Grabbing ahold of some of God’s most powerful promises

Jeremiah 29

The other day I saw a sign that quoted the famous verse: 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 29:11) It reminded me how so many people pull this out of context and miss the true power of this verse to their lives.

Probably rule number one of studying the Bible is understand a verse in its context. This verse is in the midst of an interesting story. It is in a letter that the prophet Jeremiah sends to the early group of people who went into captivity. False prophets had apparently been telling them that this captivity would not be a long time.

Jeremiah actually writes the letter to tell them the opposite. They are going to be there for a long time. Seventy years to be exact. He encourages them to settle in for the long hall and build houses and plant gardens. At the end of seventy years there will be a return from captivity. Then he says the verse that we know so well, “plans to give you a future and a hope.”

This is not a “your problems will quickly go away” verse like is often used. That sounds more like the promise that the false prophets were giving. So what is the encouragement of this verse anyways? Why is this verse actually good news?

First, let me say that sometimes God turns things around quickly. He can bring a healing in an instant. The salvation of a friend or loved one can happen as quickly as the turning of a heart. God can do in a moment what would take us a lifetime.

That being said, sometimes things take time. Abraham had to learn to wait for a promise that took years. Joseph’s promise seemed to be going in the opposite direction before being fulfilled. It is in moments when nothing seems to be happening that God’s promises become the most powerful.

In Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Happiness of Pursuit, he talks about the idea that sometimes we would rather have something to die for than have to live for every day. The everyday pursuit of important things can be boring and tedious. To use an analogy that Jesus used it is the taking up of our cross daily. Some days it may feel like we are just carrying our cross to some ultimate destination that we are not sure we will ever get.

It is in those moments when the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 becomes most helpful. We take the advice of Jeremiah to settle down and do the work. If they did the daily faithful work and invested in their kids and grandkids the next generation would get to experience an amazing deliverance.

Abraham would become a great nation. Joseph would rise to power in Egypt. And the Israelites would return to Jerusalem. And you, or your children, may experience amazing things if you hold on to the promise of God’s future and hope for you.

5 Things To Pray For This Easter Weekend

Easter

Easter weekend is a big weekend for the church. It is not so much that we don’t have the opportunity to celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive all year long. When I was in high school I was at a church summer camp where God was at work. I walked around and randomly said, “Jesus is alive.” I wanted to remind people that no matter the miracle they were experiencing it doesn’t compare to the miracle that Jesus is alive. But one of the great things about Easter weekend is that, not only are we extra focused on that fact, but the world at large is more focused. In the church in the USA, Easter is often referred to by pastors as, “the Super Bowl” of the church calendar. Given the opportunities that are there here are some great things to pray for this weekend

An openness to the Gospel– Some people will be open to hearing the message of Jesus now more than any other time of the year. Pray that their mind would be open to the truth.

Harvesters to bring people in– I have heard that 8 out of 10 people would come to church if they were invited by a friend. Pray for opportunities and boldness during this time.

Pastors as they prepare to present the message– Most churches will have a presentation of the story of Jesus on Easter. With a ministry committed to engaging 100,000 people to pray for pastors you know I need to bring that up.

Friendliness in churches– Again this is often times when people who normally wouldn’t go to church decide to show up. Pray that when they get there they would be drawn into the love of Christians.

– The same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. Pray that this realization sinks deeper into who we are. May that truth create a thirst in all of our hearts to live in the Spirit’s power more the rest of the year.

As you enter the Easter weekend I pray that you experience the hope His death and resurrection brings and your heart would be drawn to pray for all of those who still have yet to experience that hope.

Is it time for a good book burning?

Fire

After a meeting at the small group I attend at my home church we were talking about an experience in churches that used to happen. Sometimes it would happen in a church parking lot. It may have come after a message on the danger of a certain kind of music. A bonfire would be created and people would come and throw their records or tapes on the fire. Someone mentioned the potential toxic fumes of such a fire.

This strange practice comes from a story in the book of Acts chapter 19 where people came and burned their scrolls that were connected with sorcery that they were practicing. The value of the scrolls that were burned could be compared to the value of the wages of about 135 people working for an entire year. That would have been some bonfire.

It got me thinking, “What would that look like today?” Before we can figure it out we should think about what it meant to the first people who threw the scrolls in the fire. Imagine seeing your neighbor Larry, who used to be known as a person to go to for magic, walking out of his house with an armful of scrolls that you knew were used as basically instruction manuals. It would have been the talk of the town.

These people were saying two things. First they were publicly stating to everyone that they were done with their previous sin. Everyone would know about their new commitment to Jesus. Second, by burning them, they were indicating that they was no going back to the former life. It is kind of like the military strategy of burning the boats so there is no retreat.

The first application of what they did is pretty obvious. There is something powerful about a public confession of leaving a sin behind. This could also be a public commitment to something good as well. Confession can be freeing and empowering for the journey ahead. I know there have been times when I have made public commitments to things that freed me from that moment forward. James was right when he said confession can bring healing.

Burning the boats so there is no going back in today’s world is where it gets a little more personal. Telling everyone to burn their Christian rock records often turned into more legalism than creating freedom. That being said, there is still something powerful and freeing about creating no turning back moments. Rather than telling you what to do let me encourage you to daringly ask yourself what that should look like in your life. If you ask the Holy Spirit He will bring His creativity to encourage a life-changing moment for you.

I love what the Bible says is the end result of this kind of story. “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19:20) Wouldn’t it be great to see that through your life?