Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

Jonathan Merritt: Wrong

posted by jfletcher

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Dagnabit, he almost had it.

In Jonathan Merritt’s latest post at Religion News Service (“Jeremiah 29:11 is NOT about you!”), the blogger popular with evangelical Millennials rightly observes that Christians often get the iconic verse wrong.

Usually, pastors and congregants alike feel—somehow—that the verse can be appropriated to mean, primarily, that God intends only good things for us. Us, as in gentile Christians.

Narcissism is alive and well in 2013.

Merritt did a great job explaining the context of the verse, which has to do historically with the coming Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem, in the sixth century B.C. The context explains that the prophet Jeremiah was looking ahead to a time when God would restore His people.

An uncovered wall from the time of the Babylonian invasion, Jerusalem, present day.

An uncovered wall from the time of the Babylonian invasion, Jerusalem, present day.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Just when I thought Merritt was going to take it home and help us see that God certainly did do that (70 years after the captivity, a new ruler in the empire, Cyrus, allowed the Jews to return. We can also see a more advanced return, far into the future and looking forward to the restoration of all things)…he veered off into a dismaying, but familiar territory:

Replacement Theology.

This worldview sees “the Church” as having replaced Israel in God’s overall redemptive plan. It has spawned centuries of mistreatment of the Jewish people and, in a broader sense, robbed Christians of a true picture of redemptive history.

Earlier in his blog, Merritt quotes the authors of “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes” (you’ll see the greater irony of that title when you realize the mistake Merritt makes), who get it:

“[Modern Westerners] misunderstand the object of the sentence, you, to mean ‘each one of you individually.’ We then read Jeremiah 29:11 as, ‘I know the plans I have for you, Brandon.’ But remember that Israel was a collectivist culture. They understood the object of the sentence, you, to mean ‘my people, Israel, as a whole.’”

My people. Israel.

It’s pretty simple. The Bible is pretty straightforward most of the time, especially when describing the history and destiny of the Jewish people. Many Christians, however, just can’t see it that way. I suspect many don’t want to. “They” (the Jews) killed Jesus, after all, they say. The Jews rejected God’s plan for them, so He transferred the promises He made to the Jews…to the Church.

It’s a baffling and sinister perspective, but I believe it is something close to a plague in the American church.

Quite interestingly, Merritt gives an important clue in his blog, when he shares that he had questions about this growing up:

“The ministers I asked usually offered a vague affirmation of God’s sovereignty and then changed the subject. So I let it go.”

He let it go so far that he too misunderstands the main thrust of the passage:

“In the Old Testament, ‘God’s will’ describes a plan for God’s people. It is less about prospering a person who follows God and more about prospering the community of God as a whole. So a better modern application for this verse might be:
“God has always worked to prosper God’s people and God always will. Just as God worked in history to preserve Israel, so he is now working to preserve the Church. Though God’s Church will undoubtedly face challenges and often be co-opted into the unholy agendas of governments and politicians and false teachers, and though the individual parts of the whole may experience the terrible effects of a sin-stained world, God remains committed to seeing that beautiful body of Christ through to the end.”

Come on, man, you almost had it. God certainly worked through history to preserve Israel, but the key thing is, He still is. Not “worked,” past tense. “Working,” present tense.

This is the key concept for understanding that Jeremiah 29:11, a Jewish prophecy given by a Jewish prophet, is thoroughly Jewish in redemptive history.

This actually helps explain something else I wondered this week, upon reading that Jonathan Merritt will speak at a closed-door meeting of what I call Christian Palestinianists, in Washington D.C.

“Telos 2013,” a three-day meeting in early October, is sponsored by the Telos Group, whose members work hard to bring the so-called Palestinian narrative into American churches. Merritt’s friends evidently invited him because he is a key communicator with young evangelicals, who often reject the worldviews of their parents.

On Wednesday, October 2, Merritt will host a “Movement Building Roundtable,” and presumably the group will discuss stepping-up efforts to pry Israel support from evangelical churches. Merritt’s view of Jeremiah 29:11 will fit right in.

