Jerusalem: Politics, Peace or Prophecy

Jerusalem2

The US officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Monday, May 14, and opened there the US Embassy.

On hand were two preachers:  Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, and John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, both asked by President Trump to offer prayers at the Embassy’s dedication.

The preachers were bookends to the event – Jeffress doing the invocation and Hagee the benediction.  

A political event?  A church event?  Which one was it?  

Confused?  The flash-back in my mind upon hearing the news may clear it up. It was a conference room at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, MO.  Wednesday night – Church night. Youth Bible Study.  Our Youth Minister, as they were called then, was George Jones. 

The book we were studying?  The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey. The book had just been released (1970) and it was hot.  It remained hot, selling more copies in the 1970s than any other work of nonfiction in the United States.  It’s still in print.  

The youth group, of which I was a part, was really into it.   There’s nothing like end times, mayhem, judgment, escape, to grab your attention; to build a crowd; to get people “saved” as the only way to escape the coming Tribulation.  

We saw the “end times” in terms of 5 events: 

First, Jesus will “rapture” the church – His true followers (which was basically defined as members of our church and churches like it) will be “caught up” with Jesus and swooshed off somewhere to be with Jesus where, from that vantage point, we will watch the:

“Tribulation,” the second event.    The Great Tribulation is 7 years of global chaos where all those who were “Left Behind” because they did not accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will go through unimaginable horror. The Tribulation ends with:

the third event: The Second Coming of Jesus.  At this event, Jesus bursts through the clouds on a white horse ready to give Satan, and everyone who didn’t become a Christian during the Tribulation, what’s coming to them in the epic Battle of Armageddon.  At the conclusion of the battle, Satan is put in chains, thrown into a bottomless pit for 1000 years, ushering in the 4th event:

The Millennium. With Satan locked up, and Jesus ruling from a Throne in Jerusalem, kids fly kites all day, lions play with lambs, Republicans hang out with Democrats, Cardinal fans sit next to Cub fans.    There is peace.  After the 1000 years of peace, God cuts Satan loose for one last hurrah to see who will follow him and who will follow God.  Finally, there is:

The Great White Throne Judgment.  “Here comes the Judge.”  After a big courtroom scene, Satan and all the non-Christians will be thrown into a lake of fire where they will be tormented night and day, forever, for eternity, no ending.  

That was the view we were taught.  That is the view many if not most Evangelical Christians still hold.  Not me…but that’s for another time.  What does the U.S. Embassy moving to Jerusalem and Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital have anything to do with this view of the “end times”?  

Back to Hal Lindsey.  In Lindsey’s drama, Israel played the leading role.  He believed that as the world moved toward the end, three events would occur:

1.  Jews would retake Palestine. That happened 70 years ago this week – May 15, 1948.

2.  They would repossess old Jerusalem and its sacred sites.

3.  They would rebuild King Solomon’s temple on its original historical site, where the Dome of the Rock stands presently.  

The role of Israel in making the “end times” happen is expressed by John Hagee – the guy who said one of the prayers at the Embassy Dedication, “I believe at this point in time, Israel is God’s stopwatch for everything that happens to every nation, including America, from now until the Rapture of the Church and beyond.”  

The other pray-er, Jim Jeffress, said this about Jerusalem: “It is the place where Jesus, a Jew himself, was crucified and where he was resurrected, and the place where he will set foot again on earth at his second coming.”

The thinking is: the more established and recognized the government of Israel is and the more closely its borders resemble the borders of biblical Israel, the closer we get to the Rapture.  

The motivation of many Christians is not a desire to bring peace to a turbulent region, but a belief that moving the capital to Jerusalem will hasten the end of the world. 

It’s not about politics.  It’s not about peace.  It’s about prophecy.

Judge Jeanine, a commentator on Fox News, said on her broadcast last Saturday that by moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump “fulfilled Biblical prophecy.” 

At a rally on December 7, 2017, Florida State Senator Doug Broxson introduced President Trump to the crowd and spoke of the President’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a win for people of faith, declaring,  

“Now I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem – where the King of Kings, our soon coming King is coming back to Jerusalem, it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be capital of Israel.” 

How much influence did the “praying preachers” have on the decision of the United States government to move the embassy to Jerusalem? 

How much influence does a certain “end times” view have on the policy of the United States?  

What should be our concern?  Peace or Prophecy?

