Christ’s prayer for His followers, offered long ago in Jerusalem, is still His prayer for us today.

BY CHARLES F. STANLEY

Last words carry great significance because they reveal what’s important to a person. That’s why we gather around a loved one’s bed as the end draws near, hoping to hear final thoughts, instructions, or wisdom. And of all the recorded last words, the most valuable are those of the Lord Jesus. Before He went to the cross, He spent an extended evening with His disciples, celebrating the Passover. His final words in John 13-17 show us His heart for those who belong to Him.

 

Consider the roller coaster of emotions the disciples experienced in those last days and hours with their Messiah: They’d watched the crowds welcome Him into Jerusalem as “the King of Israel” just a few days before (John 12:13). But now they were gradually being awakened to the fact that things were not going to turn out as they hoped. They’d left everything to follow Him, and now Jesus was telling them He was going to die.

To see this from the disciples’ perspective, we need to better understand their expectations. According to the Old Testament prophecies, the Messiah was going to come as a conqueror to subdue Israel’s enemies, exalt the nation to global prominence, and rule over the entire world (Isa. 2:1-4). As His followers, they were anticipating places of prominence, authority, and greatness in the kingdom. They didn’t realize that they needed a Savior more than a King. The Messiah had to first offer Himself as a sacrifice in order to save His people from their sins.

 

THE LORD’S PLAN

When Jesus first began to speak of His upcoming death and resurrection, Peter actually rebuked Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22). Despite Jesus’ repeated assertions, they could not fit a dying Messiah into their belief system. But on this last night, the reality was finally sinking in, and they were filled with grief and sorrow at the thought of life without Him.

Despite Jesus’ repeated assertions, they could not fit a dying Messiah into their belief system.

Christ’s response to their trauma is best described in John’s gospel: “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Everything He said was for the purpose of strengthening their faith. Before their world began to turn upside down, Christ said, “I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He” (John 13:19). Then He revealed what was going to happen:

  • One of them would betray Him (John 13:21).
  • He was about to leave and go back to His Father, and they couldn’t follow Him (John 13:33), but He would return and take them to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3).
  • He promised that He would send them another Helper (John 14:16-18John 16:7).
  • He would still provide whatever they asked for in His name (John 14:13-14).
  • They would have a new kind of relationship with Him (John 15:1-5).
  • They would be hated and persecuted by the world but could have His peace (John 15:18-19John 16:33).

These confused and fearful men in the upper room became the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). Jesus was entrusting them with the task of taking His message of salvation to the world. From an earthly perspective, this looked risky. They were not an impressive group. In fact, they lacked spiritual insight and the courage to stand with Christ when their lives were in danger. Yet Jesus knew their future success didn’t depend on their own abilities but on His power, provision, and intercession. Therefore, as the evening drew to an end, the Lord lifted His eyes to heaven, and this is how He prayed:

 

These confused and fearful men in the upper room became the foundation of the church. Jesus was entrusting them with the task of taking His message of salvation to the world.

FOR HIMSELF (JOHN 17:1-5)

First, Christ prayed that both He and the Father would be glorified in His death, which would bring eternal life to all whom the Father had given Him (John 17:1-2). The cross was not a defeat, and Jesus was not a victim. By completing the work He’d been given, including His redemptive death on the cross, the Son glorified His Father.

 

FOR HIS DISCIPLES (JOHN 17:6-19)

Next, Jesus prayed—not for the world but for those who believed that God sent Him. They were precious gifts to Christ, and He had been glorified in them through their faith in Him. Now He was going to send them into the world with His message. Therefore, Jesus asked His Father to protect them from the evil one and sanctify them in the truth of His Word.

 

FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THROUGH THEIR WORD (JOHN 17:20-26)

In conclusion, Jesus broadened His intercession to include all future believers who would make up the body of Christ—His church. Just imagine, on that night almost 2,000 years ago Jesus prayed for you. And what did He request? “That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).

He wasn’t merely asking that believers get along with each other, although we should. Jesus was speaking of the spiritual unity of all Christians with the Trinity and each other. Every true believer is baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit and becomes a part of His body. Together, we are sent to proclaim the gospel so that the world may believe.

