Our “One Hour. One Book” videos on each Bible book reached a milestone this past week as we completed and posted to the site ALL of the New Testament videos. There are still a handful of videos from the Hebrew Scriptures that are not posted, but we will have them up soon. The New website is:
It contains a carefully prepared introduction and survey of each book of the Bible that was taped in our classroom in Florida. Our hope is that people unfamiliar with any part of the Bible will find the video introduction helpful, It is currently in use in Bible studies and the series has regular viewers in 114 countries.
Many of us will spend a portion of our day reading social media, and checking on friends and family. Some posts and pictures will make us laugh, but many report the outcome of that time of reading tends to move them in another direction – a negative one. If you have a range of “friends” in your social media feed, you will be treated today to some political and cultural articles that are bound to make you wonder about the world in which we live and its future prospects. Here is a short post to suggest how to redeem some of the time spent online.
Positive ways you can gain from even the “negative posts” on social media (even from those bent on pushing your buttons):
Learn which friends need encouragement. The internet can be a great window into what may be hurting people that you care about. Are they afraid the government is heading in the wrong direction? Are they passionate about something that seems like it is slipping away from where they think it should go? Maybe there is an article that balances their fear and could offer them some encouragement. Maybe you can just assure them the sky is not really falling, and there is beauty all around them they aren’t looking at. In any case, without their posts showing you their concerns, you may have missed the opportunity to be the friend they needed.
Learn more about the “other side” of the argument. If you like seeing things from a variety of perspectives, social media posts often provide a means to see that. They raise questions you may not be asking, and allow commenters to offer counter points. If you are a Republican conservative, you can learn the main views of some Democratic liberal thinkers, and vice versa. You don’t have to “weigh in” and disagree, but you can follow the discussion of others and learn from what they are saying why some see the world so differently than you do. It is even possible that you may find they are not evil, but fellow citizens with different presuppositions and solutions. You may find their arguments weak, but you will be better simply for knowing what they are. Dial back the anger and try to listen to what they are saying. It may be nonsense, but you won’t know until you respectfully listen. If you don’t understand something, kindly say: “I come at the issue a different way, and I really want you to share your perspective so I can learn the other side of this. Will you help me by answering —-. Make sure you are clear your query isn’t a trap or point of argumentation; you really just want to understand a different perspective. You may learn counterpoints you simply have never heard, or it may merely confirm they have none to offer.
Track the logical errors offered as arguments. As people share, you will notice all kinds of arguments that aren’t really valid when examined. I have most often found a “guilt by association” argument used in moral outrage posts. The argument goes like this: “His view is wrong because he is best friends with ____.” Because someone shares a platform with another person who is questionable, does not make his view right or wrong on its face. Logical fallacies are abundant in a society that is more moved by presentation than facts. We can learn much from others, but sometimes what we learn is how NOT to frame an argument. In more recent days, I found that some are swayed by “studies” that either don’t exist at all (but get referred to as evidence) or exist in biased propaganda outlets and hold to few conventions that qualify them as “studies” at all. The masses use them to unwittingly form fallacious arguments based on fruit of a fallen tree. Properly used, social media can help us trace areas of common mis-belief and urban mythology.
Let posts spur you to learn the truth as best you can. When people posted repeatedly that our American founders were largely Deists, it didn’t fit with the reading I had done from their own writings on the subject years before. I curiously began digging through the writings of the founders anew and found the evidence for that position severely lacking in primary sources but assumed in many popular writings. I would never have dug into the issue if others hadn’t raised it. I owe them a debt for pressing me into doing a study that I should have done without urging. Many times what we read are arguments that sound convincing, but don’t actually have much support from the primary sources available – and we would do well to check the facts. More often than not, articles could be checked by source and yielded interesting connection to political or moral agendas. Mark Twain once quipped: “We know a lot of stuff that just ain’t so.”
Let the words help direct your feet. Find your area of passion in what really bothers you, enrages you. Even negative emotion is an indicator or something in your heart. Instead of endlessly reading about negative cultural trends and intractable problems, the interactions on social media can offer a door of opportunity to get involved. Are you concerned about human trafficking? Social media posts may offer clues as to what agencies have been created to care for that issue. Tracking them can help you connect with those agencies. If you do, thank the social media posts for marking the trail that pushed you from rage to response.
