It’s one I’ve read hundreds of times.
It’s familiar enough for me to quote. It’s full of promise and encourages me so. We thought it to be the perfect verse for my son for his high school graduation, and printed it on his party invitation.
I’m guessing it’s familiar to you, too.
“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
But have you read it in The Voice translation??
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that.” Jeremiah 29:11
This verse, in this translation, was the center of my pastor’s sermon this morning.
But before I go any further, I’ll be honest with you here…
This was only the third time in eighteen months we as a family attended a Sunday church service. Yes, you read that correctly.
The third time in eighteen months.
(Feel free to gasp, shake your head in disbelief, or raise an eyebrow.)
But before you do, please allow me to give you the short story: We have raised our children in the Christian faith, in worship services on Sundays. Attending these services was as much a part of our lives as brushing our teeth. However, our thirteen years there came to an end when my family and I experienced what many call “religious abuse” by others of the same faith. This caused much damage. Damage to the point where I questioned if we would ever find a place of worship we could trust again. Many well-intending friends and family members suggested we visit theirs, but it was if God continued to whisper to us, “not yet.”
So, we did what we knew to do. We continued seeking God on our own, reading His Word and attending Bible study, and growing our relationships with Him individually and as a family. Jesus was in our daily conversations, and we felt His unmistakable presence. I trusted if God wanted us to find a church, He’d show us when and where.
Today we walked into a church we had never stepped foot in before. We saw familiar, friendly and welcoming faces from our long-ago past. Long before I knew religious abuse was a real thing. It didn’t feel like eighteen months had slipped by us. It felt like we didn’t skip a beat. Even though the surroundings were unfamiliar, the music, the community, our family together, and God’s presence there blessed my healing heart. Listening to our pastor–who just moved back from nearly four years in Florida, and who was stepping in for the absent pastor–deliver a message straight from God’s Word, I knew we were right where we belonged.
At least for this morning.
I’ll continue this post tomorrow, as it’s too long to finish here.
But let me leave you with this.
God has peace-filled plans for a hope-filled future.
For you, and for me.
Friend, rest in this today, and I invite you to come back tomorrow for “the rest of the story.”
You bless me by joining me on this journey called life.
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Well, I’m not gasping, raising my eyebrow (one was recently burned off…don’t ask), or shaking my head.
Church can be the greatest enemy of Christ around. Been there, done that. The last time I took church seriously was when a pastor decided to use the example of Saul’s not killing ALL of the Amaleytes when Samuel told him to as an example of disobedience to God.
I rather doubt that many of the people in the congregation had ever been in a place where everyone had been killed, and when they started nodding enthusiastically, I walked out, and never went back. Because I have been there.
In context, it’s an understandable story, because Bronze Age wars were typically wars of extermination, but the pastor didn’t bother to explain the context, and I am quite certain that very few people there understood that.
It’s the sort of thing that makes Christians look like psychotic idiots. “Kill everyone if God says to”, based on that Scripture, is the message they were given. Someone tried to explain it to me…that the Amalekytes were “like a cancer that had to be eradicated completely”. Infants, too? You just don’t DO that, in the modern world. Life is lived according to a different paradigm – a Christian one.
Again, in the Bronze Age, that’s simply what people DID. But uniformed teaching completely subverts the meaning of both the Old and New Testaments, and is rank disloyalty to God.
I haven’t gone back because, initially, I didn’t need that kind of aggro…and now I am nowhere near well enough to go.
I figure God understands.
You understand, Andrew. And I believe God does too. Thanks for not raising your eyebrow to me. (I can’t imagine having one burned off!) I’m thankful we can be real with each other and with God. Praying for all of us today who’ve experienced this kind of pain in the past. Thanks for sharing.
Julie, my heart goes out to you and your family. The hurt that comes from fellow believers cuts deep and leaves slow-healing wounds. But you have allowed God to pour into your open wounds and reach places in your heart to start the healing from within. Your words are a testament to His never-ending love and grace in our lives. When we seek Him with all our hearts, He is faithful to His promise to come to us and guide us where He wants us to go. Rejoicing today that He took you to a place with a warm and friendly face…a place where you could find peace. I look forward to hearing the rest of the story. Blessings to you!
Sabra, thank you. God is faithful, and He has been through this too. I trust in the days ahead He’ll continue to heal each one of us in His timing and place us where He wants us. I appreciate your understanding and your encouragement. You’re a true friend. Can’t wait to meet you in person some day!
Good morning, Julie. I will not be gasping today because I know EXACTLY where you are coming from. Sometimes we need time to heal – time away to refresh, time alone with God. So thankful that the Holy Spirit gives us that gentle nudge, letting us know the next step to take. Thank you for sharing, friend.
Kristine, I’m thankful for that nudge as well. One nudge at a time. God is faithful. That truth has never been more real to me than today. Bless you, friend. I appreciate you!