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Bible Verses

A plan to prosper…

Jeremiah ch.29 v.11 is a popular verse – it makes a number of specific claims, that the Good Lord has a specific plan for each individual called to serve Him – that the plan is in our best interests, that we can be confident that He is not perversely lifting us up in order for us to fail catastrophically.

But to me, there’s something else to give hope in the passage – it’s a call to return from a wilderness experience.

For seventy years, the exiles would feel that their prayers were unanswered, that everything they had worked towards was cast aside, that they were forgotten and cast aside like broken toys.

But then, they would perceive, He hadn’t abandoned them, that He had raised up a prophetic voice among them – that, when they had given up on being able to manufacture something spiritually unsatisfying on their own, and turned to Him wholeheartedly; then, and only then would He intervene on their behalf.

Then, the Almighty would make Himself known to them, would restore them in full fellowship with Him, would restore them on track to fulfil His vision, His plan, His purpose.

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Bible Verses

The most important thing in the world

So, what is of the most importance to you? Where do your priorities lie? Is it to hold true to the calling or vision that God has given you – to be a person of integrity? Is it to be a success in stewarding earthly treasure, so that the Good Lord can entrust you with spiritual treasures?

Our perspective is not necessarily the same as God’s – it is far too easy for us to be distracted by the temporal – missing out on the big picture because we focus on just one small detail, blowing its importance out of proportion. We’re human after all. We make errors of judgement. We let ourselves and others down because of our limited vision.

In 1Corinthians ch.13 – we’re introduced to the most excellent way. We are reminded that spiritual gifts, social justice and a successful ministry do not occur in a vacuum. Without love, they are worthless, discordant, futile.

Are these things imporant? Only if their frame of reference is founded on a genuine love for God and for everything that He loves.

The criteria are high – but He doesn’t leave us there on our own.

We may not be able to see perfectly, but we can experience His perfect love. We may find it difficult to be faithful, but He has promised to never let us down. We may experience problems in discerning His will, hearing His voice, following His lead – but He has declared that He will not give up on us – He will faithfully, continually call out to us to inspire us to follow Him more closely.

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Bible Verses

God’s Purpose for You!

Given that God is all-powerful, all-loving and has an unstoppable plan of redemption for the universe He has created; it is not an unreasonable assumption to believe that He has a purpose for each person who comes to develop a faith in Him.

In the letter to the Romans ch.12 v.2 we are told that His will is good, pleasing and perfect.

Good: we find we have an aptitude for the work we believe we are set aside to do, opportunities arise for us to exercise our gifts in an uncompromising way.

Pleasing: we enjoy what we do, and would rather do this than anything else.

Perfect: we look back and we see His plan unfolded in our lives, even though we did not recognise it at the time; we see how events that we could not understand fit together in a process that prepared us for what happened next.

It is therefore time to take stock of your life in order to determine God’s ultimate purpose for you. What are you good at? There will be something. No matter how insignificant and small you feel your talents are, you have not been blessed with them for no reason. An ability to sing, make models or act is not merely an ornamental distraction from the ‘real’ stuff of Kingdom building. Your mix of talents is unique and has real purpose.

What do you enjoy? What gives you pleasure? It is not a sin to enjoy exercising the gifts that God has given you. This is the scandal of grace. God, the Creator of the universe has set you apart to derive pleasure from doing what you have been equipped to do.

How do you see God shaping your experiences? What Biblical principles can you see at work in your life? What do you believe God is saying to you through your circumstances?

Knowing God personally enables you to find answers and encouragement through patterns of events that show you who you truly are and give you an insight into your destiny. By putting your faith in Jesus Christ you open yourself up to an adventure of self discovery through selfless service.

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Bible Verses

God’s Plan For Us…

God’s ultimate plan for the universe is spelled out in Ephesians ch.1 v.9 – to bring all things under one head: Christ. This is not an isolated verse. This is a theme running throughout scripture.

In Numbers ch.14 v.21, Isaiah ch.11 v.9 and Habakkuk ch.2 v.14 the emphasis is clear for anyone to read – the Good Lord is not merely looking for a small isolated clan that worships Him in obscurity – but a people that transcends national and racial boundaries, influencing everything it comes into contact with. That is the destiny of the church – a huge company of worshippers drawn from every tribe and nation, praising God in every tongue imaginable.

Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel ch.2 v.34 -35 in line with this; pointing to the Messiah’s rule where the eternal breaks into human history culminating in a destiny that makes earthly empires pale into insignificance as His kingdom spreads across the world.

This is paralleled by Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom – yeast, that is mixed in with dough, having an influence on the structure of the bread, causing an obvious dynamic, irreversible change; the mustard seed that starts small, yet has an impact and influence above and beyond anything else in existence, bringing safety and sustenance to all who require it.

And yet, into all this – He chooses to involve us intimately as His partners and co-workers in the task of redemption. We see the grand vista of His plan for redemption; but to implement it, we each have a unique part to play according to our talents and calling. We do not need to emulate somebody else or look to others’ gifts and write ourselves off as useless. We all have a destiny that no-one else can fill – that is the exciting challenge that drives each of use to deeper intimacy with God. The urge to know who we truly are and our purpose in His universe.

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Bible Verses

Men’s Health

The Bible has a great deal to say about our physical well-being. We’re told in 1Peter ch.2 v.24 that by Jesus’ wounds, received on the cross, we¬†have been healed. This is not merely a future hope for an afterlife, but a blessing we can experience now in our mortal bodies.

Of course, reality sets in. We live in a sin-sick, warped universe – its brokenness is evident to us and everyone else around us. We don’t always see an instantaneous, miraculous healing for our friends every time we pray for them. Quite the reverse.