In the end, social media is a part of modern life. It can be used in unhealthy ways and summarily attacked as something between nuisance and addiction – but it appears to be a phenomenon that will endure for our generation. The quest to use it in the most balanced and positive way may be aided by looking at these and other suggestions.
The number of credits a student can receive in Bible if they transfer after their year at GCBI to Grace College in Winona Lake, IN is TWENTY FOUR! Considering credits at GCBI are TUITION FREE, this can mean a HUGE SAVINGS for a student that wishes to go on and complete a Bachelor’s degree at Grace. How thankful we are to have the acknowledgement of our program from a quality school like Grace. Here is what you can get…
Since all the courses are Bible or Bible-related, the credit is only available to students either majoring in Biblical Studies (42 hour major) or Bible (30 hour major). This includes the following 8 classes…These courses are Gen Ed and required for all Grace College students):
- BIB 1050 Exploring the Bible
- BIB 2010 Scripture and Interpretation
- BIB 3300 Essential Doctrinal Themes
(These courses are part of the Biblical Studies and Bible majors):
- BIB 2010 Understanding the Old Testament
- BIB 2020 Understanding the New Testament
- BBL 3140 Biblical Backgrounds
- BIB 3290 NT Bible Exposition
- BIB OT Bible Exposition
This would all come in as transfer credit. For more information about Grace College’s other programs, check them out on the web at www.grace.edu and think about 24 credits at NO tuition!
Great Commission Bible Institute opened a new arm for Bible education with the publishing of our first book that contains the notes we offer in our Institute classes.
This GCBI Publication is available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback editions. This is the first of four volumes on Genesis. Go to amazon.com and request “Randall Smith”.
Before I address Dr. Piper’s thought provoking article, let me introduce a problem that first became a reality for me in Bible College. I saw in the classroom of godly and seasoned professors a propensity to interpret the Bible to solve modern dilemmas in what I believed to be an awkward way. I was taught the post-prohibitionist line that Jesus “turned water into grape juice”. It came from men of deep conviction that alcohol was intrinsically wrong, and the text was altered by the ethic. My reaction was this: “There may be moral and ethical reasons to believe one should avoid alcohol, but we should not change the literal reading of the text because we feel strongly about that!” Now – in my view – a number of my evangelical friends are doing the same thing with Israel’s claim to the land: allowing their deep convictions about the behavior of the modern State of Israel to retool their approach to Scripture. John Piper is not among them, but he is being used by them in citation. I believe something is at risk that those who are doing so may not understand. What is at risk is the literal interpretive view of the text of Scripture.
No doubt there has been a long standing support for the Jewish people based on the literal interpretation of the Word. With the founding of the modern State of Israel, many literalists felt it was a vindication of their theology as well as the fulfillment of the next stage of their prophetic understanding. In response, classical Covenant theology and its offspring “replacement theology” have been making a surge in the evangelical community, with the effect of removing support from the Jewish people who are both openly opposed to the Christian understanding of the Person of Jesus, and often represented in the news as a people unfairly occupying a victimized Arab population – a small number of whom are our very own brothers in Christ. Now, younger men and women in ministry, some without strong understanding of the historic collision of two grand theologies and beckoned by the victimized cries of brothers, find themselves ready to move toward a theology represented by John Piper and many others – without the understanding (in my view) of what they will leave behind. As a Pastor who has spent much of my life living in or traveling back and forth to the region, I want to offer a word of caution.
One more thing, I want to offer a caveat that must be understood – what is NOT at stake. At no time should you read that I have anything less than the highest respect for the godliness of the original author of the article I am reviewing. Dr. John Piper is a mature and knowledgeable brother is Christ. He has offered, both in writing and in speaking, many an encouraging word to the beloved bride of Christ. Mine is a deep academic debate about theological foundation, not a personal attack. I do not make it lightly, because the time spent on this “classic apology” for the literalist position is not a slight thing.
My simple point is this: if the evangelical community adopts wholesale the position of covenant understanding contained in the original article, it will give up a literal view of the text of Scripture, and join the ranks of allegorical interpreters. That is my central issue. What follows is my response (in red) to John Piper’s article (in red, bold type my addition) on Israel and the Arabs in land conflict.