 

THE ANSWER TO THE LORD’S PRAYER

God answered Christ’s prayer for that little band of men gathered with Him for the Passover observance. They faithfully took the gospel to the world, and we now have their testimony recorded in the Bible. What’s more, the heavenly Father continues to answer Jesus’ prayer as new Christians enter into the spiritual unity of Christ’s body. In fact, believers around the world gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which Christ established that last night.

For His final request, Jesus said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory” (John 17:24). A day is coming when everyone Jesus prayed for will meet together in heaven with Him and with each other in perfect unity. And we can know with certainty that this will come about because the Father always answers His Son’s prayers. In the meantime, the church is called to strive toward unity here and now—loving one another just as He loves us, and testifying to an onlooking world about His transforming power.

 

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/the-pulpit/from-the-upper-room

Advertisements

Spiritual highlights during Apollo 11’s moon landing

Chuck Norris relates little-known religious observations during historic event

I read a fairly wide array of books and periodicals. One of the latter I really enjoy is the American Family Journal.

In the July 2019 issue, Associate Editor Rusty Benson interviewed Stephen McDowell, historian, prolific author and founder of Providence Foundation. It is a phenomenal interview on the founding of our nation.

Last week, I wrote my column titled, “In God We Must Trust.” Humbly speaking, it’s a must read, especially for those who might have missed it because of the holiday weekend. I believe patriot articles should be read all summer long and not just bottled up on July 4, especially since the Declaration of Independence was ratified in July and the engrossed copy signed on Aug. 2 (at least by the remaining delegates). We also celebrate our Constitutional birth on Sept. 17 – its 232nd anniversary this year.

Stephen McDowell’s interview almost reads as a sequel to my last column. I addressed the power of the role of God and religion in our republic. McDowell narrows the subject to discuss the role of Christianity and the Bible. Let me give you a few highlights.

In McDowell’s article, “Christianity and the Constitution,” he quotes a prestigious literary journal of 1867: “The American government and Constitution is the most precious possession which the world holds, or which the future can inherit. This is true – true because the American system is the political expression of Christian ideas.”

That is why McDowell explained in his interview: “The power and form of the Declaration and the Constitution are biblical. Power being the underlying ideas that are reflected, and form, the structure of how our government was set up and flows out of those ideas.”

The Declaration begins by saying “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“Now that statement is full of biblical ideas. First, the founders recognized that absolute truth exists. Right and wrong, moral and immoral, legal and illegal – these emanated from a Creator,” McDowell said.

He added, “…the rulers, as well as the people, are subject to the laws. No man [or woman] is above the law. We are a self-governing republic in which power emanates from the people, who themselves are under the Creator.”

McDowell elaborated, “We live in God’s world, not in a made-up world of Karl Marx or Darwin or any other political philosopher. God created it to function based upon a set of physical and moral laws. If we violate His laws, we suffer the consequence. The Bible teaches that, and history confirms it.”

By quoting extensively from the founders, McDowell builds a case that we must return to our founders’ faith, civility and morality. They weren’t perfect, but they built our republic upon the bedrock of Christianity.

As our second president John Adams wrote to our third president Thomas Jefferson on June 28: “The general principles, on which the fathers achieved Independence, were the only principles in which, that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united: and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence.”

Speak of great men of old and amazing patriots who had some pivotal sacred moments, I bet few students today learn that the crew of Apollo 11, whose moon landing we commemorate this week on its 50th anniversary (July 20), had themselves some profound Christian moments when they were up in space and particularly on the moon.

Some have religiously categorized astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin as the deist (Armstrong), the Christian (Aldrin) and the atheist (Collins) who went to the moon. But that’s an oversimplification.

The truth is, Armstrong was a Christian (not a Muslim, as some falsely reported), Collins was a nominal Episcopalian and Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church back in Houston.

Perhaps the most under-reported story about Armstrong’s faith concerned his visit to Israel following his historic trip to the moon, which is conveyed in Thomas Friedman’s award-winning book, “From Beirut to Jerusalem” (winner of the National Book Award).

The story goes that Armstrong was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they arrived at the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.

“These are the steps that lead to the temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.”

Armstrong then asked Ben-Dov if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.

“So Jesus stepped right here,” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.

To which Armstrong replied with this monumental statement: “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.” Wow!

