Jeremiah 29 v 11

I recently read a blog post on Jeremiah 29v11 and how it is one of the most abused scriptures in the bible. I admit that I have quoted this scripture for more than half my life. Its been a scripture that has been with me through thick and thin. I will also confess that it wasn’t until I read the scripture a couple of weeks ago that I actually took full view of the context of the scripture.

I loved it even more when I read the whole thing actually. It was a letter written by Jeremiah to the exiles who had been taken to Babylon. In his letter he wrote what the Lord had told Him to tell His children. In essence its a letter from God to His children. I like to imagine things so bear with me here. I might receive some rebuke from others more spiritual or more theologically sound than I, but no matter. I enjoy receiving mail. Back in the days of actual post it was always really exciting to receive a letter in the post. You get it and first confirm that it’s not a bill or something like that, then excitement sets in. Maybe you might even recognise the handwriting. I can imagine that with Jeremiah’s track record, when the Israelites found out that he had sent a letter, they just knew that it was actually a letter from God. They were probably in anticipation of what the letter says and what God’s PLANS were for them. They were in a really rough place. They had just been through a war with Babylon and had been taken as exiles, marched a long distance on foot to a foreign land. A lot of their loved ones probably didn’t make the journey and some may have been lost during the fighting. They were tired, sick, down trodden, disheartened and I can imagine very aware of God, whether to cry for help or to blame Him for their predicament. They obviously knew the stories of how God would come to the rescue of His people because history had shown that He was a God who loved His people.

I can also imagine that in a new land which was probably very hostile to them they just wanted to go home. Homesickness was probably the feeling of the day, everyday. Then God writes to them and tells them and gives them instruction;

Jeremiah 294 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

The first part might have been crushing for anyone who was really praying that fire and brimstone would rain down and burn all the Babylonians, or that Nebuchadnezzar would have a change of heart and just release everyone. It’s very clear that God is saying that they are not going anywhere, they are there to stay, not just for their lifetimes but up to their grandchildren’s time. God is basically saying that … “get comfortable this is your new home.” But He doesn’t do it maliciously, it’s as if He is literally guiding a little child on what to do. To me these words despite crushing the hope of return to home, have so much love in them. He is not going to take them out but He is showing them how they can get life out of what seems to be a death situation.

Secondly He warns them out of the things that got them into this mess in the first place;

8 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, 9 because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the LORD.

After this comes the part that we all love. Praise God that writing words like these is a true characteristic of Him. He reminds them that they belong to Him and He still loves them. He reminds them that they are not forsaken. That although Nebuchadnezzar thinks he’s managed to conquer them, He actually has no power over God’s people. He reminds them that He is a God of His word and does not lie. He assures them that whatever lies ahead is not a disaster, His plans for them are for a good future, even in this foreign land!  Then He assures them that although they are faraway from the temple in Jerusalem and from the priests and everything, He will still hear their prayers. They might be in this unHoly place but then He will still be there to listen to them and will be found by anyone who comes looking for Him. So often sometimes we feel that because we are far from our local church or from christian friends and pastors, that we won’t be able to find God. These guys must have felt that way. The temple was very sacred to them. But God was saying… “right here, right now, never mind the idols next door or the sin on the other side. Yes the place might not seem conducive but I will hear your prayers!” This is the part in the letter where hearts probably started swelling with Hope and people began to think about tomorrow and the day after. I can imagine that before this they were probably afraid to imagine as far as the end of the weekend, and in their misery probably didn’t even want to.

10 This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

After assuring His people that they are going to make it, that they will be ok, God then pulls out the poison from them. He exposes the false prophets that are in their midst. For anyone who still believes in these lying people, He gives a warning of what will happen to these people.How their fate will be such a terrible fate that it will forever be spoken about by generations to come. This is both  warning to those who might want to also try false prophecy as a profession and to protect the seed of hope that has planted in His children’s hearts. The devil likes to come with negative words just after God has given His affirmation. Satan’s only aim really is just to steal, kill and destroy! God did not want that so He made sure He warned them away from these false prophets. No doubt these men were lying in wait to steal, kill and destroy.

20 Therefore, listen to this message from the LORD, all you captives there in Babylon. 21 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says about your prophets—Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah—who are telling you lies in my name: “I will turn them over to Nebuchadnezzar[b] for execution before your eyes. 22 Their terrible fate will become proverbial, so that the Judean exiles will curse someone by saying, ‘May the LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned alive!’ 23 For these men have done terrible things among my people. They have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and have lied in my name, saying things I did not command. I am a witness to this. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

That was God’s letter. I love the way He was matter of fact about His word. Didn’t add a whole lot of words which would confuse anyone about exactly what He was saying and what He was going to do. I especially love that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If that was His will and His character then, then it is the same today. He is just and at the same time full of love. So having read Jeremiah 29 I love it even more.