“Do Jews Have a Divine Right in the Promised Land?
April 17, 2002 | by John Piper | Topic: Middle East
Piper: How should Bible-believing Christians align themselves in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict? There are Biblical reasons for treating both sides with compassionate public justice in the same way that disputes should be settled between nations generally. In other words, the Bible does not teach us to be partial to Israel or to the Palestinians because either has a special divine status.”
First, I am not sure that we should “align ourselves” in this conflict (per se) – beyond the author’s second sentence – “compassionate justice”. Though I clearly disagree with the author’s covenantal views (as you shall see), I don’t think God’s special place for Israel’s future requires me to accept bad behavior from those civil leaders the present Jewish state. Modern Israelis don’t accept their behavior without question. When Israel is wrong nationally in some policy, we should freely say so – with two qualifiers. First, like the wrongs committed by our own US soldiers in Iraq, we must have some understanding of the nature of conflict when surrounded by hostile parties. Failure to take that into account is second guessing from the cheap seats of comfort those who are up to their neck in real and perceived dangers. That should inform our criticisms.
Second, we as believers must bear in mind that a significant portion of the pain that Jewish people have experienced in Western history has been because of the church – not in spite of it. When those who wore our church costumes and held our banners freely hurt Jewish people in example after historical example, the church moved from being a bystander to a participant in historical Jewish suffering. (For those who think I refer to Catholicism, listen to the counsel in “Concerning the Jews and Their Lies” by Martin Luther for perspective). That does not stop us from speaking about wrongs committed – but it should inform our sensitivity and cause us to be careful in our deportment. At the same time – wrong is wrong whether committed by Israel, or by anyone else.
I take particular issue with the end of the paragraph that “the Bible does not teach us to be partial to Israel”. I think the author intended to say exactly what I said in my paragraph above, but he went further than our Scriptural example. Paul looked forward to Israel’s restoration and saw them as nationally saved in the future. He honored even his lost brothers with a special honor before God (Romans 11:28) the title “beloved” used of no other national people. He looked toward the day when: “ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED”. They were just as LOST at the time of the writing as modern Israel is now (and Paul personally suffered because of them), but he was still anxiously awaiting Israel’s eventual redemption – but still he honored them with words that show he saw the promise as irrevocable and special. Again, that doesn’t excuse them from misbehavior, but we should recognize that they continue to be the “apple of God’s eye” as He awaits the return of His estranged bride (still a future reality anticipated by Paul). Failure to do so is becoming the very arrogant one Paul was writing to squelch in Romans 11 – that was his argument!
Piper: “I do not deny that Israel was chosen by God from all the peoples of the world to be the focus of special blessing in the history of redemption which climaxed in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Nor do I deny that God promised to Israel the presently disputed land from the time of Abraham onward. God said to Moses, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring'” (Deuteronomy 34:4). But neither of these Biblical facts leads necessarily to the endorsement of present-day Israel as the rightful possessor of all the disputed land. Israel may have such a right. And she may not. But that decision is not based on divine privilege. Why?”
If this were a court case, I would argue the author is offering conclusions based on facts not presented into evidence. If Israel was titled to the land, when did the title get revoked? On the contrary, I submit that the Scripture says that the land belongs to God, not to Abraham, nor any other man (Leviticus 25:23) and therefore was not open to sale by Israel. At the same time, the land TITLE of stewardship was given to Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 13:15) through Isaac and Jacob. It was a genetic passing of title (cp. Gen. 15:2-4 “from your loins”; also Genesis 12:7 uses the term “descendants”, the physical nature of which is attested to in the symbol of circumcision in Genesis 17). I mention this because most covenant theologians refuse any distinction between distinction between the “sons of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph” and the “sons of Abraham by faith” – two designations which seem significantly different in careful reading. Their articles show they read the Galatians 6:16 “Israel of God” in the awkward way of “replacement Israel, that is the church” rather than the simpler “Messianic Jew” (real believers in Messiah that were born of Abraham’s physical seed) that appear to be in the firing line of the subject of much of that Epistle.
