“Out of Context” is a series dedicated to verses of scripture, often used in today’s conversations, that have little to do with the context by which it was written.
Context | (1) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed; (2) the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
This has to be one of the top 10 verses that I hear Christians use today that has little CONTEXT for when and how they use it.
Sometimes it’s innocent, like an email signature or an encouraging verse for the day. However, most of the time it’s read (all by itself) by a high school student getting ready to go to college with the promise that God has great things in store for them. Or by the person getting ready to go on a mission trip and are excited about the “good plans” God has in store for them… and no bad plans. Or it’s in a social media post that goes along with someone’s brand new goal in life (new job, new city, new opportunity) in which they claim that God is leading them and has nothing but sunshine and success waiting for them.
God does have a plan for your life. Don’t get me wrong. He does LOVE that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone to go on that mission trip or move to a new city where He’s given you a job opportunity. However, there are more verses in scripture that better align with those circumstances than Jeremiah 29:11.
I would guess that more than 90% of people who have ever spoken this verse has absolutely NO IDEA the context in which this Word from God was given to His people. However, if you just read the 5 verses before it – it would be very clear.
If you were born during a time when you were physically beaten as a child…you’re my people!
I wasn’t raised in a culture of time-outs, taking electronics away, or writing essays on why I could make better choices.
When I screwed up…I was lovingly (most of the time) physically corrected in a manner that I wouldn’t soon forget.
The boomers didn’t always get everything right, but I appreciated the love my parents put into make sure that I WAS actually disciplined in a way that I was able to connect the dots between my bad choices (behavior/attitude) and the consequences of those choices – discipline.
Now, I don’t disagree that we are living in a different time. Taking a kid’s tablet/ipod/phone away has POWERFUL emotional ties to their behavior and produces a much better result than if you were to take my etch-a-scetch away (or my Rubix cube).
No matter how you choose to discipline, there are a few things that have to happen for it to be REAL discipline.
1. Clear Understanding.
When a child doesn’t know why they are being disciplined, there’s already a problem. They have to have a clear understanding of what behavior/attitude/choice they are being disciplined for and why. Even when I had to wait ALL DAY LONG for my dad to come home and reign the fire of discipline over me (just kidding, my Dad was awesome), I knew what I had done, and why I was going to be disciplined. Even when I entered my tweenager years and my biggest issue was my sarcastic smart mouth, my mother was extraordinarily quick to administer a sharp correction (usually a hand to the back of my head) so that I understood IN THAT MOMENT why I was in trouble. When kids don’t have a clear understanding, your discipline is not doing what you hope it’s doing.
As a child, memorizing scripture was a part of my upbringing. Even if you didn’t go to church or believe the stuff that church was saying, memorizing small verses was simply a part of the generation I was raised in.
One verse I memorized when in high school would become a verse I would never forget.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
The last part of it is very inspiring to me. I LOVE to see myself as someone of POWER (“You can DO IT”), LOVE – #lovewins, and Self-Discipline – “set your course and don’t stop until you get there”.
I could give a motivational talk on those 3 things and tour the country winning over crowd after crowd with a message of POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE. Everyone I know wants these things and wants them to be TRUE of their lives.
However, most of us don’t function with these three things active in our daily lives because we always seem to be fighting an underlying “spirit” of fear.
I have a friend who considers himself to be a “cynical optimist”. I’m not exactly sure if that really is a thing, or just another fancy contradiction we’ve come up with to describe our complex personalities (like girly man or stupid funny)? The truth is, my friend is getting older in age so I think he’s just becoming more of a krumugin over time. (it’s a real word… look it up)
Can you be a hopeful pessimist? Or how about a quiet loudmouth? Even better, a carefree perfectionist?!
I think the reason we’ve tried to identify these characteristics in our lives is because we know that we are never, always, just ONE thing. We do this to try to RELIEVE THE TENSION in us and in others. If we can find a category for it and label them properly – it’s easier for us to understand, manage, deal with, and make the people in our lives more approachable.
However, none of us want to be characterized by just one of these attributes. My wife calls me a Fatal Optimist. She’s convinced that I’ll see the positive in all things until it kills me. It’s true…but that isn’t possible (even for me) all the time. I can get negative easily. I can move to a place of being critical when circumstance are just right.
It’s ALL about the Signs
A year or so ago when we were forced to remove our signs from our church building and property (during the week), we began to set more yard signs out in the community. These can only be put out on the weekend now and the city has made it perfectly clear we cannot make people aware (through signs) about our building that sits on Brookway Dr.
Two weeks ago, all of signs we put out on the weekend were taken by the city of Cornelius. We were informed we could not put them out at ANY TIME in Cornelius. We thought the weekend was okay, but they said no yard signs, ever.