Speaking of stepping on the moon, before Armstrong and Aldrin actually did, they made another historic step. While Collins stayed back in the lunar module, Armstrong looked on respectfully as fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin performed a communion ceremony before the two set foot on the moon.

 

The communion bag and chalice used by Buzz Aldrin during his lunar communion. (Credit: David Frohman, President of Peachstate Historical Consulting, Inc.)

The communion bag and chalice used by Buzz Aldrin during his lunar communion.
(Credit: David Frohman, President of Peachstate Historical Consulting, Inc.)

Former White House Special Counsel Charles Colson, who served under President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1970, once wrote a column about it, the details of which Armstrong confirmed.

Colson wrote, “What you may not know, however is that for many of the early astronaut heroes, the ‘right stuff’ included deep religious faith. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are best known as the first astronauts to land on the moon and take that ‘giant leap for mankind.’ But you probably don’t know that before they emerged from the spaceship, Aldrin pulled out a Bible, a silver chalice, and sacramental bread and wine. There on the moon, his first act was to celebrate communion.”

Buzz made the following announcement to Mission Control during that spiritual moment: “Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, whoever or wherever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.”

Aldrin reported later: “In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture [Jesus’ words in John 15]: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.’”

(That scripture reminded me of something I read earlier in Stephen McDowell’s interview: “Christianity has brought great blessing to mankind. … But if we remove the Christian faith and its principles, then we’re going to get worse and worse fruit. That’s what’s been happening the past century.”)

It is especially fitting and poignant that Aldrin also read Psalm 8:3-4 on the moon: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’”

Aldrin later wrote in Guideposts magazine: “The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church reported that: “Each year since 1969, Aldrin’s church, Webster Presbyterian, holds a Lunar Communion service to commemorate Buzz Aldrin’s celebration on the Moon.”

 

A handwritten card containing a Bible verse that Buzz Aldrin planned to broadcast back to Earth during a lunar Holy Communion service, featured in a space-related auction in Dallas, Texas, 2007. (Credit: LM Otero/AP Photo)

A handwritten card containing a Bible verse that Buzz Aldrin planned to broadcast back to Earth during a lunar Holy Communion service, featured in a space-related auction in Dallas, Texas, 2007. (Credit: LM Otero/AP Photo)

Speaking of sacred scripture, I just have to include what else I read on the website of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church about NASA, the Bible and the moon:

The Apollo Prayer League was a group of NASA engineers, scientists, administrators and astronauts. The League was headed by Rev. John Stout, a NASA Information Scientist and chaplain who worked closely with the astronauts and NASA personnel.

The Apollo Prayer League created a microfilm Bible and 300 microfilm copies were carried to the lunar surface. The microfilm is about 1.5 inches square, and yet contains all 1,245 pages of the King James Bible. These pages so small that they must be read under a microscope. This Lunar Bible is the only complete copy of the Bible to have flown to the surface of the Moon.

The microfilm Lunar Bible was flown on three Apollo missions. It was packed onboard Apollo 12 spacecraft, but was mistakenly left on the Command Module. It was then placed onboard Apollo 13, and was with the astronauts during their perilous return to Earth after the explosion of the Service Module. The Lunar Bible copies were finally carried to the Moon in the pocket of astronaut Edgar Mitchell on Apollo 14.

I’d bet my Texas ranch that your child or grandchild wouldn’t learn the above sacred and historical facts today about the Apollo missions in any public school. How sad. So it’s going to take us patriots to get the word out. Please share this column with everyone you know during this 50th anniversary week of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/spiritual-highlights-during-apollo-11s-moon-landing/

I’ve Found A Great Hiding Place

by Pastor Ray Patrick

I’ve Found A Great Hiding Place

As a child, one of my favorite games was hide and seek. We looked for the best place to hide in the house or back yard, and waited quietly for our friends to try to find us. It’s a great game for kids, but as adults, we also look for a good place to hide from time to time. A place of refuge, a place of safety, or a place to rest when we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, a place where the enemy of our soul can never find us.

I’ve got good news. God has the perfect hiding place for you! You don’t have to hide at work. You don’t have to hide in relationships. You don’t have to hide in food or addictions, because God Himself promises to hide you! He freely offers you shelter from the storms of life, any time you call upon His name.

