Month: May 2017

What a Hope and Future Really Means

“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)


As a new Christian, did you have a rosy view of your new Christian life? I know I did. And Jeremiah 29:11 was one of the first verses I heard as a new Christian. It was easy to think that meant that from now on I would always prosper and never get harmed.

It took a while to realize I was misunderstanding God’s promises. God’s promises did not mean I was magically protected from broken relationships and being fired from a job.

Today’s verse comes from a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the Jews who were carried away into exile, away from their home in the promised land. These Jews longed to go back home, and many despaired, thinking they never could go back. So, the context of this verse is Jeremiah preaching during calamity. Deep in exile they are told that God will take care of them to give them hope and a future.

So, the promise gives us encouragement of God’s sustaining presence during life’s trials rather than a promise that we will avoid all trials.

How easy it is to overestimate how much God will perfect now, and underestimate how much he will do later. Even when we have been Christians for quite a few years, it is still easy to grow impatient and want the change now.

So, broken relationships, being fired from a job, and having loved ones die are inevitable parts of this life. But today’s verse is an antidote to entering despair or escapism. We have something in common with those Jews. Like them, we Christians now are living in exile from our true home.

The book of Hebrews expresses that truth beautifully, as Christians going through tough times were encouraged to keep persevering and holding on to their faith.  They too were encouraged to look to a future hope:

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (Hebrews 13 :14)

What an encouragement for us today, anytime we struggle with the gap between what’s going on now and the fullness of all that God has promised will happen !

Take Back the Country?

Found a thought I wrote in my personal journal last summer that I would like to expand into a blog post for you. Here’s the beginning of what I wrote last July….

“This week as I write we are blessed by bright blue skies, very low humidity, and temperatures that will barely reach 80 ˚F. Pleasantly different from the stifling heat waves we often get in July here in New Jersey……”

At that time, I was writing some devotions on the Parable of the Sower, but I glanced at some other parables and was struck by how Jesus often says, “The Kingdom of God is like……”  Several of these “like” parables show the way the kingdom of God is often hidden and yet has a quiet power. A great example of this is the Parable of the Leaven.

Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”   (Matthew 13:33)

Sometimes I hear people complain “We used to have a Christian country…..but not any more”. I won’t try to settle the argument here of how Christian we used to be, but right now it sure does seem that Christian influence in our culture is decreasing rather than increasing.



What is our response? In the U.S., what is the connection between Christianity and the red white and blue? Does scripture encourage us to try to dominate the culture? Or does it challenge us to exert a more effective behind-the-scenes influence in our families, jobs, and neighborhoods?

Consider Paul’s request:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Corinthians 2:1-4)

Does Paul urge us “To live lives that are filled with anger and protest at our corrupt culture?”

No! Look at how prayer is directed here.  Are we praying to take over? Not at all, we are praying that we may be able to live a peaceful quiet life in godliness and holiness.  And what is the result? A Christian takeover? No, somehow the lives we live should allow people to get to know the truth and to get saved.

Ironically, there’s a way in which being less of a “Christian country” can be an encouragement to us. For then, we have something in common with the very first Christians. They were not getting into fights with the power players who were running society, but they impressed many outsiders with the love and courage they showed in their lives.

 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)

Maybe we should think of these believers who lived in a pagan country the next time we start to rant, embittered at all the things going on in our country that we do not like.  Might our country change in a rant-free way, from the bottom up, through the influence of many changed lives, people getting saved and then living quietly but powerfully for the Lord?

Crazed Robin Continually Crashing

We had an unfortunate aftermath after our window cleaning business friend did a great job at cleaning our windows. A crazed Robin, caught in motion in the picture, kept flying into our window.

cbird - crop snapshot

The steady clunk clunk clunk became quite annoying so we hoped the bird might knock itself silly and stop. But he did not!

From a birder friend and the internet, we learned that the bird sees his reflection and thinks it’s a rival male bird who’s going to mess around with Mrs. Bird and their Nest.

How many hundreds of times would the bird hit the window and not learn anything? There’s no limit because the bird is programmed to react this way.

I started to think “What a stupid birdbrain!” But then I reflected on how many times might we sin and knock our silly heads and not learn?

70 times 7??

How can we be so foolish like the bird?  Are we programmed to sin?

(a) Is there hope if we have sinned as many times as the bird hit our window?

(b) Is there a remedy to keep us from knocking ourselves silly?

Scripture does provide us with an answer and hope for these questions.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  (1 John 2:1-2)

Of course, as Christians we have made up our mind that we do not want to sin. But, any attempts we make to get rid of sin on our own are as effective as the bird’s futile attempt to get rid of his rival by pecking at our window!

What can break our pattern?  What would work?  The answer: We need to be cleansed.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Our forgiveness from the penalty of sin by Jesus is once and for all, but the cleansing  from sin is an ongoing process. We continue  to walk in the light, we continue  to have fellowship with each other, and we continue  to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Because of all this, over time, I can’t say we never crash into the window, but by grace those painful collisions are happening less and less often!