Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The first half of that verse

" 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.' "

For years, I have heard Jeremiah 29:11 repeatedly. I've got it memorized from hearing it, hearing about it, hearing sermons preached about it, and seeing it on plaques in people's bathrooms. And every time I hear someone start to refer to that verse, what I always think about is what the teachers always teach about: the 2nd half, about how God has plans to give us hope, and a future.

Yes, that's very important, but to focus on half a verse is to gain only half of the riches contained in it. The first part is just as worthy of noting: "For I know the plans that I have for you."

The Hebrew word for "plans" (it's H4284 if you are interested in looking it up in Strong's) can mean a lot of things. It can mean intentions, plans, imagination, purpose, or thought. In fact, many translations use the word "thought" for that verse. In the verse below, the word "thoughts" is the same Hebrew word:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" --Isaiah 55:8,9

The reason God says what He says in the first part of the Jeremiah verse is to highlight a sin that many of us fall into all too often: we decide what God must think of us. He says that HE knows his thoughts toward us. We may think we know His thoughts, and if we try to guess without asking Him, we are likely to fall into a false belief of some kind. A wrong guess makes us susceptible to all sorts of problems.

James Ryle says it like this:
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Have you ever prayed something like this: "Lord, I know what you must be thinking about me right now," and then began to tell Him what you were actually thinking about yourself? We all do this. We condemn ourselves for the mistakes we have made and resolve within ourselves that it must be what the Lord thinks of us.

We must come to know the Lord as He is, and not as we assume Him to be. We must let Him put HIS words in our mouths.
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Let's read that Isaiah verse one more time:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" --Isaiah 55:8,9

So what are His thoughts towards us?

"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand." Psalm 139:17-18a

"He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Zephaniah 3:17

Follow-through: Next time you are alone with Him, ask Him to tell you what He is thinking about you. Then listen. If a thought comes into your head that you know is not from Him, read the verses above, or ones like them, audibly. Then listen some more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Read and Share Toddler Bible

As a parent of 3 young kids, I am all-too-aware of the glut of toddler bibles available, and the sameness that plagues the majority of them. Happily, the Read and Share Toddler Bible, published by Thomas Nelson, stands out from the crowd.

At first glance, it would seem that this bible contains the usual toddler bible characteristics: (1) short (4-6 page) accounts of the most common bible stories, such as Adam and Eve, Noah, and Joseph's coat of many colors; (2) colorful pictures which portray the "good guys" and "bad guys" accordingly (i.e. Jesus looks friendly, Goliath does not); (3) age-appropriate wording for the stories being told (we are told that Joseph is in jail due to a lie told by Potopher's wife, for example, but the book doesn't go into detail about what that lie is).

But a closer look reveals features which go beyond the norm for this type of book. For one thing, there is a DVD included, and it contains most of the stories that are in the book; some of them are a little more fleshed out in the DVD. The video version of the stories are told in a very simple way: this animation won't be confused with anything put out by Pixar. But it kept my 5-year-old's attention, and ultimately, that's what matters.

Another nice feature of the book is the suggestion included at the end of each chapter. Some are simply designed to help the parent ask the child some leading questions after reading the story, for the purpose of initiating a conversation so that the Scriptural truths contained in the story can be elaborated on. But many of the suggestions go beyond questions. Simple crafts and activities to reinforce the story are offered.

As for the stories themselves, most are worded at a higher level than 2-3 year-olds are likely to embrace. I found the "toddler" in the book title a bit confusing. The words used to tell the stories are probably best suited for an audience which is a little older than the common definition of "toddler".

At $14.99 (SRP), this bible is a great bargain, as it contains the normal toddler bible features in addition to the DVD and crafts/activities.

Movies that matter

The following 9 movies comprise my all-time Top Five. Yes, the math doesn't work, but these movies are absolutely essential to me:

The Fisher King
Man on Fire
Cinderella Man
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Schindler's List
The Princess Bride
Gladiator
Saving Private Ryan
The Kid


Other movies I find very moving. These aren't quite as essential, but I was profoundly affected by them:
The Pursuit of Happyness
Big Fish
Mr Holland's Opus
The Passion of the Christ
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Secondhand Lions
Casablanca
The Cowboys



This has nothing to do with what I think are the greatest movies ever made. But they are the ones which grab me and bore down into me and do their work at the soul level. I still recognize the grandness of, say, The Godfather, and am entertained by a good comedy. But the movies listed above are the ones that matter the most to me.