Devotions on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
November 20-26, 2017
Monday, November 20, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jeremiah 29:5).
SSgt Susan Conner was on routine patrol in Afghanistan when the Humvee in which she was riding struck an IED. The driver was killed. The other soldiers received various wounds. Susan lost her right leg. It was amputated above the knee. At first Susan was angry—at God, the Taliban, the United States and herself. She fought the idea that she was an amputee. Counseling and group sessions helped Susan understand that she needed to embrace what had happened, who she was and then get on with her life. Accepting her new life brought healing and wholeness to Susan.
The Israelites were irate about their exile and unaccepting of God’s judgment upon them. Their feelings of grief, shock, hate, anger, fear and hopelessness controlled their thoughts and actions. They made themselves and others miserable and were unable to learn from their experience or live life. Jeremiah’s message to the exiles was, “Accept what has happened and get on with life.”
There are many times in our lives, as followers of Jesus, when we need to hear these words. Bad things happen to us—most of which we have no control over. We do have some power, however, over how we react to these events. We can fight them or accept them and learn from them. The bad things of our lives do not take away God’s love and grace.
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; courage to change the things we can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Amen
Tuesday, November 21, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7a).
The Israelites were in a place where they did not want to be. Their homes in Israel had been destroyed and they had been forced into exile. They were in a foreign land where the people spoke a different language, the customs were strange and the religious practices were repulsive to them. It is easy to understand why they didn’t want to accept and get comfortable in their new surroundings.
It is important to note that Jeremiah didn’t tell the Israelites to become like their captors, the Babylonians. No, the Israelites faced the challenge of keeping their identity. Their worship practices, observance of dietary laws and circumcision requirements were strengthened during the exile. Secure in who they were, the prophet Jeremiah instructs the people to “bloom where they are planted.” They were to be a blessing and not a curse; to love rather than hate.
There are times in our lives, as followers of Jesus, when we do not believe that we are in the right place. We may be in a nation run by a different political party, a job that doesn’t fit us, a school filled with bullies, or a geographical location that is too cold or too hot. For various reasons we cannot change the situation. In such situations, the prophet’s admonition applies to us—be followers of Jesus and be blessings.
Lord, “Make us blessings, Make us blessings, Out of our lives, out of our lives, May Jesus shine; Make us a blessing, to people today.” (Luther Barnes–“Make Me a Blessing“)
Wednesday, November 22, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7b).
In the movie, “Wonder,” ten year-old Auggie Pullman, who has rare genetic disorder Treacher Collins, attends school for the first time. As a boy with a malformed face, Auggie has difficulty being accepted by other children and making friends. He does make friends with one boy, Jack Wills, but Jack betrays that friendship. Auggie turns from Jack, preferring loneliness to forgiveness. It takes some time but Auggie eventually does forgive Jack. When he does, he discovers the blessing of a renewed friendship and the joy it brings.
It is often very difficult to pray for those who have hurt us. Certainly the Israelites didn’t want to pray for God’s blessings on the Babylonians. Instead of prayer, we frequently find ourselves imaging ways we could inflict pain upon them and pay them back. Such thoughts, however, imprison us in dungeons of anger and hate. With intentional effort, we can forgive over time. When we come to a point where we can pray that our enemies experience God’s love and grace, we discover in our own lives a new freedom to experience the fullness of life.
Lord, may we forgive as freely as you have forgiven us. Amen.
Thursday, November 23, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“Do not let the prophets and the diviner’s who are among you deceive you” (Jeremiah 29:8).
There are such things as false prophets. Prophets and fortunetellers had appeared among the exiles and were speaking in the name of the Lord, but God hadn’t sent them. The Israelites were given the confusing task of determining which spiritual leaders were from God and which were not. We face the same task. The religious scene today is filled with people delivering all sorts of messages. Many of them are at odds with each other.
Probably the first rule of thumb in uncovering false prophets is if they tell you what you want to hear, they probably aren’t from God. Sure, we need to hear that God loves us and blesses us abundantly. When the message continues that we are to keep all of those blessings for ourselves, then we can begin to wonder. The prophets’ messages need to be scripturally sound. Yet, if they use scripture to inspire injustice, inequity, judgmentalism or the exclusion of others, then their message is to be questioned. As followers of Jesus, if what is being said is not what Jesus taught, then is not from the Lord.
The gospel of Jesus is “good news.” It is not always easy, comfortable or welcomed news, in that it might challenge our selfish, independent spirit. Still, the good news always assures us of God’s love, presence and power. It is a message that inspires hope and service.
Lord, give us the ability to discern your voice so that we follow you and not another. Amen.
Friday, November 24, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“’For surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Creation is a wonder to behold. There are the vast frontiers of space to amaze us. The beauty of the world and the wonders of nature enthrall us. The laws, cycles and balances of creation seem to be part of a vast design—one that is beyond our understanding and our imagination.
That same designer, the Lord of all creation, is at work in our lives. “I know the plans I have for you,” the Lord declares. The Holy Spirit moves within us using raw genetics, the good and bad experiences of life, our interactions with others and divine inspiration. The Spirit forms us into people who are able to use our talents and abilities to share God’s love and grace with others. We are people who take on the image of the designer and reflect the creator’s glory. The work of the Spirit enables us not only to be all that we were meant to be, but also to experience the fullness and freedom of the abundant life we have been given through Jesus Christ.
Lord, thank you that you are moving in our lives to accomplish your will for us and to make us into the people you want us to be. Amen.
Saturday, November 25, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“Then when you call upon me and come pray to me, I will hear you” (Jeremiah 29:12).
It was a ritual with Carlos and Ramona. When they arrived home after a day at work, they would pour themselves a glass of wine and over a plate of cheese and crackers they would share the events of the day. Their time together was a way to relax and decompress. It was good to have someone listening. Bill would call his old military buddy Larry on a weekly basis. The two men would reminisce about their time in the service and would also listen to each other’s stories of the week. Listening is a vanishing art and it is truly a blessing to find someone who will listen to us.
The Lord assures the Israelites, and us, that God will hear us and listen to us. There are times when it is necessary for us to express our needs to the Lord. When we do, it is comforting to know that God hears our prayers. There are other times, however, when we can simply share our stories with the Lord. We can do so knowing that God not only listens to us, but God also understands and empathizes with us. Such times are comforting and encouraging to us.
Lord, thank you that you hear us and you understand. Amen.
Sunday, November 26, 2017–For I Know the Plans I Have for You
“When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Little Janine and her father loved to play hide and seek. When it was his turn to hide, Janine’s father would hide under the covers on the bed. Janine could easily find the big lump in the middle of the bed. Her father would also hide under the table. Janine would find him quickly, because she could see through the legs of the table and chairs. Wherever Janine’s father would hide, she could always find him. She never lost him.
There are times in our lives when we feel that God is separated from us. We look for God, thinking that God might be hiding from us in places like answered prayers, miracles and secure and comfortable feelings. We don’t find God in those places. When we finally do find God, we discover that God has been hiding in plain sight. God has never been far away from us and God has never been lost.
Rarely are we able to determine whether we search for God half-heartedly or whole-heartedly. Our search efforts are not to be based on the condition of our hearts, but on the truth that God is a God who wants to be found.
Lord, we thank you that you have found us and have promised never to be separated from us. Amen.