Where is God’s temple today?  It’s not on a rock.  Not in a building.  Not in a city.  It’s in us: Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Luke 17:21.

The two preachers are living out their beliefs.  I guess I need to be careful what I believe.

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Mother’s Day: Protests, Pacifism, Peacemaking

Mother's PeaceYesterday was Mother’s Day.  Cook mom breakfast. Clean up the kitchen. Treat her to brunch.  Give flowers and cards in hopes that it makes up for all the trouble you caused her the rest of the year.    

Good times. 

Mother’s Day, though, was born out of bad times.  Three names are associated with the birth of Mother’s Day: 

Anna Jarvis

Ann Reeves Jarvis 

Julia Ward Howe

Each one an activist.

Anna Jarvis is credited as the “official” founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. She did it to honor her mom, Ann Reeves Jarvis.   

Ann Reeves Jarvis and her husband lived in the Appalachian mountains of Western Virginia where Ann gave birth to 12 children.  Due to terribly unhealthy conditions in the area, only 4 of her kids survived to adulthood.  

Something had to change and Ann was going to make the change happen.  She became a crusader for public health, establishing in churches across the area “Mother’s Day Work Clubs.”  These weren’t book clubs or bridge clubs.  These were “make our world better” clubs.  These crusading women would visit local families to provide information and education on sanitation, nutrition and overall health.  The clubs raised money to help families who needed assistance covering medical costs.  

After the Civil War Ann Reeves Jarvis became a force for reconciliation between the North and South.  In 1868, despite threats of violence, club members held a “Mother’s Day of Friendship” for veterans from both sides of the war.  The women arranged for the band to play first the Confederate ballad, “Dixie,” then the Union’s “Star Spangled Banner.”  The song-fest ended with the entire community joining together to sing “Auld Lang Syne.” 

Anna said, “Thanks Mom” and “Thanks to all the activist moms” who worked for physical and national healing.  

The third woman is Julia Ward Howe.  Most of us know her as the author of the Union’s anthem, “Battle Hymn of the Republic,”  a rallying cry for the North. 

She wrote the lyrics to that anthem in 1861 – just before the beginning the Civil War.  

In 1870, she wrote these words as part of what was called the “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World,” later known as “Mother’s Day Proclamation,”

Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.  Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience…From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm, Disarm!  The sword of murder is not the balance of justice! 

We could call it a “Pacifist Manifesto.”

How did Ms Howe go from cheerleader for war to anti-war activism?

  Maybe it was the 625,000 soldiers on both sides slaughtered (⅔ of them killed by disease).  

Maybe it was the thousands of widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides for whom she cared.

Maybe she saw that the effects of war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle.

Maybe she heard these words from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, 

I confess without shame that I am sick and tired of war.  Its glory is all moonshine.  It is only those who have never heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.  War is Hell.”  

Whatever her reasons, Julia Ward Howe became a passionate pacifist.   Ms Howe did not have much confidence in men’s ability to stop war – male pride and all – so she directed her call to women and intensified her efforts to extend to women the right to vote. 

 

Ann Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe:

Moms

Activists

World-changers

Peacemakers

Children of God

“Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called ‘children of God.’”  Jesus, Matthew 5:9

Let’s make every day Mother’s Day by living in the light of these activists: Ms Jarvis, Ms Howe, and Jesus.

Embrace the Questions

asking questions

After church service Sunday, a 20-something guy told me that when he was 12 years old he asked his youth pastor a question: “Why does God allow children to suffer?”  

(The topic Sunday in our “S*&! Christians Say” series is a common answer to suffering: “Everything happens for a reason.” So we talked about suffering.)

Now really, who hasn’t asked the same question?  Or who has not at least thought the question?

The 12 year old  was shut down.  Put down.  “That’s a dangerous question,” he was told.  “Questions like that show a lack of faith.”  

That has been the experience of a lot of “churched-people” – which is why many of those people are now “de-churched.”

 Maybe it is still the experience of people today.  

Churches have a reputation of being a “no question” zone.  Yes, questions lead to:

…answers

…discovery

…mystery

…and trouble.  

Just ask my 20-something friend. He still remembered the experience of being shut down. Anyone who has dared to ask questions has likely been told one or all of these things:

“These questions show a lack of faith.”

“Questions are a slippery slope.”

“Just accept what I tell you as truth.”

