The Plans God Has for Us – Part II

The overarching theme of the Book of Jeremiah is judgment.


Though Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted as a stand-alone verse, the context of it dramatically enriches its meaning. The context also reveals meaning that we would miss if we didn’t understand the circumstances in which these words were spoken. This is the main message of the first installment of this three-part series – The Plans God Has for Us – Part I.

When we read the following words, we should be mindful of the context:

“’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)

Aside from the fact that we often ask God merely to bless our own plans, not considering (or taking seriously) that He has plans for us, this verse is often quoted with anticipation of some immediate or not-too-distant hope and future. But the context suggests that we should apply the verse in a much larger context than the immediate and near future circumstances of our own lives.

Consider that the prophet, Jeremiah, lived and served God during the last four decades before the last of God’s people who were given the Promised Land, the nation of Judah, were overtaken and exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah’s life and prophetic ministry spanned from the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah (627/626 BC) through the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

These were doom and gloom years in which an ominous cloud of darkness loomed over Judah and eventually swallowed them up. Most of Jeremiah’s ministry focused on warning God’s people of the impending doom.

Jeremiah wasn’t’ a popular prophet (not that prophets are known to be popular). He was imprisoned, and his life was threatened multiple times during the course of his ministry. People didn’t like or receive well the drumbeat of warning that he pounded.

The Book of Jeremiah reveals a prophet whose life was full of emotional angst, as the people of Judah didn’t want to hear what he had to say and were hostile to his message. He was faithful to God in spite of the unpopularity it brought him. He often lamented the hard-heartedness of the people and their refusal to take heed.

“Jeremiah found himself addressing a nation hurtling headlong toward judgment from God. The Israelites may have feared the future as the outside powers drew near, but rather than respond with humility and repentance, the people of Judah primarily lived as islands unto themselves, disregarding both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.”[i]

Because Jeremiah’s ministry stretched over the 40 years just before the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile, the overarching theme of the Book of Jeremiah is judgment. The chronicle of the history of God’s people from the covenant God made with them in the Sinai Desert to the time of Jeremiah was approximately 900 years marked by ongoing disbelief and disobedience, culminating in the Babylonian exile.

Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted from a letter Jeremiah wrote to the Babylonian exiles after the judgment he had been proclaiming for four decades finally came to pass.

The larger context is almost 900 years of disbelief and disobedience from the very people God chose to call His own. The immediate context is 40 years of Jeremiah warning God’s people of God’s imminent judgment and their refusal to listen or change their ways. In that gloomy scenario in which that judgment finally came to pass, Jeremiah writes:

“’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 we look at the entire letter from Jeremiah to his exiled brethren and consider its application, then and now, the nuances of Scriptural meaning and application to our lives becomes more poignant. We will do this in The Plans God Has for Us – Part III.

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[i] See Insight for Living, Jeremiah, by Charles Swindoll.

Thoughts on Prayer, Circumstances and God’s Purposes

God uses the circumstances of our lives to change us and accomplish His purpose in us.


Many of us pray to God to change our circumstances. We pray for things that we want, sometimes things that really need. We pray according to our perspective, telling God what we want and need.

He knows, of course, what we want and what we need. He knows before we ask. He knows as the words are forming on our tongues and formulating in our minds.

Jesus told us to pray and ask God for our daily bread. Jesus told us to ask, seek, knock….

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

He even illustrated with a parable:

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)

We are expected to ask, supposed to ask, and ask persistently. And many, many people do ask God for things, but God doesn’t seem to answer. He doesn’t give us what we want, and sometimes He doesn’t even give us the things we desperately feel we need. Sometimes it seems He doesn’t answer at all.

It’s common to human experience to ask God to change our circumstances. When the circumstances don’t change, we are discouraged, depressed, frustrated and sometimes even angry. Many walk away from God as a result.

Atheists challenge me, “Prove to me that God answers prayers, and I will believe.” As if God was a kind of vending machine in the sky, or a barterer or maybe just a slot machine. Sometimes you win with God, and sometimes you don’t. Just keep trying.

But that’s not the right way to approach God. Jesus called Him Our Father. He is also the same God who formed the universe out of nothing. If you spend any time contemplating all that science informs us about the vastness, complexity and elegant, austere beauty of the creation, you begin to understand how great God must be… mind-boggling. He isn’t a “tame lion” as CS Lewis says.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Prayer, Circumstances and God’s Purposes”

Four Misconceptions about Christianity

Four basic assumptions that seem to be prevalent in the modern American world that are not not biblical.


I am continually impressed by the persistence of misconceptions about Christianity, even in the United States. The US is considered by many (still) to be a “Christian” nation. Most people may identify as Christian in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we all understand the basic tenets of the faith. Maybe it’s an example of familiarity leading us to assume things that aren’t necessarily true. Following I address just four very basic assumptions that seem to be prevalent in the modern American world that are not consistent with the Christian perspective that is revealed in the Bible. Continue reading “Four Misconceptions about Christianity”

Locked Out of Garden

God didn’t leave us trapped in a maze with a hidden door. God became the door.