God Bless

Blessed Are They ….

 

(Mat 5:2 MKJV)

 

And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying,

 

(Mat 5:3 MKJV)

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

 

(Mat 5:4 MKJV)

 

Blessed are they that mourn! For they shall be comforted.

 

(Mat 5:5 MKJV)

 

Blessed are the meek! For they shall inherit the earth.

 

(Mat 5:6 MKJV)

 

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness! For they shall be filled.

 

(Mat 5:7 MKJV)

 

Blessed are the merciful! For they shall obtain mercy.

 

(Mat 5:8 MKJV)

 

Blessed are the pure in heart! For they shall see God.

 

(Mat 5:9 MKJV)

 

Blessed are the peacemakers! For they shall be called the sons of God.

 

(Mat 5:10 MKJV)

 

Blessed are they who have been persecuted for righteousness sake! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

 

(Mat 5:11 MKJV)

 

Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for My sake.

 

(Mat 5:12 MKJV)

 

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in Heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I read this scripture this morning and realised something about it that I never thought of seriously before. In this passage of scripture Jesus was speaking to the people and letting them in on a fundamental truth about blessing. These words He spoke are part of the entire message tat Jesus came to let us in on. That life as we believe it to be is not about the things that we have come to value on this earth and the things that we believe to be riches. As human beings in general we have come to associate all good things with riches and primarily monetary wealth and accumulation of property. Jesus here speaks about blessing, and being blessed. It seems that His definition of blessing is entirely opposite to what we think it is. In fact I think that if Jesus’ sermon on blessing was compared to some of the sermons on blessing and being blessed that I have listened to they would be very different. I might go so far as to say that no one would be in Jesus’ church.

This is Jesus message. If you want to be Blessed ;

  1. You will be Poor in Spirit
  2. You will Mourn
  3. You will be Meek
  4. You will be pure in heart
  5. You will be a Peace Maker
  6. You will Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
  7. You will have been Persecuted for Righteousness sake
  8. You will be Merciful
  9. You will have been Reviled and Persecuted by Men

He finishes off by saying that we should Rejoice and be Glad for the Reward in Heaven is Great.

Firstly looking at the things that Jesus said will account for me being blessed I realise that in order for me to go through or exhibit these traits is not going to be easy. Mourning does not speak of a happy place, to be a peace maker there has to have been trouble, to be merciful you need to have been in a situation that will call for mercy and persecution and reviled for men speak for themselves. In this world we will truly experience troubles and many of them. When trouble comes Jesus says that we are Blessed. It’s so at odds with what we say nowadays, when someone buys a new car the first thing you think of is, ” wow he/she is so blessed”. We sit and ask ourselves and pray, “Lord where are my blessings, why am I not blessed Lord?” Well according to Jesus you are blessed. In fact you are Truly and Greatly blessed. You are swimming in Blessing! Your reward is Great in heaven, and He says Rejoice and be Glad! Tough thing to do but if you believe Jesus is the authority on all things then take His word for it and rejoice.

God Bless

 

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound that saved a Wretch like Me.

There are days when you listen to words like these and you are struck by the Grace of God. It has not been mere good fortune or luck for me to be alive and to be the person that I am right now. I am not an amazing person by worldly standards maybe not even by biblical standards, if we take people like Joseph and Moses for comparison. But right now I know about the wretch that I was, the person doomed to failure and without hope. I know of who I was for a fact! But today… I have a hope, I have a future and I have life, because of an amazing Grace that came and washed over me. I did nothing to deserve it, I did not do anything to obtain it, it was freely given to me by God. By Grace my sins ( my fears, my weaknesses, my sicknesses) have been relieved. I have truly escaped death and I have continued to do so time and time again through forgiveness, as my stubborn flesh has tried to deny the life that Grace has placed inside of me.

What a poignant thought. My heart literally swells with love and gratitude for the saving Grace of my saviour Jesus Christ. Never mind what is happening around me, I am who I am because He is. I pray that I would never forget or live as if I am not saved when I am. I pray that I would share this with everyone with whom I meet that needs it. It is what the world needs, it is what every heart and every life needs. I once was lost and had no meaning to my life, but Jesus came and gave me meaning in my life. I might seem like any other person struggling to get through this life but I have hope. Hope is a powerful thing. It keeps you going, it drives you forward despite the circumstances. That hope I have found through Christ through His amazing Grace. It was freely given to me and I freely received it.

