Saturday, May 07, 2011

Speaking in Context

Jasper Speaks:

There seems to be much debate about the use of Jeremiah 29:11. There are many who say that the promises given there were limited to the Israelites. There are others who say that it is a universal truth. I fall on the universal truth side. Recently, a former student posted the verse on their Facebook page and was pretty much immediately scolded that she had taken the verse out of context. I say "hooey". That is a technical, theological word I learned in Seminary.:)

But seriously, I take exception to that argument. Here is why: Actually interpreting the verse in this more limited way is not great exegesis. You see the idea that the verse is meant only for the children of Israel is accepting a rather weak dispensational interpretation of the Old Testament. To assume that God's promises here are not given to the church of today as well is a bit short sighted as the verse also represents a theme that is constant in the Bible overall. The plans God has for us are good and lead to a hope and a future. Look at examples like Joseph and Job in the Old Testament and even Paul in the New Testament. To deny that there is an ultimate promise to those who love God found in this verse is not looking at the entire Bible in an exegetical, contextual way Dispensational theology although not all bad puts an undue emphasis on the role of Israel in eschatology. I believe this promise, in a proper whole Bible view, is for us today as much as it was for Israel at the time.

I think Warren Weirsbe does a good job of explaining the universal promise of Jeremiah 29 to us in his commentary entitled BE DECISIVE when he says:

" True hope is based on the revealed Word of God, not on the “dream messages” of self-appointed prophets (v. 10, NIV). God gave His people a “gracious promise” (v. 10, NIV) to deliver them, and He would keep His promise. God makes His plans for His people, and they are good plans that ultimately bring hope and peace. Therefore, there is no need to be afraid or discouraged."

Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive, An Old testament study. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), 123.  

I realize not everyone will agree with me on this point, however I completely believe that this verse is relevant to the people of God today. In my Hermeneutics class we were always challenged to see the meaning of Scripture for the people of the time and the meaning of the same passage for the people of today. I think that the meaning of this verse cannot be overlooked as God simply promising that He has a plan that it is good and it promises an ultimate prosperous outcome limited to the exiled Israelites. I think that at the time of course those promises were for them but those same promises can be trusted for the church today as well.

Thank you as I step off my soapbox. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Lessons From an Off Night of Speaking

Jasper Speaks:

So, last night I didn't feel like I was at my best delivering the message at Reality Check. There are times when you are speaking that you just feel like there is not that connection with the people with whom you are talking. That was it for me last night.

I had a hard day yesterday. I dealt with a couple of pretty intense (and strangely similar) issues that I could not get out of my head. My schedule kept me from being able to put the time I would have liked into the message God was giving me. I wasn't completely feeling well either. I was not feeling really bad but just "off" a bit. All of those factors seemed to develop into "the perfect storm" as I began the evening's message.

We talked about holiness and living life different from the world, particularly in the area of sexuality. That topic certainly should gain some interest of the students. Still, as I stood before them I felt a bit inadequate and like I wasn't really getting the truth across. I went home a little bummed. Then I remembered some things.

1. The Holy Spirit is the primary communicator, not me
I often seem to forget that the Holy Spirit is the one who is speaking to hearts when I preach. I tend to think that I have done well when the listeners seem to connect with what I am saying and seem involved in the message. I am just a vehicle. It is the Holy Spirit who is communicating God's Truth. I should never think that I can slack in preparation or use this fact as a cop out to doing well but it is reassuring that the Holy Spirit is the one who takes what I say and moves the hearts of people.

2. God promises that his word will always be alive and be active
God always has a plan each time that I speak. I don't know that plan. I may understand parts of the plan but not all of it. Some of the greatest moments in ministry for me have come as a student or adult comes up and shares something God showed them through His word that I hadn't really considered when preparing or speaking. I need to learn to rest in these words:

  “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
      and stay on the ground to water the earth.
   They cause the grain to grow,
      producing seed for the farmer
      and bread for the hungry.
  It is the same with my word.
      I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
   It will accomplish all I want it to,
      and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
- Isaiah 55:10-12 (New Living Translation)

3. Satan loves it when I am discouraged
This one is pretty huge. Satan wants me to feel like I am ineffective. He wants to convince me that I am not being used by God. The problem with this is that God is using me. I am making a difference in lives but as long as Satan can convince me that I am not doing much to change the world, he might convince me to give up. He loves to steal my joy. It is my choice whether or not to let him.

4. It's so not about me
In the end (and the beginning and everywhere in between) the reason I am speaking at all is about God. I sometimes lose sight of that and crave human feedback and encouragement. I am still learning that I have to take myself out of the equation. God is dealing with hearts one on one --- all the hearts in the room, including mine. I have to do my best to step aside and let God work and not concern myself so much with what people think.

I hope that the next time I have a disappointing night as a communicator, God will quickly remind me of these lessons. I pray that I will continue to pursue excellence and learn to trust God to change lives.