Today, remember there’s only one place the enemy cannot find you. There’s only one place where opposition cannot steal from you. There’s only one true place of safety and rest for your soul, and that is in the arms of Jesus. Know that He loves you, and He is ready to receive you when you call upon His name! Hallelujah!

“In the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.”

(Psalm 27:5, NIV)

Pray With Me
Yahweh, today I come humbly before You giving You all of me. Father, thank You for hiding me in Your shelter and keeping me safe from the storms of life. God, today my soul finds rest in You, please hide me from the enemy of my soul, as I seek You and praise Your Holy Name, in Jesus’ Name! Amen.

https://godinterest.com/2019/07/10/ive-found-a-great-hiding-place/?

Why Do The Heathen Rage?

Joseph Farah explains why it’s irrational not to walk with God

Editor’s note: WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah is recovering from a serious stroke. He appreciates the prayers and best wishes of so many WND readers.

The following column is adapted from Farah’s latest book, “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” – now back in print and available in hardcover.

Imagine a vain thing? That’s what mortals do when they conspire against God, with or without the aid of demons. They did it in Noah’s day. They did in at the Tower of Babel. The results were not favorable for the rebels.

But one thing the Bible demonstrates so clearly for us is that each new generation resorts to rebellion. It has always been that way. We can see it in our own world today. All we have to do is hang around and live long enough.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us this truth: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

It’s true of all manner of rebellions, too. There’s no new form of rebellion under the sun. The evil men do today is no worse than the evil they did in Noah’s day, prompting God to destroy all life save one family.

We can’t save ourselves with a carbon tax or by banning air travel or by eradicating plastic straws.

That’s why God tells us in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.”

What do we need to do? “Be willing and obedient,” He says. Just return to Him and His ways.

There isn’t any sin you can commit that hasn’t been committed – or forgiven.

“But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it,” Isaiah 1:20 says.

I’ve been meditating on Psalm 2. There’s so much wisdom there.

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” asks the psalmist. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

God is speaking to us still today in this generation with the same message He has always had for us throughout the eons.

Trust in Him – and His Son.

There is no other way – no other prudent path, no other road that leads to life.

He commands: “Let’s reason together.” It’s irrational not to walk with God. How many times must we see the folly of the way of the heathen? Why do the heathen still rage against Him? Why do they imagine a vain thing – that there is life in the way of rebellion against God Almighty?Top of Form

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/why-do-the-heathen-rage/

The Consequences of Ignoring God

by Greg Laurie on Jul 6, 2019

I heard about a gallery owner who called one of his featured artists and said, “I have some good news and some bad news.”

The artist said, “Well, what’s the good news?”

“The good news is that a man came in here the other day and was looking at your paintings. He asked whether the value of the paintings would go up if the artist were to die. I told him they would, of course. So he bought every one of your paintings.”

“That’s fantastic,” the artist said. “So what’s the bad news?”

“The bad news is the man was your doctor.”

I think we can all use some good news in a bad world. But even as bad as things are now, they were even darker in Israel in the prophet Elisha’s day. It was, in fact, one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history. Everything had gone wrong. The king had basically become powerless.

A famine had swept the land, and things were so bad that they were actually eating dove dung, or to put it in modern vernacular, pigeon poop. The Scriptures also tell us that a delicacy at the time was the head of a donkey. Even worse, the people actually were turning to cannibalism.

Why had this happened to Israel?

It was a result of their disobedience to God and their repeated worship of false idols. This reminds us of a very important biblical principle: God will not share his glory with another.

You see, God put us on this earth to glorify him. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 NIV). We were put here for that purpose. God wants us to fulfill that purpose.

And he certainly does not want to share his glory with any other gods. Two of the Ten Commandments deal with the topic of placing other gods before him.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, isn’t that a little paranoid on God’s part?”

It is not paranoia at all.

If you’re married, how would you feel if your spouse went out with a different person every night? That would be ridiculous. You wouldn’t put up with something like that.

But is it any more ridiculous when we turn from the true and living God to false gods? Is it any more ridiculous when we bow down to the idol of success or the idol of money? Is it any more ridiculous when we bow down before the idol of fame or the idol of pleasure?