The notion that the HUMAN TITLE to the land was part of the conditional covenant does not match the reality that God made the land contract of title at a time when Abraham was asleep, and took no active role in agreement to the gift of God – a perpetual title (called “everlasting” in Genesis 17:7-8). It makes the conditional Sinai covenant THE SAME as the one to Abraham, when clearly they were separated by more than 400 years of Egyptian bondage. The TITLE COVENANT of Abraham and the MOSAIC COVENANT (which IS a conditional covenant) are clearly not one and the same in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul agreed that the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) – a statement taken from an argument concerning the condition of lost Jewish people in the first century. Only in a scenario that allowed “everlasting” to mean “until Jesus comes” can one revoke the title – and I see no grammatical justification for that replacement position.
The clear rendering of Genesis 13:15 “for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants FOREVER.” The casual way one can dispense with this statement should shake any member of a church that is resting salvation on the same word – “forever”. If there is in fact a perpetual title to the land as stated in Genesis 17:7-8 and the title was passed genetically to the sons of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, the title of the land still belongs to Israel, regardless of their current spiritual condition. The issue of DOMICILE (that is – whether or not they will live in the land successfully and peaceably) is clearly separated in the covenant from TITLE – because in the original promises to the permanent title there were promises of captivity and removal from the land (Gen 15:13ff). The gift was made because of God’s nature, not Israel’s faithfulness (Dt. 7:7-9). This idea that a covenant with God is not based on works of man should not be problematic to the modern church – as we teach that we possess one for eternal salvation. We all agree that there are conditional promises in the Mosaic covenant, but neither the covenant promise of land title in the Abrahamic covenant nor our own salvation textually fit into the same mold of conditional promises of the Mosaic covenant.
Piper: “First, a non-covenant-keeping people does not have a divine right to hold the land of promise. Both the blessed status of the people and the privileged right to the land are conditional on Israel’s keeping the covenant God made with her. Thus God said to Israel, “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples” (Exodus 19:5). Israel has no warrant to a present experience of divine privilege when she is not keeping covenant with God.”
“Holding the land of promise” and “owning the land of promise” are not the same thing. To be succinct, the issue of Israel’s TITLE cannot be based on their obedience, but the issue of their DOMICILE (living on the land) can. They have no right to expect God to give them the land if they refuse to follow Him. So how can I support their return to the land now? Simple. Jeremiah 31 promised they would return to the land (Jer. 31:35-37) and at a SUBSEQUENT TIME have their heart changed by God. Paul saw that as a FUTURE time of salvation for the Jewish people (Romans 11:28-36). Zechariah 12:10 offered that will come at a time when they “look on Him whom they have pierced”. If one takes the book of Revelation to be literal, the battle for Jerusalem is yet ahead (Revelation 16-19). I have no issue with the notion that we should not be endorsing bad behavior, but that is not the same as denying the Biblical reality that God titled the land to a people and called it ISRAEL (Ezekiel 37:11-12) and not Palestine.
Why should Christians who believe the literal view of the Bible forsake that view because a covenant theologian (who has been historically forced to allegorize passages of Scripture) with arms locked to local Palestinian Christians who have been firmly and completely taught nothing but a replacement theology (that the church is Israel in the New Testament) give up their literal view? I can both believe that Israel has an unshakeable right to the TITLE of the land AND believe that God loves the Arab people of the land and has a future plan for them. We need not be forced to give up a literal view of the texts of our Bible to stand both morally and judicially with brothers who are hurting in the Arab community while understanding God’s broader program with the Jewish people. Paul thought that God’s fulfillment of the program to the Jewish people was SO IMPORTANT that he spent as more words on this in Romans (9-11) than he did on justification (3:21-5:21). It was no small issue to the first century Apostle, and it should not be quickly brushed off by us.
The fact is that either God was at work bringing the Jews back into the land today or this was a total human fabrication of the Zionist mind. Either their return was half step of Jeremiah’s (Jer. 31) promise to return the Jews BEFORE their heart was changed to be intimate with Him, or it was not. Either they will be nationally saved at some point in the future (Rom. 11:26), or they will not. Covenant theologians historically have taught the promises are not related to the modern Jew, and literalist have believed they are taking steps toward their eventual literal fulfillment of the promises of Scripture. Neither position is without Biblical foundation, but both have radically different implications. Sadly, many who claim one theology (but are unfamiliar with its foundations) seem to be trying to be on both sides of the issue – probably because they have failed to examine where their actions lead.
