Jeremiah 29:11: A contextual analysis

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It says in Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version), “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.” This is my life verse. My second, actually, after 1 Timothy 4:12, which tackles the youth battling out low expectations from adults and taking the step up to responsibility and challenges. But what is Jeremiah 29:11, the second most used life verse1, really all about?

Jeremiah 29:11 as my life verse

Before we dive into the specifics and technicalities, let me share to you why this verse became close to my heart: you see, there came a time in my life where I learned to doubt God. And these doubts turned to despair, and eventually despair turned into disbelief. I was questioning God and His existence. I had lost hope because of challenges and events that have been occurring in my life in and out of college. But through a simple scroll down Facebook, I saw this bible verse shared by an old high school classmate. That really didn’t hit me in the guts until I started thinking about it more and more. I was in the state of going to agnosticism. I felt abandoned and alone, going into that short state of depression despite continuously smiling and trying to make people laugh (to prove to myself that I don’t deserve to feel melancholy for the rest of my life. But this verse helped me to hang on and to continue to hope; to never fret or overthink about the future – my future – that I can never predict. And up to this write-up, this is still my life verse.

Jeremiah 29:11 in context

Now, what does this verse really mean? Well, the book of Jeremiah, based on my understanding is that Jeremiah had predicted the “Fall of Jerusalem” because of the havoc and chaos that the people have been doing. They have submitted themselves to evil and have forgotten all about God. So what does that have to do with 29:11? Well, let’s go a chapter back. In Jeremiah 28 comes Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet…or so we thought. He was boldly proclaiming that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years (Jeremiah 28:11), but God revealed to Jeremiah that it was a big fat lie. So what happened to Hananiah? Seven months had passed and he died (Jeremiah 28:17). Bummer.

 

So what now? Well, in Jeremiah 29:5-7, God instructed people to build houses, settle down, marry and have sons and daughters and increase in number and He also said to obey the authority of Babylon, which during that time was being ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar II, who was also considered as a brutal, powerful, and ambitious king. But Nebuchadnezzar also served as “God’s instrument of judgment on Judah or its idolatry, unfaithfulness, and disobedience (Jeremiah 25:9)”2. You could possibly think that this couldn’t get any worse, but if you look at Jeremiah 29:10, God is telling them that their people would be able to go back home after seven decades. This means that the current generation of that time won’t make it back home alive, or there’s that super small chance of getting back alive, but you’re now as fragile as a wine glass.

So wait, how does that make any of us feel better? Well, God was basically saying to trust Him. He knows the situation sucks right now but He has our best interest in mind, and that’s what the next verse is talking about: Jeremiah 29:11. God used that verse to let them understand that all hope is not lost. According to Mary DeMuth3, she said that we must “remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy” meaning that the hope that God is talking about here is that in “the midst of your suffering, cling to Jeremiah 29:11, but cling to it for the right reason: not in the false hope that God will take away your suffering, but in the true, gospel confidence that he will give you hope in the midst of it.4

Final words

Throughout the trials and tribulations of life, we must always remember that God is always with us, whether we experience delights or trials. The trials and tribulations that He let us face are not to let us suffer but for us to realize how we have been astray and how we’re getting lost. God wants us to realize the importance of His “rules” in preventing anarchic events in our personal lives. Accepting Christ does not mean that we get to live a pleasant sin-free, worry-free life. The Christian life is not difficult, it is indeed humanly impossible. But what changes? Our response, our character, and our heart. We become warriors and soldiers, tougher and stronger than ever. But God is with us throughout and God won’t let us go astray. Why? It’s all because of His love for us. And to experience God’s unconditional love is one of the most amazing experiences, for me. So, let’s continue to hope and to hang on. God isn’t finished with us just yet.

 


Author’s Note: This was actually our assignment for our small group and I wanted you guys to understand my insights from my research and opinion. Hope you like it!

SOURCES:

1http://www.coylindsey.com/2013/03/20/whats-the-meaning-of-your-life-verse-jeremiah-2911/

2https://www.gotquestions.org/Nebuchadnezzar.html

3http://www.marydemuth.com/jeremiah-29-11/

4http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/stop-taking-jeremiah-29-11-out-of-context.html

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THE START OF A MORE INTIMATE, CHRIST-CENTERED FAMILY

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About a week ago, an idea suddenly popped from my head: to start a family devotion. A few years ago, I saw a picture of a friend of mine doing devotions with their family and I thought that idea was a great one. But for some reason, I never really took the initiative to ask my parents if they were willing to have a family devotion once a week. But suddenly, just last week after I met up with my parents somewhere along Commonwealth Avenue, the idea came back to me, as if God was telling me to go for it and ask my folks about it. Without hesitating, I asked my mom if she’s interested, and agreed to have one, as well as my dad.