But does that stop us from praying? By no means. It is discouraging, but that on its own is no reason to stop.

If we’re asked to explain why a friend isn’t healed on the spot, it’s best to be honest – tell the truth. We just don’t know. We could pontificate about hidden sin, a lack of faith, a spiritual battle against demonic forces or any other strategies used by Job’s friends to make themselves look good while concealing their cluelessness – but in the end, we have to confess; we just don’t see the bigger picture.

We may experience one dimension of reality. But there is a greater, richer, truer reality that undergirds and invades our experience. That is: the source of the miraculous – and we have intimate access to the One who is in authority over it all, as He seeks to bring our world inexorably into line with the eternal.

With that in mind we can be confident that our prayers are heard by an all-powerful God who cares about us and will intervene on our behalf in our best interests.

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Bible Verses

The greatest commandment

What is the most important commandment. Not a trivial question. At the time when Jesus was asked this, scholars had identified over 600 specific commandments that the Jews were expected to obey.

Jesus’ response in Matthew ch.22 v.37+ was simple and to the point. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – and your neighbour as yourself.

By putting the Father first, having a wholehearted, sincere love for Him, eveything else fits into perspective. Without that genuine afection and desire to please, we not only rob ourselves of true pleasure, but also make obedience an empy, unsatisfying experience.

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Bible Verses

A new heart

Occasionally, I meet people who are a little bit confused by the purpose of the Old and New Testaments.

They tend to look puzzled when I agree with them and say that I find it difficult to reconcile the image of a God who calls people to reason together with Him to seek forgiveness and healing (Isaiah ch.1 v.18) with the one who sends religious people into eternal torment (Matthew ch.7 v.22). Perhaps it’s because they want to believe that quaint 19th Century notion that people’s religious ideas evolved from a faith in angry gods who needed to be appeased into a philosophy of a benevolent but transcendent deity who loves us all but won’t intervene. Sadly, for them, reality does not fit their convenient model.

Sometimes it is tempting to think that the entire Old Testament was rendered obsolete by the New. As if the Almighty decided to completely change his plans to suit the theology we think should be most fashionable.

While it is true that the Law’s purpose was served to bring us to Christ, helping us recognise our need of a Saviour, and to that extent it has now done its work; to think that God’s purpose and plans have radically altered from before creation is to have a shallow understanding of the text of the Old Testament.

Ezekiel ch.36 v.26 illustrates this well. It speaks of the heart transplant that comes from a living faith in the Messiah – something that the writers of the Old Testament texts looked longingly forwards to: a complete internal transformation of your attitudes and desires, made possible through a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit.

To have the eternal, all-powerful creator of the universe taking up residence in the deepest recesses of our being, guiding us to a life of purpose, fulfilment and power. This was no afterthought. To see whole communities across the globe reflecting the radiance of a life lived in harmony with the divine was not Plan B – this was the goal all along.

Go on a treasure hunt. Search the Bible for further evidence that this was the Good Lord’s original plan. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

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Bible Verses

A Need to Study

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are stewards of everything we possess. Nothing belongs to us alone. Instead, we have been entrusted with a responsibility to invest our time and efforts in the growth of God’s Kingdom.

This includes our thought-life and the way we fulfil the potential of our minds. We have a sacred responsibility to be the best student that we can be (2 Timothy ch.2 v.15).

The responsibility does not end there however. We also are expected to apply the principles learned consistently in our own lives, and teach others to do the same.

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Bible Verses

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

For they shall see God.

Take a look at Matthew ch.5 to 7 – it’s been described as the Manifesto of the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ main teachings focussed into a single arrangement.

The Beatitudes at the start of the Sermon on the Mount turn the natural order of things upside-down. The meek inherit the earth – when the natural order in a dog-eat-dog world is that those who don’t thrust forwards and push themselves to the front of the line should get nothing – a true prisoner’s dilemma!

And again – the pure in heart see God? But, it was common knowledge that if you were to look on His face, you would die! After all – how can the finite comprehend the infinite and survive?

There’s the key! In order to be pure in heart, you must first die to your old life of self-centredness.

Then you will see the Almighty, recognise His hand on your life, see Him at work in others, experience his life-transforming power.

We cannot understand fully the magnitude of who He is, the experience overwhelms us – but we can appreciate the evidence of His work as we glimpse eternity for ourselves.

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Bible Verses

Exactly who can ascend the Hill of the Lord?

Psalm 24 v.3 asks a question: who can ascend the hill of the Lord? The answer is given in the following verse: he who has clean hands and a pure heart.

There is a false dichotomy in some people’s thinking that attempts to subdivide a life of faith into either the pursuit of personal piety or social justice – as if the two are mutually exclusive.

In reality, righteousness and justice don’t merely co-exist, they are both essential foundations for authentic spirituality to be lived out effectively in our lives. This is why Psalm 89 v.14 refer to them both as the foundations of His throne. Without one, the base for His authority would crumble – his throne would topple.

A lifestyle that stresses one at the expense of the other is doomed to wallow in legalistic hypocrisy or antinomian irrationality. However, by embracing both streams we can find a balanced way to live.

We have our hearts cleansed so that we may live with an inward attitude to do what is right. Not only for ourselves – but living to redeem our communities, to bring about positive change in the lives of those we touch.

D0ing this brings God’s rule and God’s presence into our surroundings. Once again clearly demonstrating the upside-down values we live by to subvert the world around us. Instead of us ascending a hill – separating ourselves from the rest of the world in order find God, we bring our world to Him in order to make it holy.