gift of faith, since God's message is Spirit and speaks in spiritual terms, not in material or measured terms (the language of science).

God has always spoken about Himself in the first-person, second-person and third-person.

Has God changed the manner He speaks of Himself?

No.

He hasn't diminished His message, but has enhanced the message in such a way, that it confounds the wisdom of the faithless while granting understanding to the simple who have been gifted His faith.

He has done this for His personal and eternal glory!

07 June 2017

Revelations From Above & Revelations From Below: Part 3

Matthew 7: 15-20

...continued from Part 2 (link to Part 1).

The previous parts of this article have shown how to qualify a prophetic revelation (or someone claiming to speak on God's behalf).

The qualifier is whether or not the prediction / message comes to pass.

Regarding future events, only God knows the future.

No one else in His creation, whether angels of the light or the fallen, nor human beings, know what tomorrow will bring unless God allows them insight.
You know when I sit and when I rise; 
   You perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down; 
   You are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue 
   You, Lord, know it completely... 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in Your book 
before one of them came to be. 
- Psalm 139 2-4, 16
Miracles do not qualify a prophet if their message disobeys or contradicts the Word of God.

This is why the warning in Deuteronomy 18 speaks about not pursuing spiritual methods beyond what God has established.

That warning is to be heeded, since disobedience is outright rebellion.

Obedience to God's Word is paramount to realizing God's will, God's order and God's prophetic message.

The continuity of God's message, from the beginning until Today, has already been revealed and made known in Christ.

In which specific manner does God reveal the future?

By His Spirit.
But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 
- John 16: 13
The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all the truth...will speak only what He hears...will tell you what is yet to come.

Some religious people claim that a prophet appeared after Christ; a man born in Arabia about 500 years after Christ rose to heaven.

This man, named Muhammad, claimed to be the final prophet according to the line of prophets of God...the God of Israel.

Muhammad claimed to have perfected religion for all mankind and claimed no other prophet(s) would appear after him.

Part 2 of this article shows these claims to be false.

Muhammad's various claims are found in the Quran; a collection of Arabic poetry replete with Jewish and Christian biblical reflections, and ancient and contemporary legends, written through an Arabian-centric ideology.

What is missing from the Quran is acknowledgment of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, among many other issues related to salvation.

There is nothing regarding the New Covenant established by the blood of Christ, which is the cornerstone of the New Age and the foundation of salvation.

What is mentioned by Muhammad is a so-called return to a primordial covenant that God had established with Adam and his progeny (see this article about Islam's Covenant Perspective).

Muhammad claimed to have been a prophet of the God of Israel, yet we have already seen the criteria the God of Israel established regarding those who would make such claims.

What does the historical and spiritual record show?

The followers of Muhammad have mentioned many prophetic messages of his having come to pass.

But when looking closely at these, we can see great efforts to bridge vague poetic cadence to meet and marry modern human developments.

Notice how the Word of God, in contrast, is not vague but very detailed.

Details in the Bible express many specific messages, whether talking about future events, instructions for righteous living, the requirements of the law, plans to build certain structures, etc..

With details, one can distinguish between what is vague and what is explicit and specific, not needing interpretation when the message is intended to be understood literally.

Let us take a look at some of the more popular prophetic claims of Muhammad as found in the Quran (Islam's religious book).

One prediction from the Quran was that the Persian army would be removed from Jerusalem by the Roman army within a certain period of time.

The Quran's al-Room (chapter 30) verses 2-4 make this prediction.

Reading to verse 4, notice the varied interpretations of the timeframe are “a few years”, “ten years”, “nine years” and “three to nine years”, among others.

The historical record shows the Persians occupied Jerusalem from 614 to 629 (second to last paragraph of that section; notice also the citation).

That is 15 years, not the 3-10 year guess mentioned in the Quran.

Aside from the hopeful tone in the Quran's narrative regarding a victory in favor of the Romans (a Christian empire at the time), it is questionable how this prediction incorporates the Islamic perspective.