Piper: “More than once Israel was denied the experience of her divine right to the land when she broke covenant with God. For example, when Israel languished in captivity in Babylon, Daniel prayed, “O Lord . . .we have sinned and done wrong . . . To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame . . . to all Israel . . . in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you” (Daniel 9:4-7; see Psalm 78:54-61). Israel has no divine right to be in the land of promise when she is breaking the covenant of promise. This does not mean that other nations have the right to molest her. She still has human rights among nations when she has no divine right. Nations that gloated over her divine discipline were punished by God (Isaiah 10:5-13).”
I beg to differ that Christians that begin to side with the Palestinian cause will not molest Israel. For thirty years I have watched Christians come into Israel and the surrounding region and do just that. In a short time they choose sides, based usually on love for whoever they are ministering to. In short order they join the “corps of hatred” – a never ending banter of exchanges of blame from Israel to the Arabs and back. Read their facebook posts and blogs and you will hear their adopted anger and the vacillation between deep hurt and anger in their charges, etc. It has happened to many of my friends. I have found only a few who could minister in love to Arabs and not slip into deep distrust (read: hatred) of Jewish people. I have seen the same equal abuse among those who out of love for the Jewish people become angry partisans against the Arabs – distrusting even those who know Jesus Christ as personal Savior. In my view, it is naïve to suggest that covenant and replacement theology had – and has – nothing to do with historical Anti-Semitism, (a case which I am more than willing to make). At the very same time, the belief that Israel’s title is irrevocable does NOT lead me to support any form of oppression – as has happened by some of my more radical believing friends. Israelis fight over the behavior of their government, why should I give them a blank check?
Perhaps I am mistaken, but I can think of no other people on earth that can currently claim the distinction of drawing from thousands that desire to blow themselves up to destroy a genetic group of people – simply because they are genetically Jews. To think this is not also a deep and abiding spiritual battle – to suggest that it is “just another people” on the earth is at least naïve and at worst blind. Right now, a group of men is meeting somewhere plotting to kill Jews because they are Jews. It happened when they held no territory, and it happens when they hold a land they believe to be theirs. If these harsh plotters are like most who have left a record in the past – they may not even know any Jews and may have never met any Jews. A recent new report offered testimony of Indonesian Moslems who claim to be ready to pledge suicide bombings against Jewish people – and they are not in the Near East. My point: the conflict is also a spiritual staging ground – not just a territorial dispute. Before we join into the chorus of voices against a people like Israel, we may want to ask who our friends are, and what is motivating them to stand at the side of our protest of Israel’s “rights”. This should give the spiritually mature a pause.
Piper: “Secondly, Israel as a whole today rejects her Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s Son. This is the ultimate act of covenant-breaking with God. God promised that to Israel “a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7). But with tears this Prince of Peace looked out over Jerusalem and said, “Would that you . . . had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. . . . You did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44). When the builders rejected the beautiful Cornerstone, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). He explained, “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:11-12).”
It is easy to read Matthew 21 as though Jesus were handing off the “everlasting and irrevocable possession” of Israel to someone else – but that is not so. Jesus was referring to offering the choice to a future generation of Jewish leaders, not the one that was standing there at the time. Evidence? First, a massive number of Jews were not in the land at the time of Jesus’ visitation. If God meant to overturn His Word concerning them, He did so with a minority presence. That alone isn’t enough, but it should give us pause. Is the majority of “the church” today walking in obedience such that we should feel secure about God using the term “everlasting” in such a manner? For greater evidence which is textual, let me add: Ask the men who were listening to Jesus in Matthew 21 if they thought Jesus was moving the blessing to non-Jews and replacing it with the church or any other entity? I suspect their question to Jesus later in Acts 1:6 “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Did they misunderstand Jesus’ pronouncement of removal, or did they appear to understand that He was pushing it off to a future time but maintaining it for the Jewish people? The answer seems clear enough to one who takes the Bible literally.