God is saying, “You belong to me. I am not sharing you with another.”

He basically told Israel, “I am your Lord. I am your God. I brought you out of Egypt. Worship me. That is all I ask.”

But they kept turning to false gods. So the Lord allowed them to reap the consequences of their actions. And when the king heard about the people’s cannibalism, he ripped his royal robes. And underneath those robes was sackcloth.

At that time sackcloth usually was associated with mourning and repentance. We would assume that the king perhaps was truly repentant before God. Hardly. Because right after that, he decided he wanted to kill Elisha, the representative of God.

The king was saying, in effect, “Listen, I tried the whole wait-on-God thing. I have tried the whole faith deal. It isn’t working. I don’t want to wait on God one day longer. I am ticked off. And it’s Elisha’s fault.”

Elisha had done nothing wrong. He simply was the Lord’s representative. What the king and Israel were experiencing was a direct result of their own disobedience.

But whoever said that sin makes sense? When people are sinking deeper into sin and reaping the consequences of it, they strike out at God (and sometimes his representatives, even) instead of repenting and coming to their senses.

Maybe you’ve been minding your own business, loving God and living the Christian life, and a nonbeliever has been hassling you. You’re saying, “What on earth is this all about? What have I done wrong?”

Maybe you’re doing something right, because the Bible says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV).

We don’t necessarily want to be persecuted, but as Christians we will be. And we’re seeing it more and more in our culture today.

You’d better not say anything critical against any particular race. You’d better not say anything critical against a gender. You’d better not say anything critical about any particular group. But you can say whatever you want about followers of Jesus Christ, and that is acceptable in our culture.

Writing in the early 20th century, G.K. Chesterton said, “You are free in our time to say that God does not exist; you are free to say that He exists and is evil.… You may talk of God as metaphor or mystification. . . . But if you speak of God as a fact, as a thing like a tiger, as a reason for changing one’s conduct, then the modern world will stop you somehow if it can.… It is now thought irreverent to be a believer.”

If that was true back then, how much more true is it today?

I’ve heard it said that Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That is ridiculous. Because the fact of the matter is, those who think the most of the next world will do the most for this one.

The Consequences of Ignoring God

Did God Promise You Prosperity?

by Cameron Buettel Monday, July 8, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 25, 2015. -ed.

What does this verse mean to you?

Most of us have heard that question before—it lurks inside countless Bible studies and Sunday-school classes. It is a postmodern mindset that has become pervasive in the church.

When reading a book, an article, or a blog post, we implicitly understand that its meaning is bound to the author’s intent. The same ought to be true for Scripture—God alone is the arbiter of what He means through what He has revealed in His Word. Yet Scripture is now subject to the whims of the reader, who is prone to read personal experience into the text instead of discovering—and coming under—its objective truth. The worst forms of this are when people think they’re helping God—improving upon His perfection, sanitizing His story, and smoothing out the sharp edges of His truth.

Life is not as subjective as we might like to think. We don’t get to decide what a red light means when we approach a traffic signal. Bank managers can’t arbitrarily determine your account balance. And, thankfully, airlines don’t hire pilots who take the liberty to decide what “runway” means to them. It is absurd to think that we can approach God’s Word with lower standards. God says what He means and means what He says, always speaks without error, and has been kind enough to speak to us with simplicity and clarity.

The tsunami of topical preaching we see today has scarred the evangelical landscape. A topical message is not wrong in and of itself, but problems are inevitable when that becomes the main diet of a congregation. Pastors who preach texts divorced from their context invariably beget congregations who interpret texts divorced from the Author’s intent. The result is that too many believers today have a propensity to treat God’s Word as their own private smorgasbord of theology.

Another place you see this trend—interpreting verses out of context—in action is in choosing of a “life verse.” Many Christians like to pick a verse that speaks to them and try to make it the theme for their lives. It’s no surprise that none of the passages concerning God’s judgment make the cut. Instead, the spectacular promises of blessing and success reign supreme.