I mention questioning the Islamic perspective because only six years after Muhammad died in 632, Jerusalem was sacked by Muslims in 638.

Looking at the dates regarding the prediction, it possible Muhammad was aware the Romans were preparing to recapture the city.

[ancient battles were typically fought initially near borders and outer garrison posts before - if making it past the exterior - arriving at the interior and attempting entry into a walled-in city]

When the fact of historical dates are compared to the vague mention of a timeframe regarding the reconquest, the prediction didn't work out.

A single mistaken prediction should be sufficient, but let us grant the benefit of doubt and overlook this one.

A second popular prediction is that Muhammad and company would return to Mecca and enter the Kaaba safely and without worry (the Kaaba is the cube-shaped building worshippers walk around seven times).

When reading al-Fath (chapter 48) verse 27, notice the key words “God willing”, which is a familiar phrase when someone plans to do something and is hopeful God will allow it to happen, but they do not know for certain.

I'm sure it can be interpreted in another fashion, but why implore God to will something if it has already been granted?...but let's ignore this question for the moment.

The conquest of Mecca was factually not without incident as commonly believed among Muslims of today, nor was it peaceful or a welcomed homecoming for Muhammad.

According to Islamic historical records, there was resistance at one entrance to the city (read this link and the previous page please), with casualties realized on both sides.

Muhammad marched onto the city with over 10,000 fighting men against resistance of over 300 fighting men in Mecca.

He returned to Mecca as a warrior with an occupying army prepared to fight, arguably not as a religious pilgrim seeking to peacefully worship at the Kaaba as the prediction suggests.

Reading the Islamic historical accounts, Muhammad's conquest of Mecca is actually viewed as a military conquest, religiously interpreted as a sign that God supported Muhammad's efforts.

[read a narration of the event according to Islamic historical accounts]

Looking for the safe entrance and a no-worry entry into the Kaaba, let us continue.

Islamic historical reports show Muhammad commanded his followers not to kill anyone taken captive.

Prior to entering the city, Muhammad had declared safety to people who stayed in their homes or inside the Kaaba.

However, up to ten people were sought and killed at Muhammad's command after the city capitulated, with orders that even if these certain people were holding onto the curtains covering the Kaaba, they were to be slain. (read last paragraph at this page)

Those killed included some women who sang a song ridiculing him, apostates (left the religion) and others who had openly opposed him.

So there was an order to not kill anyone, and then a manhunt was issued to kill certain persons after the city was secured.

One of the men on the hit-list was a former Muslim who would write down Muhammad's inspirations (the Quran). (read some of that account here)

Muhammad claims his dream told him of “security”, but one could ask why the need to kill certain people, especially after absolute power was realized in the city and over all the people.

Perhaps a message had to be sent to would-be rebels who dared defy his authority.

What was Muhammad's sense of security when needing to kill women who sang an annoying song about him and eliminate some people who walked away from the religion?

The idea of entering the Kaaba with peace and security is most likely justified when these killings were done before Muhammad enter the cubed building.

Reading histories of pre-Islamic and post-Islamic societies, killing people for religiously 'justifiable' reasons is a commonplace occurrence deeply imbedded into the psyche of the cultural ideology.

Some Muslims claim and quote the Quran where it says there is no compulsion in their religion, yet people who had left that religion have historically met violence from relatives and friends, death being the final result in most cases.

[earliest Hadith (reports) after the Quran about dealing with apostates - scroll down to Volume 9, Book 84, #57]

Death is still the verdict for leaving the religion Today in countries where Islam is the overarching cultural identity.

Before moving on, let's look again at that 'predicting' verse.

Notice the verse is actually written in past tense.

The way it is found in the Quran, it is actually not a prediction itself, but a recalling of a story that speaks of a prediction...and the outcome having happened.

Does this qualify as an actual prophetic revelation?

In the manner it is written, it could arguably be compared to Agabus (part 2 of the article), but does it compare to what God told Abraham and the many other people throughout the Bible?

In both the Old and New Covenants, the individual books within that collection of books were written at different times.

Predictions are read in one book and either realized in that same book, or another book some time later, whether several years, decades or centuries later.

