Tag Archives: Jeremiah 29:11

Servant Subversion – A Wrap Up

Okay, I confess to a quasi-obsession with this topic which has taken me a lot longer than I expected to unpack. I can’t seem to get out of my craw that we’re strangers following a Stranger here with a strange message in a strange land among strange people who think we’re strange.

I can’t stop musing about the hoard of Scripture that makes so much more sense to me now in light of this exilic Christianity theme; especially the books of Jeremiah, Daniel, 1 Peter, and Revelation (chapters 17 and 18 in particular). Comparing these books with the subversive life and teachings of Jesus has been, and continues to be, a fascinating journey for me. I’ve been a pretty ardent Bible lover for many years and I’m happy to report that I’m still learning lots of stuff that I’ve never even thought about before. A.W. Tozer said, “Paul was a seeker and a finder and a seeker still. Some people seek and find and seek no more.” I’m still seeking. You?

By way of a sound-byte summary of the last ten posts… Continue reading

Servant Subversion versus Fortification

Wash-FeetWhen I embarked on it I had no idea that this writing on Jeremiah 29:11 would take me on such a circuitous, even arduous, journey. I confess that I’ve ranted more than I intended about such things as the nature of “prosperity”, how we achieve it, and when we will fully receive it. In my most recent post I suggested five inadequate ways Christians tend to approach living in this foreign world of Babylon. Whether or not you’ve made the effort to follow my ramblings I hope you’ll give the next few posts a chance to provoke you toward a forward trajectory that may or not be novel to you. I’d like to propose a biblical alternative to those aforementioned strategies, a road not-so-well-travelled that I’ll call “Servant Subversion.”

I’m aware that by itself the word “subversion” carries a decidedly unChristlike connotation. When I first ran across it in Christian context I recoiled. In fact, it felt to me like diametrically opposite of the way of Jesus. It felt political, economic, and all too earthy to be a biblical idea. Continue reading

Some Substandard Strategies for Strangers

“As the dominant culture moves further and further away from traditional Christian beliefs … [it] is causing tremendous fear, uncertainty, and anxiety among many people of faith. . . . ‘We used to be the home team,’ one person said to me. ‘Now we’re the away team.’ The challenge facing Christians in America is to remain deeply engaged in public matters at the same time they hold more lightly to the things of this world . . . to react to the loss of influence not with a clenched fist but with equanimity and calm confidence . . .” Peter Wehner

jeremiah-29-11-web1

We’ve been talking about the entitled Christian’s famous mantra in Jeremiah 29:11. So far we’ve identified what “prosperity” is, how to get it, and when we can expect it. Summarizing… Continue reading

When can we expect “prosperity” (shalom)? 

jeremiah-29-11-web1

“… plans to give you hope and a future.

If you’ve been tracking with me you know what I believe about what prosperity is and how we get it. Now let’s go back to verse 11 and talk about when we can expect prosperity.

Whenever I hear this passage announced it sounds to me like people have the idea that the future has fully landed in the present. They seem to interpret it to mean: “OK, so your past sucked but you can have a better future in the present!”

OK, so it has a nice ring to it, but on a purely grammatical level does it even make sense? The past, present, and future exist in three different time zones. I’m not saying that God doesn’t care anything about our earthly future. Nor am I claiming that he has no “plans” for us here in the Babylonish world into which we live as exiles. Of course he does! But is our foretaste of the future the same as the full meal he promises? The thing about “hope” is that it’s pretty much about the future. Continue reading

How do we get “prosperity” (shalom)?

jeremiah-29-11-web1To refresh our memories, God deported the Jews to Babylon for a lifetime (70 years). This prosperity preacher’s opus (Jeremiah 29:11) is part (only part) of the letter to the exiles that he inspired Jeremiah to write.

If you’ll look at the entire letter you’ll see that just four verses before he commanded them to:

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 

Again, though the NIV uses the word “prosper,” (three times!) in each case God used the Hebrew term rife with meaning, “shalom,” which means something much more and much better than personal prosperity. Oh, and when the translators of the NIV rendered it, “Seek peace and prosperity,” they’re translating one word, “shalom,” into those two words. The verse actually says, “Seek the shalom of the city… because if it has shalom you too will have shalom.” Continue reading

In the Meantime, Bless Babylon (What Jeremiah 29:11 really means) Part 1 of 2

jeremiah-29-11-web1

I mean no disrespect…

…when I say that most of what I’ve ever heard populist preachers say about this verse as a mantra for wealth and health is bogus. I’m not saying that God isn’t interested in our well-being or bank balance, but I don’t think we can justifiably extrapolate automatic “Everything works out for good Christians” from this passage or from the Bible’s message as a whole.

As always, backstory, otherwise known as context, plays a critical interpretive role, nevertheless I’m not going to give it here. For that I refer you to an audio podcast of mine on the subject. What I will do here though is slam down some sound-bytes of my convictions about how to apply this passage…

  • Our own Babylonian exile is to rehabilitate us and reorient us to take our place in the world as redemptive missionaries…
  • God, by leaving us in Babylon (for now), is not trying to “harm” us but help us become the uninfected, yet infectious people he intends us to be…
  • As “aliens and strangers” in this foreign land we have hope and a future in proportion to living into our role as servant subversives
  • Shalom doesn’t come to those who claim it but to those who bring it to Babylon…
  • Some people just want to “get the hell out of Babylon” and others who hope to get the hell out of Babylon
  • God is gonna judge Babylon and take us out of here any day now, so what’s the point of serving Babylonians? Hmmm…
  • The “Hananiah School of Prophets” sanitizes Christianity, reduces the Bible to merely a promise book and defines believers as entitled receivers rather than empowered givers of the goods and the grace of God…
  • The idea that if we have enough faith we’ll conquer Babylon or that Babylon exists to serve us is a narcissistic myth
  • We’re here not just to enjoy Babylon’s benefits. We’re here as heaven’s citizens to work and pray toward a shift in the culture of Babylon and to reach Babylonians… 

So, if you’re interested to know how I arrived at these outlandish ideas you’ll have to listen to the podcast..

Spirit-Saturated Servant Subversives

Wash-FeetSeek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. . . . For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29

 

I’ve been on a many months journey through the books of Jeremiah, 1 and 2 Peter, Daniel, and Revelation, gleaning from these the theme of our Jesus-following lives as resident aliens in our own present day Babylon. I was minding my own business reading through the Old Testament when I began to see how much both testaments devote to the Lord’s instruction on how we’re to live as grace-filled servant subversives in the hostile and toxic environment of this world system. Continue reading