Piper: “God has saving purposes for ethnic Israel (Romans 11:25-26). But for now the people are at enmity with God in rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, their Messiah (Romans 11:28). God has expanded his saving work to embrace all peoples (including Palestinians) who will trust his Son and depend on his death and resurrection for salvation. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:29-30).”
That paragraph is a great one, and reminds us of the truth that the Gospel is the hope forward. I wonder in what way the author believes God has saving purposes for a people replaced by the church. In addition, if it is true that God has such ethnic purposes, why should we get involved in trying to sort out every decision that political Israel and its Arab neighbors make when we are to be spreading a message of a “Kingdom not of this world”. It seems unwise for us to enter the region and try to get involved in the political affairs when we have so many to reach and so much love to offer. Why not care for Israel and the Arab peoples, and keep saying that Jesus loves them? What benefit to the Kingdom is there to take a political side among two people groups that are divided even within their own societies?
Piper: “The Christian plea in the Middle East to Palestinians and Jews is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). And until that great day when both Jewish and Gentile followers of King Jesus inherit the earth (not just the land), without lifting sword or gun, the rights of nations should be decided by the principles of compassionate and public justice, not claims to national divine right or status. © Desiring God” (Please don’t hesitate to view all John’s work (much of which is nothing short of excellent) at: www.desiringgod.org
In the end, the Dr. Piper is correct in my view that we cannot decide “principles of compassionate and public justice” while willfully blinded because of our prophetic view. Behavior is right or wrong based on what it is, not who does it. At the same time, there is another mistake that can creep into the church when we take this author’s “high road” of principle. Many decide what the Bible meant based on what they see on the ground. If God isn’t done with Israel, and the TITLE is revoked, that truth cannot be removed because we don’t like some particular behavior of the holders of the title.
As I have tried to state, what is truly at stake, in my view, is the literal fulfillment of God’s promises. Daniel and Revelation in the literal view promise a full restoration of Israel to an intimate walk with God. Paul saw it as a future even to the church age he was living it. In point of fact, the Millennium (whose purpose is to fulfill the land contract to Israel) makes no literal sense to a replacement theologian, and therefore he is forced to allegorize the six times the term “1000 years” are found in the first seven verses of Revelation 20. He has no need of a time for God to fulfill the land covenant promises to Abraham – for the church has taken her place. A literal seven years of Tribulation to get Israel to bow her neck quickly becomes allegories of morality – for Israel is stripped of any special relationship to the future.
I am not concerned that covenant and replacement theology will simply move the church to join an anti-Jewish and pro-Arab view – though I believe that it will. I am more concerned it will press the demise of the literal rendering of the text of Scripture – an issue that is worth an open disagreement among loving brothers in Christ. It is with that in mind I write, and I respectfully offer that I have a fundamental disagreement with this noted author. I believe that genetic Israel is special currently (albeit not exempt from moral scrutiny), and that she will be saved – literally. I think she should behave herself now, but don’t expect behavior different than any other people currently at enmity with God. If the Bible is literally true, the good news is that those days are numbered – the estranged wife of the Father is coming home to Him some day soon. One job given to the espoused bride of the Son is to show her what the relationship is supposed to be like and make her jealous of the loss of intimacy (Romans 11:11) – and we won’t do it if we are constantly joining the chorus of those who desire to beat her.
Note the original article is not entitled, “Should believers support Israel when their government misbehaves?” but a broader argument: “Do they have any lasting claim to the land. ” Either “everlasting” means everlasting when it comes to God’s love and promise – or it doesn’t (Isaiah 59:21). Either “sons from your loins” means genetic children, or it artfully means “people with a spiritual designation of ‘sonship’ that has nothing to do with the gene pool”. Either “one thousand years” of Kingdom on the earth means a literal fulfillment of a land agreement or it is a spiritual marker of a spiritual battle of light and darkness. Either seven years of tribulation is a literal feature of time or some unspecified allegory of judgment. What is at stake is nothing less than how we read the Bible – literally or allegorically.
