Saturday, September 24, 2016

For I Know the Plans I Have For You

Every Bible verse is to inform us but not every promise is for us.

I remember the first time I heard “’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.’” Jer 29:11 (NASB).  I  had just gotten on the Va Beach Expressway at Little Neck Rd driving to work at the Norfolk Naval Base and was listening to John MacArthur on the radio when he spoke that verse to ME!   God had a PLAN for ME! 

I was a young Christian struggling to make sense of the Bible, God, faith, … life.  As a concrete sequential kind of person (i.e. engineer), the mere fact that God had a “plan” gave me hope there was some possibility of understanding it, and my place in it, by careful study of His Word!  That the verse seemed to say the plan was personal for ME was gravy on the biscuit.

As I grew in my study of the Word I learned that God does have a plan.  In fact, there is the big plan – the sweep of His-story from before Creation, man, the fall, the rescue plan (Jesus), all the way to the New Heavens and Earth and eternity – that runs from Gen 1:1 through Rev 22:21.  I also came to understand His personal plan for me was in Romans 8:28-39 - particularly in the phrase “to become conformed to the image of His Son.”  His plan for me is to lead me to become more like Jesus.

Many people claim Jer 29:11 as “their” verse and promise.  Some even see God promising them “welfare” as in prosperity and good health.  This is a verse often used by Health, Wealth, Prosperity false-gospel hucksters, but this flies in the face of reality, doesn’t it?  How many great Christians have been poor?  How many, sick?  How about Christians are being persecuted - even to death - in our times?

Reading the verse this way puts false words into God’s mouth, makes the Bible say what it never said, and wrongly claims a promise made for others - ancient Israel in captivity. 

Misreading Jer 29:11 like this sullies God’s Word and dims the beauty of a loving God speaking hope and His plan to people in a specific time and place - Jews exiled by God in a foreign land.  That’s our unchanging God speaking and revealing His unchanging character to us!  That’s the message of Jer 29:11 for us today.  In this case, as often in the Old Testament, it’s not the promise that carries forward to us but the consistency of God’s character.

Good Bible interpretation is NOT just for preachers and Sunday School teachers - it’s our responsibility, too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What is God Up To Right In Front of Your Eyes?

Sometimes it could be a small Divine appointment like mine yesterday.   Actually, "small" and "Divine" is an oxymoron - nothing God ever does is "small".

I had been thinking about "What is God doing right in front of your eyes" on the 40 minute drive to the office in Monroe, LA.  First order of duty on arrival is always to warm up the coffee I brought from home.  The microwave had been broken the previous week when I was last in the office, and today I was aggravated to find the broken microwave in the office area had not yet been replaced - I mean, don't these people know what's important? 

Then I guessed there was probably a microwave in the break room in the plant, so I head out there. 

I see the cleaning lady, Mary, and we exchange usual pleasantries in passing as I am singularly focused on my mission (male trait).  Yes!   There is a microwave, so I heat up my coffee.  Then it occurs to me I have some new photos of granddaughter Sydney in her first Huntsville snow that I just know Mary would want to see. 

Mary had moved to cleaning the men's bathroom across the hall.  Since she had the door propped open, the proud Papa (me) proceeds right in and I show her the picture on my phone.  I notice Mary's eyes welling up with tears.  My immediate thought was, yes, Sydney is that beautiful, but tears? 

Then Mary told me she had been depressed thinking about her departed mother and that simple picture was a gift from God to brighten her day. 

Just a small thing, right.  I felt more an unwitting accomplice than intentional, but perhaps I might have been tempted to think I had done something rather than God. 

And it's not that after this encounter, the thought "What is God doing right in front of your eyes?" was continually plastered in front of my mind the entire day.  But, it did pop up occasionally and every time it made me look at people and consider the desperation of God-less lives most are living ... and then pray for them.

Maybe God will continue breaking this hard selfish heart.