And sitting on top of the mountain of verses evangelicals frequently misappropriate and misapply is Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

It’s All About You

Unsurprisingly, Jeremiah 29:11 is a go-to verse for celebrity pastor, Joel Osteen. His takeaway is that “God desires to see you flourish in this life. He wants to see you come out of setbacks stronger, wiser, increased and promoted. He wants to give you hope in your final outcome and see you come to a flourishing finish.” [1]

Andy Stanley, pastor of America’s largest congregation, says “We may not know for certain everything our future holds, but we know that God thinks good thoughts toward us, to give us a future and a hope.” [2]

Rick Warren also typifies that me-centric approach in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life:

If you have felt hopeless, hold on! Wonderful changes are going to happen in your life as you begin to live it on purpose. God says, “I know what I am planning for you. . . . I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.” [3]

One has to wonder if Osteen, Stanley, or Warren understand how badly they have misconstrued and misapplied God’s Word—and how they’ve misled their followers. They give zero acknowledgement to the Author’s original intent or His original audience when they rip this verse from its biblical setting. Reading Jeremiah 29:11 in context paints a starkly different picture and delivers a far more profound truth.

It’s Not About You

The nation of Israel had been taken by the Babylonians into captivity. The Temple, as well as the entire city of Jerusalem, was in ruins. Their king was in chains with his eyes gouged out. The glory of Israel as a nation was finished. But in the midst of that terrible situation, God spoke through His prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.” For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

For thus says the Lord, “When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.”

Because you have said, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon”—for thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who did not go with you into exile—thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. I will pursue them with the sword, with famine and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a horror and a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not listened to My words,” declares the Lord, “which I sent to them again and again by My servants the prophets; but you did not listen,” declares the Lord. You, therefore, hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles, whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. (Jeremiah 29:4–20)

In context, verse 11 is clearly not meant as a love letter or a promise of blessing to individual believers in the twenty-first century.

And here are a few other points to consider: How do Joel Osteen, Andy Stanley, and Rick Warren know that God is directly speaking to their congregants in verse 11 but not in Jeremiah 29:17–19, where God promises to send “the sword, famine and pestilence”? Have they considered that God’s soothing promises in verse 11 are delivered to Israel while He has His foot on their neck in judgment (Jeremiah 29:4)? What about the fact that those who received the promise in verse 11 would likely not live to experience its fulfillment seventy years later (Jeremiah 29:10). And in their egotistical exegesis, can they grasp the irony that Israel was in Babylonian slavery because they listened to prophets who tickled their ears (Jeremiah 29:8–9)?

There is something far greater and eternally significant that we learn from this story in its true context. God does not abandon His people! In spite of their sin, God was relentlessly faithful to His covenants regarding Israel’s future and His promised Messiah. Not even Babylonian captivity could prevent His promises from coming to pass.

Likewise His promises to us as New Testament believers concerning our calling and election are also unshakeable (John 10:27–29). And they provide far more lasting comfort than Old Testament verses plucked out of context and misappropriated for modern audiences.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150925

Three Questions, One Answer

BY DAVID JEREMIAH

“Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33.” (“We are well in the shelter, the 33.”)

That seven-word message set off a wave of euphoria in Chile and around the world. It had been written in red letters on a scrap of paper and taped to a drill bit that penetrated an area of a gold and copper mine just north of Copiapó in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile—written by the 33 miners who had been trapped 2,300 feet underground 17 days earlier.

The Copiapó mining accident, as the world came to call it, became the most-watched rescue mission in world history. There was every reason to believe that, one, the miners had not survived the initial cave-in; and, two, if they had survived they would likely starve to death before they could be reached. Rescuers on the surface had no idea where they were in the labyrinth of tunnels, ramps, and rooms that spread out underground like arteries, veins, and capillaries.

But “the 33” survived the blast and took refuge in an area three miles from the entrance to the mine. And 17 days later, when an exploratory drill bit punched through the roof into their pitch-black sanctuary, they let the world know: “Estamos bien”—“We are well.”

As soon as rescuers discovered the miners were alive, a collaborative effort began to devise a way to get them out: three international drilling rig teams, every ministry of the Chilean government, engineers and technicians from NASA, and more than a dozen multinational corporations. On October 13, 2010, fifty-two days after the miners were discovered—69 days since the cave-in—all 33 were brought to the surface alive.