Featured Photo called “Northern Exposure” by Mark Henspeter, under Creative Commons license
As a leader who mentors youth in their twenties, I have been feeling incredibly optimistic in recent years. For many young people in today’s church, the experience is changing from a decade ago. I have seen a number of waves of change over my years of ministry. I saw the rise and fall of bus ministry, the frenzy of building Christian schools, and the driving wind of the church growth movement. All of them had one thing in common – they started with the same premise: How can we get people into the church. Today, I am beginning to feel a cool breeze of freshness in ministry to people. I am hearing the right question more often: How can we meet the needs of our community? The emphasis is shifting. The problem isn’t getting them in, its getting us out. A couple of observations about the this new wind that I am excited about. They aren’t new and maybe aren’t profound, but they are important, so they bear repeating:
Observation #1: People go where there needs are met. If we minister to them to get them to join us, they can smell self interest. If we honestly give ourselves to real ministry – offering (along with truth from God’s Word) helpful tools and caring services that make a significant and sustainable change in our community, we will effect our town, our nation our world. Growth of our work will care for itself. Jesus said He’d build the church. Our focus is to be on reaching out and carefully sharing the Good News.
Observation #2: Not everything we have been doing is working. It is funny to me what we defend. I have heard people stand up for all kinds of things that when stripped away are nothing more than personal comfort issues of preference made to sound spiritual. We must not be afraid to change our programs, our approaches or anything else that will not compromise our message. There is a sustained onslaught against many of our Biblical values. Family life is disintegrating to the point that legislation is now being crafted to make all the abnormalities acceptable and normal. We live in a society that colors outside the lines and then moves the lines. Yet, we have a great future. We need to be open to change, since it is unavoidable anyway. We need to face the fact that our youth works have not yielded high retention, and try some other approaches. Believers must be attuned to the old saying: “If you want to change what you are reaping, change what you are sowing!” We must cling to the message – that is timeless and Word-bound. Yet the methods cannot be enshrined. If we keep acting like what we are doing is going to save families, we are in for a terrible surprise, coming soon to a community near you!
Observation #3: To reach people nobody else is reaching, we have to do things nobody else is doing. As a leader in my Christian community, I must take the responsibility to examine what my real contribution is to the life blood of my town. Am I building bridges to those who feel alone and torn apart by life? Is the message I bear coming to them in deeds or only in words? People will respond if I love and care about them because they are there, with no string to whether they will side with me on any issue whatsoever. To reach them, I don’t need a program as much as I need a heart transplant. If we are willing to love, we will be used to transform a community – because we are willing to do what many are not willing to do.
Observation #4: Many people die of boredom in church. I am not talking about the sermon, (though that may be true as well). The truth is, the church is the most under utilized army in the world. People want to make a difference. They really do want to serve, but they want it to matter. The old “serve us” world has left many people feeling empty. What is replacing it is a “service mindset”. Just last night, at a conference attended by teens they raised $92,600 for orphanages in Asia. The organizers were asking for $15,000. They saw first hand that when teens believe they can make a difference, they will give everything they can. That was today’s teen – the much maligned as a “self-absorbed” generation. I don’t believe it. I believe people are waiting for their leadership to help them figure out how to make a mark in this world before they exit for the next. It is our job to be ahead of them on how they can do it. What ministry opportunities are there in
Observation #5: Though there are truly some that have been pushing us in this culture, most people didn’t drop out of interest with God. In fact, the problem may not be them as much as it is us! Many of us have hidden our candle under a bushel basket to
keep the wind from affecting the flame. In the process, they lost the guiding of the light. What do I mean? Churches and believers that want to be effective must reverse the idea that “if we build the programs they should come”. We are here to reach lovingly into the needs of a community. When a church decides to turn its ministries into community benefiting projects, it places itself in the world in an unmistakable way. We need Bible education, so I am not burning down the Sunday School. Yet, if it is true that most people in our churches when surveyed say their interaction with the “ministry” is in a Sunday service listening, we lose our mission. We are ever equipping them for a job we never put in their path. We can change! We can take on the blood drive, have an adult Bible fellowship create a circle of hospital volunteers, we can create life skills classes and staff them with our own people. We can take our values, our service, and our love out to the
community. We can “serve Jesus by serving them!”
More observations later…feel free to post a comment below!