The Quran is a single recorded compilation over a period of 23 years.

That book is not in chronological order like most of the Bible is, but instead the largest chapters come before the shorter chapters for an unspecified reason.

Let us look at another claim of prophethood regarding Muhammad.

Muhammad claimed to be descended from Ishmael, the son of Hagar, whom we read about in a previous part of this article.

Ishmael was included in the covenant of circumcision commanded through Abraham.

When looking closer at Genesis 17, we see again detail and specificity.

Ishmael and Isaac were half-brothers (Abraham being the father through two different mothers).

The covenant of circumcision covered the two sons (and those in Abraham's household, including purchased servants), with the subsequent promises of a more covenant was made through Isaac, not with Ishmael, as the testimony clearly states.

Unfortunately, there is no record of a specific covenant made with Ishmael, aside from Ishmael receiving the sign of the covenant of circumcision already mentioned.

There is no extra-biblical evidence regarding Ishmael, no oral or written testimony aside from what appears in Arabia with Muhammad in the 6th century.

It is quite an expanse of time, void of testimony since the patriarchal era, without anything substantial clarifying these matters that may legitimize Muhammad's claims.

Another miraculous claim from Islamic tradition is that the Quran itself is a miracle, and is Muhammad's greatest miracle.

Reading it, one can acknowledge the manner it poetically rhymes while swaying back and forth between a variety of subjects and thoughts, marching to a cadence all its own.

The Quran is believed to have been expressed by an inspiration from an angel, preserved free from error by Muhammad's perfect memorization and perfect recitation to his listening followers, who also perfectly memorized it and then perfectly wrote it down.

However, this manuscript found in Sana'a, Yemen, reveals a very different reality.

The Sana'a manuscript shows an earlier version of the Quran with dialectic markings very different from the official Uthman copy (the Quran of today) compiled 20 years after Muhammad's death.

Islamic legend claims Muhammad was an illiterate (unable to read or write), so the claim is strong that he personally didn't write the Quran since he was uneducated.

Hearing the Quran's recitation in Arabic reveals its poetry, styling, and why it could be considered an extraordinary work of the supernatural.

To be a poet in 6th century Arabia was a noble affair, expressing class, status and eloquence.

It can be quite an emotional experience hearing the Quran being sung out loud in Arabic.

The idea that the message is miraculous can be somewhat understandable when considering the idea that God is speaking through or to a human being.

Surely it is a phenomenal thing for the Creator of all things, both known and unknown, to speak to and through someone.

But if such an occurrence or a supernatural experience was to [have] happen[ed], in the case of a supernatural voice or entity speaking to a human being, would such a phenomenon be a qualifier signifying that person as a prophet?

Would such an occasion simply make 'true' a person's supposed prophetic revelation, or claims to such, according to God's Word?

We already read the manner God established such qualifications, and what manners one is not to pursue.

We thus see the answer, according to God's Word and His commands, is an eternal no.

Christ warned of miracles coming from impostors, warning that there would be false prophets after He rose into heaven.

This isn't about denying good works or miracles, but to be aware if the messages are complementing the Gospel's teaching (which established the current Covenant), or contradicting it.

If the miracle worker or claimant of prophethood was not obedient to what had been previously revealed, they are a false prophet.

The key, as already repeated, is obedience to God's Word and whether or not the prophetic revelation came to pass, not a focus on miracles or spiritual phenomena.

Regarding whether or not the Quran is a miracle or not, we have already seen its content as being false in their claims of prediction.

Instead of attempting to argue whether or not the Quran itself is a miracle, which is an odd claim since no such boast is made about the many revelations through the ages found in the Bible, pursuing such a claim is then a moot point.

We should instead continue to address the criteria of deciphering the truth from a lie, for this is sensible.

Let us then look at Muhammad's first supernatural experiences in order to get an idea of what may have happened to him.

In an-Najm (chapter 53) verses 1-18, we read the initial encounter Muhammad claims to have had with someone “superior in power”, and then the mention of another encounter, where Muhammad sees a “sign”.