What we hear is:

“Sit down and shut up and you’ll learn something!”

We walk away thinking, “Believing is so much easier before I started thinking.”  

I mean, really, we’re told to read our Bibles everyday.  So we do.  Immediately we are faced with two creation stories that don’t line up!  We write down the question: “Why is mankind  created after the animals in chapter one, but before them in chapter two.?”

We keep reading and meet a talking snake:

Write it down:  “A talking snake?  Really?  Is this history or some kind of fable?”

We go on in Genesis and  find a man looking for a mate among the animals.  

Ok,  that’s disturbing.  “What kind of “Find your date/mate” plan is this?”

We keep reading…We get to the famous children story, Noah and the Ark. We’re shocked in multiple ways.   First there is the horror of a God who, in a fit of rage, drowns babies and toddlers along with their parents.  

Write it down: “Is this ‘Biblical Parenting’?   God, The Heavenly Parent, gets so mad at his children that he kills them so he can start over with new kids.  Really?”  

More questions: 

“Why do parents decorate their newborns’ rooms with a ‘Noah and the Ark’ theme?  What’s so sweet about this story?”   I wonder if parents have even read it.

“I thought the animals went in two by two (Genesis 6:19)?  What’s up with Genesis 7:2-3 that says there were 7 of each pure species and two of each impure species?  Why the contradiction?”  

“And this was written before the Law.  How’d Noah know which animals were “clean” or “unclean”?

So we take our list of questions with us to church the next Sunday and hand them to our pastor or student leader. As they read the list, they start sweating. Mumbling something about having to go preach or something, they run away. 

What does it say about a religion when that religion is afraid of questions?  

Maybe it says we’re not much like our founder, Jesus.  He loved questions.  He asked a lot of them (someone actually counted and found 307 questions) and he answered a few of them. 

 Why?

Why did Jesus ask more questions than he answered?

What does that say about him?

What does it do to our understanding of spirituality that Jesus is more “The Question Man” than he is “The Answer Man”?

Maybe it says we’ve lost our childlike spirit which Jesus seems to insist we keep (Matthew 18:2-4).  Someone else counted and discovered that children ask 289 questions a day!

Peter Abelard (1079-1142), philosopher, theologian, poet, wrote, “The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.”

There is no need to be threatened by questions.  Asking them or being asked. 

 I don’t know everything and I know I don’t know everything. I find value in reaching out, learning new things,  hearing new perspectives. My purpose is not to preach but to understand.  To listen, to love, to live like Christ and to ask questions of myself, of others, and of God.   

 

The Best Word

Scrabble Word

“Oxyphenbutazone” is theoretically, the highest-scoring word in Scrabble.  Placed a certain way on the board, it would earn a whopping 1,778 points.

The best word.

I was on the playground today with my Lunch Buddy, when I saw a 5 or 6 year old boy kneeling in the grass, broken piece of orange chalk in hand, drawing a picture on a pizza slice-sized rock. 

“What a cool design you’re making on that rock!” I said as my Buddy and I stopped.

The little fella looked up at me, looked back at the rock, looked at me again,  and asked, 

“It is?”  

“It certainly is.  You are so creative to think of making a picture on a rock.”

“I am?”  

“You sure are.  You’re turning that rock into something really special. You’re a good artist!”
A big smile crossed his face as he stood up a little straighter, and he beamed:

“Yeah, I think I’m an artist!” 

“Keep it up, Picasso,” I said as my Buddy and I went on our way.  

He may not know who Picasso is.  But maybe he will.  When I called him “Picasso,”  I was thinking of this statement by Picasso, 

“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier,  you will become a general.  If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”  

I’m not sure if Picasso’s success was due to his mom’s positive words, but I have to think that her words didn’t hurt.  He believed in himself and I think his mom’s words made that happen.  

Deepak Chopra said, “Language creates reality.  Words have power.  Speak always to create joy.”  

People speak in one of two ways.  They either speak life or they speak death (Proverbs 18:21).

“The Message” puts it like this: 

Words kill, words give life; 

they’re either poison or fruit –  you choose.”

The conversation with that budding artist took less than 2 minutes.   I’m hoping the positive effect will be a lifetime.  

“I know words.  I have the best words,” said then candidate Trump back in 2015.  I like that. 

We all know words.  We have in our vocabulary the best words and the worst words.  

I saw today again the power of “best” words.