It’s too bad young Merritt’s pastors could not answer his questions about the famous passage.

He could have prospered from right answers, and so could his readers.

I Fly Away

posted by jfletcher

“Our days may come to seventy years,
 or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
 for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

When I put my feet on the floor this morning, I wondered why I was feeling blue. The feeling lasted until this afternoon, when I realized: today is my father’s 80th birthday. He has been gone many years, not getting close to celebrating such a milestone.

Here I will tell you something I kept close and hidden for too many years: my dad was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 1977. Four years later, perhaps in that “moment of sanity,” he took his own life.

This afternoon, I made a decision not to be sad about it for the rest of the day, but rather to celebrate his life in the quietness of my own mind and heart. I also have another reason to wipe away the grime of gloom:

I will see him again.

King David, upon learning that his infant son had died, said that the boy would not return to him, but one day, he would go to the boy. He understood, with Moses, what it meant to “fly away.”
One day, known but to God, I too will fly away and when I do, my earthly father, my hero, will be waiting for me.

The non-religious scoff at such an idea. Yet I know what I know. Like nothing else—especially given where we are in history—the Bible’s predictive prophecy has proven to me in a bullet-proof way that Scripture is the very Word of God, and He said that He has magnified it above even His own name.

That’s good enough for me, especially now that I have lived longer than my dad. A few years ago, I was sitting by myself one night in the south end zone at the University of Oklahoma, a place Dad and I loved so much. At the kickoff, I said, to him, “I’m still here.” It was a way to acknowledge that I am still in the fight, but that one day I will join him and the terrors and horrors and death of this world will be a permanent thing of the past.

Humans, in order to accept God’s grace, have to “die to self,” as we like to say in the Church. We have to lay down our own arrogance and pride and tell him, like a child, that we need reconciliation with Him. Another of my heroes, Roy Rogers, once said that sometimes, it might hurt to do the right thing, but afterwards, you will feel better.

Yes.

We must lay aside our pride in order to be free. The Word tells us that the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.

There is much sadness in this tired old world, and more it seems with each passing day. The Bible, however, is full of God’s promises. One of them is that in His time, He will renew all things. I am anticipating that with joy and excitement. One day, I will see again the man in whose footsteps I literally walked when I was a boy. He is real and he exists, just as much as I exist in this present condition.

When I was little, my dad had a workshop, so full of tables and tools and what-not that sometimes I didn’t know where he was; but I knew he was near. He kept a small bell on his workbench and always said, “If you can’t find me, ring the bell and I’ll come running.” What a lovely memory, made more so because he taught me that if we were ever separated, he was not gone forever.
bell

In this world, many of us endure dry seasons, where we thirst to be reconciled to our Creator, because it is the only perfect relationship we will ever have. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ, the Creator, is Living Water. The truth of the matter is, in the future, I will see Him face-to-face and in His kindness, He will stretch out a hand and let us see those who have gone on before.

I will.

When I fly away.

“Can I prove there is a God?”

posted by jfletcher

My friend at Lamb & Lion Ministries (www.lamblion.com), Dr. David Reagan, recently posted an absolutely fascinating interview with Carl Gallups, a pastor and author of the book, The Magic Man in the Sky. It’s one of the best defenses of the Christian faith I’ve ever read, and I reviewed it for WorldNetDaily.

The question of the interview centered around whether there is absolute proof of God’s existence. I’d encourage you not only to read the interview, but circulate it among all your friends and family. Carl answers the question with such simplicity, I’d be anxious to know whether anyone, anywhere can refute it.

The answer of course is that the Bible’s predictive prophecy declares the Jews will exist in the last days, as a national entity.

They do.

Period.

End of story.

Or is it the beginning?
Auschwitz to IDF

“Mother, Help Me!”

posted by jfletcher

From the World War II Museum in New Orleans, a most poignant sign—a recollection from the savage Battle of the Bulge.

A reminder that the bond between mother and child cannot be torn.
Bulge

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