John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [NIV]
This is the middle of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter for us. The memory of that first “Palm” Sunday crowd raising their Hosannas for the Messiah of their own imagination along with this quote from John Piper is my reminder for today. “Many of Jesus’s followers [in AD33] thought Jesus came to rescue and reign now. They anticipated a physical and political freedom from the oppressive Roman rule. For them, the Christ was the key to their immediate, this-world issues.” [Your Sorrow will Turn to Joy]
Re-read that quote from Piper and replace “Roman rule” with coronavirus. As believers in Christ we are confronted today with the same challenge of that long ago crowd – choosing imagination or reality. We can’t imagine how Jesus will rescue us from the deadly coronavirus but we can find comfort in the reality of His own words “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Choosing to let Jesus’s Word be the reality of comfort for us is better than letting our imagination for this-world confront us in the midst of this coronavirus week between Palm Sunday and Easter .
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. [NKJV]
I’m still concentrating on Jeremiah 29: 10-12 and the Spurgeon sermon from 1887. I found a meaningful difference in the New King James Version’s translation of a phrase from verse 10: “I will perform my good word toward you.” The Bible is more than history, wisdom and recorded answers to allow us to learn how to live according to the expectations of God. It’s His “good Word“ written to reveal His intent to intervene and perform it in the life of His leading characters [you and I] as we navigate through the emotional and unexpected circumstances of life. We are a performance oriented culture, well-trained over most of our years to figure things out but today our unexpected circumstance is a deadly virus. Coronavirus is now daily confronting our ability to figure out what we do know and what we don’t know.
God knows! That is the one thing Spurgeon has reminded me over and over as I’ve read his sermon. “When Moses came out of Egypt, he had no plan as to the march of Israel. He knew that he had to lead the children of Israel to the promised land, but that was all. He probably hoped to take them by the shortest cut to Palestine at once…Brother, you do not know what is to be done, but the Lord knows for you. O, body of Christ, let your head think for you! O, servant of Christ, let your Master think for you. “I know,” says God “the thoughts that I think toward you.” AND “I will visit you and perform My good Word toward you…”
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞
Jeremiah 29:11 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.
I found the sermon on Jeremiah 29 by C.H. Spurgeon last week [http://www.spurgeongems.org/sermon/chs1965.pdf]. I feel like I stumbled onto something very special. It was delivered in 1887 but it’s wisdom has stood the test of time. It’s long and I keep rereading it because it has more ideas than I can absorb in one reading. “These people in captivity were likely to fear that their God had forgotten them; hence the Lord repeats His words in this place, and speaks of thoughts and thinking three times.” Plans, plans, plans.
Plans are the tricky part for humans because we trust what we know and we just don’t know it all. So here we are in this time of Coronavirus faced with the conflict of who’s plans to believe and what actions to take. Consider this second truth from Spurgeon “Unbelief misinterprets the ways of God; hasty judgment jumps at wrong conclusions about them, but the Lord knows His own thoughts. We are doubtful where we ought to be sure, and we are sure where we have no ground for certainty, thus we are always in the wrong.”
Pay attention today to the plans for dealing with Coronavirus, take every action based on their limited wisdom and act in an abundance of caution on the knowledge of men you don’t know AND then put your trust and hope in the plans of the God you do…”plans to give you hope and a future.”
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whose peace are we called to? Re-read the verses above, then take a deep breath and give thanks to God that the “peace of Christ” is the gold standard we’re expected to live by, not our own.
We are confronted with novel circumstances in our world right now that impact our lives enough to alert us to remember, that is truth. And this is reality: all our riches, and peace, dwell “among” [in the company of] “the message of Christ” that lives in our hearts. Our hearts are where the groundswell of gratitude reveals our understanding of the vast truth of what His peace really means to us.
“In the company” of your hearts and daily lives “the message of Christ” is completed by the simple recognition of this absolutely timeless truth that makes peace possible:
❤️Christ holds your heart in His own❤️
Colossians 3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
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My first thought was Colossians 3:12 sounded like the Designer version of the armor of God. A new wardrobe filled with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness, wisdom and gratitude. This is not the armor of medieval times. It has the same complete coverage as the heavy metal version but it looks quite different. This wardrobe honors the qualities the Designer Himself has chosen to display what His impenetrable protection looks like. It covers every vital thing necessary to win over the opposition at the same time it reveals Love is the thrust of outreach that makes this “armor” a thing of beauty that still wins ❤️s.
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. [NKJV]
We’ve been duped by our own wisdom to depend on personal strength of character and our “bootstrap” mentality as the secret to a successful life of faith…and everything else. Paul’s reality for us is very different from that human wisdom. I jotted sets of keywords as I often do and distilled them into this:
You were raised with Christ to seek those things where Christ is. Set your mind on things above with Christ in God who is your life. When He appears you also will appear with Him in glory.
The words I’d reassembled from Colossians became what reminded me of another variation of Paul’s wisdom from Henry Blackaby’s workbook “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.” “Find out where God is at work and join Him there.”
“You were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is…” Join Him there!