The phrase “one superior in power” is translated in a variety of ways, some Islamic legend says it was God, elsewhere it says it was an angel, later named the angel Gabriel.

If we take the Arabic as without issue, the phrase “one superior in power” is how it is messaged in Arabic.

Notice that no specific detail is mentioned regarding what the sign was.

Also, no communication is quoted between Muhammad and whatever/whomever he saw in that first encounter.

It is very well possible that Muhammad did have the experience as he claimed, so let us assist the claim in taking the testimony as valid and coming from a man who had no motive to produce a false story.

Notice the entity does not introduce themselves; they do not mention their name, nor does Muhammad ask for their name.

Another traditional early encounter between the unnamed entity and Muhammad is when the entity demands that Muhammad read, and then mentions how man was created from a blood clot.

Remember, Muhammad doesn't know how to read...so it is interesting the entity demands this of Muhammad.

The blood clot teaching is contrary to the Genesis account of man's creation, and also different from other narratives in the Quran that say man was made from clay.

That encounter then states that God has taught mankind by the pen (written Scriptures, I assume), which sounds acceptable since this is the manner the earliest testimonies were kept, memorized and thus learned throughout the ages.

Muhammad returns from the cave where the encounter took place, in fear, and after telling his wife and her comforting him, she takes him to see her uncle, a man who calls himself a Christian.

Something needs to be clarified; there were many varying Christian groups in the Arabian peninsula at the time of Muhammad, one notable group being the Collyridians who worshipped Mary as a goddess.

A variety of groups in the Arabian desert were considered heretical by the Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic groups save for a few.

Each group had their similarities (that Yeshua was called Messiah and rose from the dead with salvation being found in Him), yet their interpretations of Christology developed differently according to their cultural, ethnic and language differences, with some ideas becoming quite divisive or difficult to resolve between themselves.

It is this backdrop of confusion that Muhammad most likely encountered from the several contemporary Christians.

Looking at the interaction between Muhammad, his wife and her uncle, the uncle is the one who convinces Muhammad that the encounter was a calling from God and the entity must have been the angel Gabriel.

Read the encyclopedic entry of that encounter.

We don't read in the Quran the entity claiming itself to be the angel Gabriel.

This is very remarkable and needs to be noted.

In later chapters and verses in the Quran we read Gabriel's name mentioned, but this is after the initial meeting, yet still no clear declaration of who the entity is.

From the manner Muhammad claims to have been inspired, we see this method to be quite distinct and different from all of the prophetic accounts found in the Old and New Testament.

Interestingly, when Muhammad begins to publicly recite the poetry of the Quran, his listeners consider his words to be inspired not from God, but from demons.

From what we've read in the Old and New Testaments, it makes obvious sense why a religious or faithful Jew, or Christian, would have such a response...if they knew and understood their writings, that is.

There were Jews, different Christian groups, pagans and other religious groups living in Mecca.

In the previous parts of this article, we learned that God's Spirit is who speaks through an individual, and this is not the individual's effort; the individual is filled with the Spirit and thus speaks what the Spirit speaks.

The Spirit speaks through them.

We see no such account in the Quran, and no such explanation regarding Muhammad's inspirations as being similar to this, yet this is the order found and repeated throughout the Bible.

Instead we see a pattern of an entity / angel speaking to Muhammad, then Muhammad repeating the teaching or inspiration to his listeners.

Two of the strongest contradictions found in the Quran, regarding the Messiah, need to be mentioned.

One is a mistranslation, the other is a misunderstanding and hostile polemic (insulting argument).

The mistranslation is the death of Christ on the cross, the misunderstanding is Christ being called the Son of God, and how both of these messages are expressed in the Quran.

The interpretation of one verse in the Quran regarding Jesus' death on the cross seems to contradict three other Quranic verses that mention Christ having died and having predicted His own death.

Denying Christ to be the Son of God is, I think, a grave misinterpretation of what that title and declaration from God means.

Some Islamic traditions have translated and perceived Son of God as God having procreated with a female human being (like a regular man and woman procreate), which is quite a blasphemous thought.