If you have never listened to the words of this song, take some time to sit and think about them. If you have not allowed the Grace to save you then think about allowing Jesus to be your saviour. If He already is your saviour, take a moment to absorb what He has done for you. Truly Grace will lead you home!

God Bless!

 

Down The Valley Up The Mountain, Jerusalem is Home

When I was young and in primary school we used to sing a song that went ‘Down the Valley Up the mountain, Jerusalem is my home’. I don’t think I truly understood what that song meant or what it could possibly mean. I was reminded of this song just now. especially with challenges that I am currently facing in my life right now. Challenges are an everyday part of life. We cannot run away from problems. This is common knowledge. It’s all about how we persevere through the challenges that we face in our lives, because at the end of the day we should be able to say/sing, ‘down the valley up the mountain Jerusalem is my home’. At least that is what we are supposed to sing. Sometimes we end singing… ‘ Down the valley…. after this Lord I am changing my place of residence, Jerusalem just isn’t working for me!’

I have been reminded of two scriptures, James 1v2 “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face many trials of many kinds …’ Every christian probably knows this scripture and probably doesn’t know what to do with it when trials come, because basically it is hard to count it PURE  joy when the world is crashing around you, (“SERIOUSLY JAMES!”). But if you commit or make the decision that no matter what you are not changing, Jerusalem is going to be your home. That you will still serve God and that you will continue to worship Him then you can be encouraged by, Genesis 46v4a I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up [again]. God will walk allow you to come to a valley but will not leave you there. He will go down into Egypt with you and will bring you back again.

I had a revelation in my life as I was asking God … why? He said that He would lead me beside still waters and that He will take care of my every need. He did not lie about that. It is possible to go through really tough situations but He will not let me be overcome. It will be hard but I will not be overcome. It will seem like I will be overcome but He will not let that happen. There is no better way to strengthen my faith than to test it and since I passed the last test, naturally the next one is going to be harder. It seems to my natural mind that this is unfair but then I realised that often we are travelling through the valley so that we can get to the next mountain (high place) forgetting the most important thing. God is not taking us on a journey of mountains, He is taking us on a journey to Jerusalem, the city of our God. That is the most important destination in our lives.

This revelation caused me to look more closely to some of the men in the bible. Their journeys were all different. Some like Joseph, made it to a place of prosperity and some like Paul and the other disciples came to their end in what we would classify as valleys. They suffered many trials, worse than most of us will ever encounter but it cannot be right to say that they were not prosperous men. So we need to as christians change our minds and start to want to think the way God thinks because after all, we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2v16). I encouraged us to spend more time with God during our trials so that we can truly accept them as pure joy and know that He is with us through them all.

Be Blessed!

Better is One Day in His Courts

Psalm 84

 1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.
Interlude

5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
7 They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

8 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer.
Listen, O God of Jacob.
Interlude

9 O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield!
Show favor to the one you have anointed.

10 A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what joy for those who trust in you.

For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®

Romancing God and Me

Backsliding, straying, messing up slipping up, there are so many ways to refer to it really. In any case it is very real and more often than not we do find that somehow we have moved away from God. He seems like a distant person somewhere and you really wish you could get to know Him once again. Sometimesit’s not really that you have been caught up in something major but somehow the relationship seems to have just gone cold. I find myself there and the prayers have become,

Lord Help me to know you once again.

Help me to feel that love that passion that we once had.

Bring me to tears once again with your love,

Humble me with your wisdom and thoughtfulness.

Fill my mind with the fragrance of your Grace once again.

Let your living waters flow over me once again.

Give me back that hunger and that desire that once burned within me, for You.

You seek and really really want your relationship to be restored. Sometimes it doesn’t happen in a day as I have just experienced. It’s actually taken and is still taking some effort from me. Its like trying to get that special someone’s attention once again. He is there, I have no doubt that God is there with arms wide open and still burning with love for me. I need to feel it once again. A pastor once said that what kept him in love with his wife were the prayers he prayed for her. So as I pray more and more I find that it is coming back. I get reminded of what He has done for me. In turn…, today He dropped a scripture in my heart that was so encouraging for me. It was really special. It was like that little note you get at the beginning of the day saying, “I love you and I want you to have a great day!” Simple… but full of thought, from someone who knows what is happening in your life and just wants you to know that they care!

So even if I have slipped behind a little, I can still seek Him, romance Him and be romanced right back, because He loves me and forgives me through His faithfulness. Love Him.