The rescue took 24 hours as the miners were brought to the surface one at a time in a specially-designed, bullet-shaped capsule, barely larger than a human being. The capsule contained oxygen and medical monitors. The capsule was lowered through a shaft until it reached the miners. One at a time, each miner stepped into the capsule and stood upright, sunglasses and monitors in place, ready for the 15-minute ride to the surface. It is estimated that more than one billion people around the world watched some or all of the televised rescue of “the 33.”*

While the Copiapó mine rescue was definitely a dramatic and glorious end to what could have been a terrible tragedy, it is not the largest, most difficult, or most critical search and rescue effort ever conducted. That would be the search and rescue that was initiated by the incarnation of Jesus Christ who said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

And there are three critical components to that search and rescue operation, outlined by Paul in Romans 10:14 in the form of three questions—three questions that all have the same answer: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Three questions, one answer—and the answer is . . . you! (and me!) We are the ones called by God to carry out the search and rescue mission that Jesus Christ began and continues. Those who need rescuing cannot hear without a preacher (you and me), they cannot believe without hearing, and they can’t call upon a God in whom they have not believed.

It all starts with you and me leaving the light, entering the darkness, and taking the Gospel to a lost world. Let’s look at Paul’s questions in reverse order to see immediately how we are the critical links in God’s search and rescue effort.

How Shall They Hear?

“And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

The preacher God is talking about here is not necessarily one who enters the pulpit on Sunday mornings on a vocational basis. Yes, those preachers are included, but it will take many more “preachers” to accomplish Christ’s search and rescue than the ones who preach vocationally. Indeed, there are too many preachers today who never share the Gospel with the man on the street, considering that’s not their calling. Preachers who think that way need to heed the words of Vance Havner: “A preacher who is too big for a little crowd would be too little for a big crowd.” A preacher with nothing to say to a lost soul on the street has little to say to his congregation on Sunday morning.

God has called every Christian to be a preacher of the Gospel. Every Christian is to answer Paul’s question with the words of Isaiah when the Lord said, “‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’” And Isaiah said, “‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).

Wherever you and I go in this world, we go as an answer to a question. We are the preachers without whom the lost will not hear. We are the ones who are to “gossip the Gospel” to those we meet—simply as a manner of course, sharing the reality of our life in Christ and the reason for the hope that is within us “with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

Question: If the spread of the Gospel depends on people like you and like me, how likely is it that the lost will be found and rescued?

How Shall They Believe?

“And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”

Sometimes we forget that the Gospel is a propositional message—that means it contains certain truths, certain propositions, which must be communicated. The Gospel is specific, not general (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). People need to hear (or read) it with understanding. The danger of the Gospel cavalierly presented or carelessly received is seen in Jesus’ own words: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:19a).

We are the ones who must know, understand, and clearly present the Gospel so it is believable. Whether people believe or not is not ultimately up to us. But if they don’t believe, it must never be because they didn’t hear the Gospel clearly from us.

Question: Are you and I prepared to communicate clearly and carefully the Gospel found in the New Testament—a Gospel that is believable for those who hear?

How Shall They Call?

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?”

In the verse immediately preceding Romans 10:14, Paul makes this bold promise: “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’” And he then asks in verse 14, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” Paul depends on a bit of simple reasoning here: No one is going to call on Christ to save him who does not believe Christ can save. And in order to believe, they must hear. And in order for them to hear, you and I must preach the Gospel to them.

Question: Do you have the boldness to ask, encourage, and exhort the lost to believe that Jesus can save them?

The great English preacher, the late John R. W. Stott, in speaking about those called to preach from the pulpit, said, “The Christian preacher is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God’s steward, dispensing faithfully to God’s household the truths committed to him in the Scriptures, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.”

And I submit that those words apply to you and me in the daily course of our life as well. We have not been called to be clever or original, but to be faithful witnesses of the saving mission and message of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Of all the ways in which He could have saved the lost, He decided to use us and now depends on us to be faithful stewards of the commission given to us: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Three questions, one answer. The search and rescue mission Jesus set in motion is now up to us to carry out. Just as the miners trapped in the darkness were dependent on those in the light to save them, so the lost of this world are depending on us. God has called us to be their answer by going, praying, giving, and preaching the Gospel.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident#Extraction (accessed 12-17-11).

https://www.davidjeremiah.org/magazine/article?id=207