Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010 from Jerusalem . . . 1825 New Year's Day with James Brainerd Taylor . . . "That [God] is on the throne is enough for me"

appy New Year 2010 from Uncommon Christian Ministries in Jerusalem, the Eternal City and Capital of Israel.

It has been a divinely blessed and amazing 7.5 months (arrived May 8, 2009) of living, volunteering, ministering, site-seeing and worshiping in various Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Palestinian churches in Jerusalem and throughout The Holy Land. Alas, I will soon provide a summary of my many activities; the list is long and thus the reason for the delay. See past blog entries to read about some of my activities so far. Another 6-19 months remain of my time here.

Above is a picture of my volunteer workplace (reception/front desk) at Christ Church Guest House, located just inside Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. The adjacent Christ Church (Anglican, built 1849) is the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East. I attended the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve services at Christ Church.

Below is an 1825 New Year's Day journal/diary entry of the "uncommon Christian" James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829, cousin of the famed American missionary to the Native Americans, David Brainerd [1718-1747]). At the time, Taylor was a second-year student at Princeton University. It was Taylor's habit to recognize the beginning of a new year by writing in his journal/diary and writing a letter to his family. Of the January 1, 1825 entry, the compilers of the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor wrote,

As Mr. Taylor closed the former year, so, with the spirit of genuine piety, he began the new year with God. Perhaps no man more strictly complied with the injunction, "In all thy ways acknowledge him;" and none seemed more confidently to expect the fulfillment of the promise, "He shall direct thy paths" [Proverbs 3:5-6]. The commencement of his diary for this year is an interesting and instructive exhibition of his obedience and faith in this respect.
May the entry prove encouraging as we say goodbye to 2009 and hello to 2010. Like J. B. Taylor, may we--by God's grace--desire and strive to be uncommon Christians, namely, and according to Taylor, eminently holy, self-denying, cross-bearing, Bible, everyday Christians.

January 1, 1825
Princeton University
New Jersey, USA

That another year has rolled away is to me no matter of regret. In time, and beyond time, it will be remembered as a season of distinguishing mercy. Thanks to the good Shepherd [the Lord Jesus Christ, John 10:11; etc.] for "the green pastures" [Psalm 23:2] of the past year; to my heavenly Father, for his smiles; my Comforter [the Holy Spirit], for his presence.

What will occur this year is hid from mortal man. But O, it is in the mind of the omniscient [all-knowing] God. And this God is my God [John 20:28], to whom I am willing to refer all, both for myself and others. That he is on the throne is enough for me [Hebrews 12:2; Rev. 4:2; etc.]. And his glory he will not give to another [Isaiah 42:8, 48:11].

Direct me, O Lord, in the right way. Lead me in a plain path all paved with love—the path that leadeth upward, and reacheth the land of rest—the way of holiness—the King's highway [Isaiah 35:8; etc.].

I believe there are richer blessings in store for me; if not on earth, in heaven. And the Lord's will being done, it is not a matter of much concern to me whether on earth or in heaven. But should my life be spared this year also, may my soul sink—and sink— and sink into God, day by day. Then I shall grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus [2 Peter 3:18]—deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ [Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34]—live to God [Galatians 2:19]—be a light in the world [Matthew 5:14]—salt of the earth [Matthew 5:13]—wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove [Matthew 10:16]—spiritual, and not carnal [1 Corinthians 3:1].

O that the lives of my relatives who are not yet for God, might be spared, to repent this year, and come to Christ; that my friends, who love the Lord, may honor him more, by bringing forth much fruit [John 15:16]. May this year be a favored season for Zion.

Lord, increase piety in the watchmen. Make the under-shepherds careful of the flock. May the flock be purified. Let souls be joined to the Lord in thousands. Prepare candidates for the holy ministry for their office. Make all that come after more holy and self-denying than those who have gone before.

Prepare me eminently to win souls to Christ [Proverbs 11:30], and build up the church [Ephesians 4:12]. This is all I ask in this world in regard to my relation to sinners. For thee would I labor; for thee, O Christ, would I die, rather than be a hinderance to thy cause. But here I am; do with me as seemeth good in thy sight. Thy will be done.
Taken from:
John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833), 258-60.

Memoir viewable online and at no cost via Google Books. Click here to read. Also, click here to read the memoir's sequel/companion volume A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838) by Fitch W. Taylor.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Archaeological sifting project . . . Temple Mount in Jerusalem

"You will arise and have mercy on Zion;
for the time to favor her, yes, the set time, has come.
For Your servants take pleasure in her stones and show favor to her dust."
On December 8, 2009, I volunteered for the unique and historically significant Temple Mount Sifting Project (or Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation).

Located in Tzurim Valley National Park near the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, the project consisted of sifting through part of the 300 truckloads (600 tons) of topsoil that was illegally removed (1996-99) from the southeast corner ("Solomon's Stables") of the Muslim-occupied Temple Mount in Jerusalem's historic Old City.

Bones, glass shards, metals, mosaic stones, pottery and worked stones were the six main items that project participants were looking for. (See the picture above for some of my and my German friend's discoveries.) Unfortunately but understandably, rarer fines such as coins, seals and jewelry were not found by us.

The discoveries found that day "are unique because they are part of the first archaeological project that has ever examined artifacts from the Temple Mount. Therefore, every find is very important and exceptional. Even the smallest piece of pottery that [is found] can be dated to a certain period of history which, when processed statistically, will help [the expert archaeologists and historians] understand the amount and types of activities that took place on the Temple Mount throughout history."

According to the project organizers, and thanks to past volunteers numbering over 40,000, "Among the clods of earth some very exciting findings have been discovered, including a bulla on which there is the impression of the seal of a kohen (priest) from First Temple times (Solomon's Temple) [960 - 586 B.C.], fragments of stones decorated with magnificent frames from the Second Temple (Herod's Temple) Period [516 B.C. - 70 A.D.], arrowheads from various periods, hundreds of coins including 'Herut Tzion' (Free Zion) coins from the days of the Great Revolt against the Romans and much more."

Biblical archaeologists Drs. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Zweig, Ir David (City of David) Foundation, Israel Nature and National Parks Authority and private donors note that the "project is not a task for a small clique of archaeologists, but rather a responsibility, duty and privilege of the entire Jewish people and those who support them [including many Christian archaeological students and tourists]. Therefore, this undertaking cannot be a brief operation over within a few months, but a meaningful and sustained project lasting many years." Since the major project began in 2004, only 1/3 of the illegally removed Temple Mount topsoil has been sifted.

For more information and/or to volunteer for the Temple Mount Sifting Project (or Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation) while visiting or living in Jerusalem, click here (Wikipedia) and here (blog) and here and here (City of David National Park web site). Included on the TMSP's blog is the history of the project, recent updates, related articles and selected media reports.

NOTE: The Winter 2009 issue (Vol. 22, No. 1) of Bible and Spade is devoted to the TMSP. Click here or here for the PDF version of the issue. Bible and Spade is a non-technical quarterly publication of the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR).