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.

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.

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.

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.

Bible Verses

A Father’s Advice…

If the previous chapter’s inducements weren’t enough – now here’s Dad saying the same thing.

This time, the offer is long life and overcoming obstacles.

But there are some other important provisos – you must not let yourself be distracted from what is truly important.

Verse 18 is interesting – But the path of the righteous is like the dawning light, that shines more and more until the perfect day.

It demonstrates a clear progression. You take yur first steps by faith, towards the light in the distance. As you progress, you begin to notice more of your surroundings, odd shapes begin to make sense as you can pick out details and work out where you are, where you have come from and most importantly here you are going. If you don’t see this progression, stop and ask yourself – where is the true light?