This is not what the Gospel has proclaimed nor what learned Christians have preached.

The challenge is understanding, theologically, the Mystery of God in Christ (and in the believer).

In the Quran's defense, it does clarify that it was the Holy Spirit which enacted the conception of the virgin Mary...yet how a physical interpretation has been promoted throughout an entire religious culture is quite sad and reveals a gap of ignorance between laity and clergy.

The manner a spiritual teaching falls on deaf ears and produces a ridiculous misunderstanding is not surprising considering all things mentioned in this article series, and how the truth isn't easily perceived according to human arguments, but God's allowance of faith.

The New Testament clarifies why Yeshua is called the Son of God, while the Quran continues a polemic discourse against the title, always arguing towards what seems to be a pagan's interpretation of God having children.

Paganism was prevalent in the Arabian peninsula, and the tribe Muhammad came from was the Quraysh who were polytheists (pagans).

Regarding spiritual meanings, being called children of God has always been a spiritual definition from Jewish and Christian theology that was never interpreted in a physical manner.

Scholars consider the attitude against the phrase Son of God stemming from an attitude against pagans in 6th century Arabia who claimed God had several daughters in the form of certain angels, again attributing God procreating with either celestial beings or physical humans.

The idea was either a gross misunderstanding on Muhammad's part, or perhaps the entity conveying the message was not clear enough in conveying the message, or perhaps it was something else.

Let us look at what clarifies these matters.

It seems the rope that tied the earliest testimony from Adam, to Christ, to Today's believer, was severed (the rope is an Islamic-centered covenant idea).

The earliest warnings against false teachings accompanied by supernatural experiences were mentioned to believers in the 1st century as read in the following verses, but also foretold about what seems to have happened in the 6th century now looking at Muhammad's message (and the unnamed and unidentified entity)...and such warnings still speak Today:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 
- Galatians 1: 6-9

As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 
- 2 Corinthians 11: 10-15
No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life. 
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. 
- 1 John 2: 23-27
I'd like to mention something quite striking and overwhelmingly evident from the Old Testament, and what came of Muhammad and his offspring.

The Quran continues with the Old Covenant's manners and method of eye-for-eye responses to violence/opposition, and a salvation according to works (which is not salvation when considering what Christ accomplished).

In Semitic tribes, including Arabic and Jewish, male heirs establish a father's name, house, heritage, priesthood (if any) and kinship (if any).

The manner God establishes a man's name and house is by his male heirs so they can carry on the name and legacy.

A man's name and house is not established through daughters, for women take upon the identity and name of their husbands.

A man's house is not only the abode he resides in, but his family, name and progeny.

Looking at Muhammad's family tree, notice that Muhammad's direct male lineage was cut off; there was no male offspring to carry on his name nor continue his house.

All of Muhammad's male children died very young, never marrying nor furthering their seed.

Muhammad claimed to be a descendent of Ishmael and Islamic theology has made claims to the covenant established through Isaac.

Since Muhammad claimed to follow the lineage of prophetic revelation after Christ, while also claiming to be following in the footsteps of all the prophets before Christ, then by the Word of God as revealed in those Covenants shall such claims be measured and judged.
And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by My Name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.’ ” 
- Zechariah 5: 3-4
In fulfillment of a warning against pretenders acting under the law, Muhammad's house was destroyed completely.

Link to Part 2, link to Part 1.

06 June 2017

Revelations From Above & Revelations From Below: Part 2


...continued from Part 1

Revelation is not according to a man's effort, but according to God's will, choice and timing.

God chooses who to speak to / through.

Many people do strange things in an effort to attain revelation.

Some people have hid themselves in caves for long periods of time, expecting something mystical to happen to them.

Some people claim that a dream they have was undoubtedly a message from God, yet when their message is shared, it is contrary to what has been understood about God.

It doesn't produce a greater understanding of God, but actually diminishes or confuses what has already been made clear and understood.