We decided to have our weekly devotion every Sunday night because it’s the only time within the week where we’re not too busy thinking about work or school, and at the same time, it is also a great time for us to bond and catch up as a family. We decided to start today, 6 September 2015. And because I thought of starting one, they asked me if I can start the devotion. I agreed to do it; my only problem was what should I share to them?

First, I found a message from our home church, Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF), which was preached two years ago. I wanted to show to them why discipleship begins at home but as I dived into the message, I realized that it was not a great first devotion to start with because it only tackles the role and responsibility of a father, not the entire family. So I decided to keep it for future reference and to use it maybe when God wants me to use it as a devotion.

After a day or two, I found a copy of a booklet we bought years ago from CCF, entitled: “Christ-Centered Family Devotions.”(You can download it online by clicking HERE) So I took the booklet and reviewed its contents. I decided to use the material as the series for our weekly devotions. So as I prayed and reviewed for our devotions, I created a slideshow to make it look pleasing and interesting. I ran through my devotions and so as I finalized everything, after dinner, I went down with my laptop and with the booklet.

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My message was about God’s fear – how it is not for us to be frightened nor for us to feel threatened, but God’s fear can be considered as reverence, wherein love and respect would match its definition. Then as I started with a prayer and run through the questions, they gave insights on what do we mean by fear, and is it good or bad to name a few.

Then things got awkward for me when they started asking questions about my relationship with them in the past, if I feared them in a way I fear God or did I fear them the way I fear people who might want to take my life away. I was a bit shocked and did not know how to transition back to the topic so as I explained what my perceptions were when I was young, the more questions became personal. I was telling myself that “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea,” and “Why did I pick this booklet? I could’ve picked any other devotions from the internet,” but then I realized that as I share more about what my insights were with them, it looked like an open forum, wherein unanswered questions dare to be answered. And for me, that experience made me more open with my parents.

You see, having an intimate relationship with someone means that you trust him or her your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and explanations wherein he or she knows that everything is personal and that he or she will treasure your answers. I know that many parents want to help and know their child more often, especially if they’re at their teen years wherein everything might be confusing and scary (I’m not just talking about puberty, kids) and that’s why they ask you questions like “How was your day?” and “How are you?” It’s because they want to be intimate with you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I like it when people share personal things with me because I know that they trust me and they want to hear my opinion about certain topics or issues. Same with our parents, they want you to trust them that whatever you say (or in some cases, we can use the word “reveal”) to them, they will try to help you in understanding you better, and maybe even finding a solution to your problem if they can.

After the devotion, I felt happy and thanked God for this idea that He gave me. I know that He let me find the booklet, not for me to “lecture” my parents, but for us to be open with one another. Next week, my father’s going to lead the devotion, while my mom will lead after a fortnight. I am very blessed to have a wonderful family wherein we can trust each other and be open and intimate with each other.

Yes, discipleship does begin at home and it makes the family closer and stronger than ever. Please continue to pray for our devotions; pray that we may have consistency and accuracy when it comes to sharing God’s Word through the booklet!

I can’t wait for next week’s devotion!