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Prompted by the new book by Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?, I have highlighted a couple of potential keys to addressing the “problem of evil” emphasized in his book in the article,  The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will.

The Christian response to the age old problem lies in the story of Adam and Eve. Created in God’s own image, they were given a choice but were forbidden from exercising it. Anyone with a modicum of understanding about human nature knows that forbidden fruit is a temptation that is hard to ignore. It should come as no surprise to us (or God) that Adam and Eve gave into the temptation and ate of the fruit.

God surely must have known that they would exercise that forbidden choice! Yet, he banished them from the idyllic “garden” He created for them and cursed the world, subjecting it to difficulty, pain, suffering and death. We are looking for a clue to the question that screams from our guts, “Why?!”

This indeed is the harsh reality in which we live. There can be no denying it. Recognition of this harsh reality is not uniquely Christian. It is a universal truth. The explanation of it is what differs. The atheist might simply say that we all die and “then worms will eat our bodies”. That’s just the way it is. The Hindu might say we suffer because of karma, and we all die, and die again, and again, and again, and again. The Buddhist might say we suffer only because we haven’t reached enlightenment because pain and suffering are just a figment of the unenlightened imagination. All worldviews must contend with the fact that we live in a less than idyllic world.

The Christian says we suffer pain and death because Adam sinned. “And we’ve been attending funerals ever since,” Clay Jones says; and “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching absolutely every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease, and that will be your own death from murder, accident, or disease.” What a harsh sentence!

If the Bible is an accurate reflection of God and of reality, why in the world would God have cursed the ground and subjected His creation to futility?

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that God subjected the world to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption….” (Romans 8:20) This suggests that the choice that led man to corruption and the cursing of the world to futility was part of the plan all along. In this second half of “the story” we try to make some sense of it.

Continue reading “Locked Out of Garden”

The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will

Why did God allow us a choice that would lead to our own corruption?

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I am reading a book by Clay Jones called Why Does God Allow Evil? I highly recommend it. The “problem of evil” is one of the more challenging questions that we face in life, and difficulties struggling with that question have led many people to abandon or refuse to embrace faith in God.

Why does God allow pain and suffering? If God is good, how can He allow people to suffer? Why doesn’t God stop evil? If God exists, why does He allow evil to exist? These are just some of the variations of the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is a challenge for every worldview. Responses include that there is no God, and that’s just the way it is (a naturalistic world view); evil is just an illusion of unenlightened souls (a Buddhist or eastern view); evil is result of bad karma (Hindu); or evil is the result of rebellsion against God – sin (Christian). We all struggle with the conviction that things simply aren’t the way they ought to be. That Utopian disconnect urges us to ask, “Why not?”

I think, personally, that the Christian worldview makes the most sense of this question. It begins with the story of God and Adam and Eve. Whether the story is allegorical or historical, the answer involves God’s purpose in creating man, man’s finite, corruptible character (compared to God’s infinite, pure character) and a plan to develop this corruptible creature (man) who is created in God’s own image into a pure, loving relationship with God that is defined by God’s pure character, and not the corruptible nature of man.

Continue reading “The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will”

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 2 – Sexism

If anything, Genesis 2 suggests that men need help, and Eve is to Adam what God is to mankind.

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Racism, sexism and oppression are themes in the story of man’s relations to other men (and women) throughout history. Many people today have the notion that the Bible perpetuates those things, and that enlightened men and women know better. But is that really true?

We introduced the question, “what the Bible says about sexism and racism”, in Part I. In this second part in the series, we look at what the Bible reveals to us about sexism. In Part 3, we begin to explore how the Bible addresses racism. In Part 4, we observe what Jesus reveals about sexism, and Part 5 tackles racism through the life of Jesus and what he taught.

In regard to sexism, to get an idea of what the Bible reveals about God’s idea of the interrelationship of men and women, we need to go back to the beginning, back before sin entered the world. There we are told God created Adam and Eve, the first (or representative) people. In the creation story, we get a glimpse of what God intended, and we begin to see how God views men and women in their original, intended state.

Continue reading “Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 2 – Sexism”

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 1

The Bible has been used to justify racism, sexism and other similar things, but, are those things what the Bible really stands for?

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Many people charge the Bible with being sexist and racist. Whether the Bible is sexist and racist goes to the heart of who the Bible says God is. What does the Bible say about these things? How does the Bible describe men, women, ethnicity, diversity and human life?

Is the Bible accurately portrayed in the media on these issues? Is it accurately understood by the common person? Is the Bible accurately followed by the people who claim the Bible as their guiding light?

These questions are relevant today as Black Lives Matters and women’s marches and gatherings make the news and immigration policy is being debated in the national media in the United States.

How do we value human life? What is the basis for the value of human life?

And what does the Bible really say about these things?

This begins a five part series that looks at the evidence of how God views sexism from a biblical overview and evidence of how God views racism from a biblical overview, followed by the evidence in the Bible of the way Jesus viewed sexism and the evidence in the Bible of the way Jesus viewed racism.

Continue reading “Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 1”