Others dress in certain ways, or sit silently in a certain position for long periods of time, or shut out all outside stimulation and people, in an effort to gain spirituality or an insight from God or somewhere.

But we do not find such instructions in the Word of God.
The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps. 
- Proverbs 14: 15
A person's effort does not cause God to grant them revelation, because it is God who decides what is revealed and to whom such secrets or insights are revealed to, and for what purpose.

This is why if one claims to speak on behalf of God, and claims God has spoken revelation through them, their message must match the pattern that has already been established by God in His Word.

Why?
Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this Word, they have no light of dawn. 
- Isaiah 8: 20
His Word clarifies what makes a prophetic revelation and shows what is truly from Himself.

His Word also clarifies who is a pretender, a false prophet, and how people can tell the difference.

Let us read the manner God has established prophetic revelations to be revealed.
The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put My words in His mouth. He will tell them everything I command Him. I Myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to My words that the Prophet speaks in My Name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in My Name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” 
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the Name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. 
- Deuteronomy 18: 17-22
The fulfillment of a message (or all messages) is what distinguishes a prophetic revelation, or a prophet, from a pretender.

A prophet of God, and God's revelation, is proven by the evidence of the message coming true.

The prophecy actually happening, is the test.

Notice the Prophet mentioned in verses 17-22 is a descendent of Israel; from the children of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel by God).

From this basis one can look at the past, read what was claimed, and distinguish between false prophets and actual prophets of God, even who the Prophet that Moses was talking about.

Does the Prophet mentioned in verses 17-22 come from anywhere else other than Israel?

No.

This is how the Hebrews could tell the prophets from the pretenders, what was true from what was false.

The Hebrews kept the messages that were fulfilled, and discarded the claims of a pretender, based again on the prophetic revelations actually happening.

Moses was qualified by the messages, warnings and promises God made through him...because they all came to pass!

Through Moses, God warned Pharaoh and promised plague...and then caused plague after plague to come upon Egypt.

Through Moses, God promised to rescue Israel...and they were rescued from bondage and left Egypt, being fed and watered in a barren desert.

The miracles or signs in this instance were a byproduct of the message, not the main factor regarding prophecy.

Again, the message having come true was the evidence that the prophetic revelations were from God.

How else is someone distinguished as speaking a prophetic message?

What else was mentioned regarding prophets, and Moses, in particular?
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t He also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. 
(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) 
At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; He stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, He said, “Listen to My words: 
“When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal Myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; He sees the form of the Lord... 
- Numbers 12: 1-8a
Aside from the chastisement to Aaron and Miriam, notice the detail in how God reveals Himself to a prophet.

Notice it is the Lord Himself who speaks to and through prophets.

God directly speaks to His chosen speaker in visions and/or dreams.

God had also spoken through Aaron and Miriam, speaking messages to Israel through them.

A side note and question: what was the special case with Moses?

Moses was allowed to see the “form of the Lord”.

Notice how it says “the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud...stood at the entrance”.

Some religious people claim that there have been no more prophetic messages, or prophets, after Christ.

Regarding the idea that no other prophets or prophetic revelations followed after Christ, the fact is many prophetic revelations have followed in the Way of Christ.

However, the prophetic revelations added nothing new or contradicted Christ's Gospel message nor added to the New Covenant in His Holy Name.

The prophetic revelations that followed Christ were from God speaking certain messages, to certain people, regarding certain things, and in the Name of Yeshua Christ.

One mentioned by name, among a group of other prophets, was Agabus:
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. 
- Acts 11: 27-30
Notice the prophetic revelation was specific; warning of a famine.

Notice the revelation fostered a reaction; to provide help.

Notice the how the prophetic revelation was given; stood up and through the Spirit predicted...

Clicking on the link with Claudius' name will show how this famine historically happened with citations from both Christian and secular sources.

This hopefully may eliminate a circular logic accusation, although some may accuse argument from authority, but such is the manner history is researched, portrayed and understood when looking at the past to decipher fact from fiction.

There is another instance mentioning a prophetic message from Agabus, and also a mention of four unmarried women who also had the gift of prophetic revelation.