TRUST GOD, FOR HE IS IN CONTROL

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This August is going to be my second to the last semester in my University. Months before, I was praying for God to give me a reasonable schedule, if not a great nor a good one. In Elevate U-Belt, our church’s youth ministry located in the University Belt of Manila, I serve at ‘Selah’ (our music ministry), and now, I just started serving at ‘Safelight’ (our photo ministry); it also happens every Friday evening. I said to God that if I won’t be able to serve in Elevate U-Belt (if ever I have class during that time), may he lead me to serving in other Elevate branches, like Elevate Commonwealth, or Elevate SNL (short for ‘Saturday Night Live;’ for college students and it is located in the main church) to name a few. I also meet with my small group every Saturday evening at the main church so if ever that I would be called by God to serve there, transportation would not really be much of a problem. Then just a few hours ago, at around 8pm, a block mate of mine posted an update: our schedule had been released already. Excitedly, I gazed upon the picture and I made a table as to what my schedule looks like: 4THYR1STSEM-SCHED (My Thesis Writing class is from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, in case you might not understand why it’s like that.) The next thing I knew, the smile on my face was gone. It did not resemble a frown, but a look of disbelief and confusion. I did not know what to do, neither to say. Coincidentally, my schedule blocked all the time slots wherein I can attend Elevate: Whether it may be in Vito Cruz, Pedro Gil, Katipunan, Commonwealth, High, or SNL (I took consideration of my time to go there from the University). Thank God that I can attend Elevate U-Belt, but I can no longer serve at Selah due to my schedule. I can’t rehearse on Thursday nights, neither can I do sound check since Elevate U-Belt starts at 6pm; I might also be late in covering the event if I serve in Safelight. And I have a 6-9pm class on Saturday, the same time that I can meet my small group and my discipler (small group leader). Also, I won’t be able to commit in serving for the youth choir during Sunday worship at the main church since my Saturday is booked from 9am to 9pm. I felt like my happiness was ripped out of my body. I felt uneasy and I felt so disturbed. I was staring at my schedule for a long, long time. Then anxiety was starting to eat me. I cried out to God and asked Him the reason why He allowed to block almost every Elevate accessible to me. I asked Him to change my schedule so that I can comfortably serve in my ministries and be able to attend small group meetings. My mind was really getting out of hand and I, on the other hand, I am “brisk walking” around my room thinking about all these things – and it’s all just because of my schedule. As I calmed myself down, I prayed to God solemnly. As I slowly ask Him once more why He allowed my schedule to turn out like this, I felt someone asking me, “Who is it that you serve, your friends? Your family? Or are you serving Me?” There, my jaw dropped. God was letting me see that even though my goals in ministry is to serve Him, He wants me to focus solely on Him. He didn’t want me to focus on ministry, on my small group, but He wants me to be firm in my relationship with Him. I have been inside my comfort zone for a long time that I don’t allow change to happen because I think that it’s scary and I might feel as if I’m all alone, but the truth is, I’m really not. God is telling us that He will never leave us and that He will always be by our side. (Hebrews 13:5b) I decided that whether He wants me to serve in Elevate U-Belt or not, then His will be done. The good news is that my 6-9pm class on Internship should already be done (meaning I have no more class) since I am currently doing my practicum. This means that I can meet my small group every Saturday night after escaping the “Manila to San Juan to Ortigas fiasco” of a traffic from Recto. Even though right now, I do not know what God has in store for me, neither do I know the ultimate reason why He allowed me to have this very annoying schedule, I will trust and obey Him. I can still serve Him in many ways beyond ministries and beyond the church. I pray that He will change my heart and help me become better, that I may live like Christ. God is in control The storm may be very powerful, but I will be still for I know that You, my Lord, are with me. All my fear will be removed for You are bigger than my problems.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

THE myUSTe RAGE!

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“Grades do not measure intelligence; they measure diligence.”

This is what @bobfreking tweeted regarding the long, looooooooooooooong wait for the online viewing of grades of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Manila students…and I’m one of those students who are waiting to view them.

I woke up at around 9am1 with a notification from a friend that grades are out. I quickly rushed towards our PC and headed to the myUSTe website, where we can view our schedules, grades, deficiencies, do online enrollment and the like. I gave up at around 12:15pm1 after a series of failed attempts at opening the site. Yes, the site always crashes because of the number of people trying to view their grades. I opened three to four tabs just to make sure that at least one of them might work. I was feeling anxious about my grades because of the result of my grades last semester. I know that I gave my 100%-ish. But I know that I’m only anxious because I feel as if these numbers will determine my future.

By then, no one was posting whether they had succeeded or not so I took my lunch and took a short nap…or so I thought I did. But I slept for almost six hours. Was I tired? Maybe. I mean, maybe my day would’ve been less stressful if I had gone to two of my three chosen companies to apply for internship, but myUSTe got the best of me.

Waking up at around 15 minutes before 6pm1, I realized that I should check again, thinking there was improvement that I can finally view them. People on Facebook were already posting their “success stories” so I was confident that I would be able to view my grades. I was wrong. Afterward, I started to get frustrated. I was not anxious anymore; rather, I continuously pressed the refresh (F5) button as if I was ready to break it.

But suddenly I stopped. I realized that how I was reacting to the situation was wrong. I’m not just merely talking about the rage of pressing the ‘F5’ button alone but how angry I was that the server would not open. Maybe God wanted me to calm down first and just hang on to Him and know that He is under control.

It says in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV): “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

How do we deal whenever frustration and anxiety kicks in? PRAY. Talk to God and give Him all your worries and rage.

So, did I get to see my grades? I posted this at around 8:20pm1 and I still have not. But I know that God will finally help me open myUSTe when my heart is ready, not when it is upset.

UPDATE: [As of 12:51am1, 29th May 2015] I finally got a chance to see my grades thanks to my phone, and through God’s grace, not only was I able to pass every subject but this has been my highest semestral average since my first semester in the University! Praise God for keeping me still for He is powerful and wondrous!

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33 (ESV)

1Philippine Standard Time