The early church has many writings that mention other prophetic revelations, with detailed messages and their fulfillments taking place.

The book of Revelation came through visions with an extraordinary experience the Apostle John had, being taken into heaven in the Spirit, and being shown many things, some of which he was forbidden to share.

John is yet another prophet that lived after Christ.

Regarding the issue of a miracle needing to accompany a claimed prophetic revelation, this issue is clarified with John the Baptist, the prophet who preceded the Lord Yeshua Christ:
Then Yeshua went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There He stayed, and many people came to Him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Yeshua. 
- John 10: 41-42
Again it is reaffirmed that the message (it being true and coming to pass) is the main qualifier, not a sign or a miracle to prove a message's truthfulness.

Why are there warnings and instruction to keep obedience to the Word of God?

Notice how important obedience to the Word and testimony is besides wonders, signs and miracles:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your Name and in your Name drive out demons and in your Name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’ 
- Matthew 7: 21-23
Obedience: only the one who does the will of My Father.

This is why following the testimony since the beginning, and the command to obey God's Word, is superior to a miracle or sign attempting to prove a prophetic message, or a claimant to prophethood.

This is not to say that miracles cannot or do not occur Today, but the message itself must not only come to pass, the prophetic revelation must also continue what has been previously revealed.

Why?
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. 
- Matthew 24: 24-25
This warning from Yeshua Christ is further confirmation that a prophetic revelation needs to be based on what has developed since the beginning, in order to not be deceived.

This warning also affirms that signs and miracles that try to teach a different message than what has already been established in Christ are not to be trusted, but recognized as manifestations of the spirit world around us, not of the truth.

Since Christ is the Prophet that Moses wrote about, and the Old Covenant was fulfilled by Christ.
If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 
John 5: 46
Christ then established the New and Everlasting Covenant.

What the Messiah has established is the Way in which all who believe now realize.

How is this so?

God's Spirit is how God brings forth revelation.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Yeshua began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 
- Acts 1: 1-2

Notice how after being raised from the dead, Yeshua had appeared to different people at different times, and was giving instructions as and through the Holy Spirit.

This is why Yeshua mentioned another Advocate to His disciples, Himself being the prior Advocate having appeared in the flesh and having lived with them, then further promising He wouldn't leave them as orphans, but would return to them.
If you love Me, keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I Am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I Am in you. 
- John 14: 15-20

Notice yet again obedience: if you love Me, keep My commands.

Notice also the unity revealed, for truly we are one with God in Yeshua Christ!

Notice how Yeshua lived among them: but you know Him, for He lives with you.

Notice the manner the return of Yeshua as the Spirit will exist: you will realize that I Am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I Am in you.

To see how the Spirit worked in the Old Testament and still speaks Today, I suggest reading the entirety of Ezekiel's revelation, but here is an example:
He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As He spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me. 
- Ezekiel 2: 1-2
Notice the same occurred with Agabus as it did long ago with Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a prophet at the time of Israel's exile, after the tribes of Israel had settled the promised land for several centuries, before Christ's advent.

After Christ, we read this regarding the Spirit, prophecy, revelation and the like regarding the saints:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that One Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of One and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines. 
- 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11
Notice that all believers in Yeshua as Messiah and Savior are gifted the Holy Spirit, and it is possible that a further gift may be developed in them, as God determines (not according to a person's will or desire).

The theme we've seen repeated has been obedience to God's Word, and the direction from God is found from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

We also see the test to determine whether a prophetic revelation is from God is whether or not that message comes to pass.

We have seen that God speaks to those chosen to hear Him, and those who were commissioned to forward messages for Him.

It has always been God's Spirit, since God is Spirit, which has spoken through and to those chosen to hear Him.

When the Spirit became flesh as Yeshua Christ, He lived among the believers...and promised not to abandon them because He would no longer be among them in the flesh, but within them in the Spirit.

In Part 3 we will look at how pretenders and false prophets were identified in the Scriptures, and whether or not a final prophet has been revealed by God, or if that was simply a claim from somewhere else.