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My Favourite Bible Verse…

JONNY PRICE

Supporter Engagement Officer

“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

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I think, like many Christians, I’ve had a conflicted relationship with this passage. It’s a fridge magnet passage, which can be rolled out in a trite way whenever something bad happens. On the other hand, I have it tattooed on my right arm, so I clearly think it has some importance!

Like many bits of scripture, this passage has become more meaningful to me the longer I’ve spent with it. It’s a reassuring and popular passage because it tells us, at a surface level, that God has plans for us that are good. That truth feels like such a contrast to what we see in the world around us. However, by looking at the world around us, we land on one of the key objections to the passage: how can we say that God has good plans for us when the world is in the state it is? In my thinking, I’ve landed on two big ideas that change this passage for me.

The first is that the ‘you’ is plural. It’s a proclamation of goodness to God’s people, not a promise of prosperity to one person. The shift to the collective encourages us to move our perspective back a step and look at the scripture around this passage. This leads us to the second shift: we notice that God’s declaration of a good future is given to the Jews while they are in exile, being held as political prisoners in a distant land.

These two things, for me, make the truth at the heart of this passage more profound. God’s future plan for His children is good, and that goodness is beyond our imagination, but we can find it in His Kingdom. If our ancestors in faith can keep hold of that truth when held prisoner in a foreign land, then I can do the same when faced with troubles in my life and in the wider world.

For many people, the world feels like a dangerous, scary and painful place. Hope is in short supply, and it feels like this relentlessly (if you want to find some further reflections on this, then Faith Questions Session 4 would be worth a look). When we are thinking about sharing faith with others, maybe starting with our hope and reassurance, with peace and wholeness found in God, is a more powerful thing than we often think. It’s this reassurance that Jeremiah 29:11 points to. If we can learn to talk about it sensitively, it can be a great way to bring hope and love to those around us.

Rachael Rook-Williams

Supporter Engagement Officer

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

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‘I haven’t worked for Church Army for very long, but the main thing that attracted me to this charity is that while striving to serve those most in need in practical ways, Church Army does not shrink back from proclaiming the good news of Jesus.   Evangelism is at the heart of who we are.  And rightly so.  

We live in a time when need is all around us, and increasing daily as the financial crisis deepens.  Church Army serves, amongst others, those who are homeless, lonely or impoverished, and it would be easy to feel overwhelmed by these practical needs.

But Isaiah wrote this passage to a then future Israel which would be experiencing terrible hardship: exiled under the Babylonian empire, they were kingless, homeless and had lost everything.   Yet the feet of those who brought them news that their God had not forgotten them and would soon free them from their captivity, and give them peace, were beautiful. 

In my experience feet are not often beautiful things, but the Bible describes the feet of those who bring the good news of Jesus’ salvation as ‘fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace’.  Peace: a quality which in a world of turmoil, is indeed beautiful. Who doesn’t want the promise of peace, of goodness, of salvation, a reminder that God reigns and can reign in their life?  

Serving the poor in practical ways is a powerful demonstration of God’s love, but the greatest gift we can give is the news of Jesus’ salvation.  Let’s pray as we go into Autumn, that all our evangelists and partners, and indeed all of us, are bold in proclaiming the good news to those we meet.’

DAVID DUCKITT

Services Manager

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of god that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.’ Romans 1:16

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“Recently, we’ve been watching the latest series of Race Across the World, with teams racing across Canada with limited resources. It’s been heart-warming to witness the kindness of strangers who offered free food, shelter and transport. All the travellers needed to do to accept these generous offers was say “Yes”.

Who would say “No” in their shoes? Their joy was a delight to behold. Romans 1:16 is in some ways a summary of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The Good News he is proclaiming is that salvation (with the fullness of all that means) is available to everyone who says “Yes”.

While I am eternally grateful for God’s amazing offer of salvation, there are a couple of uncomfortable challenges in this verse, too. Firstly, do I act as though I’m ashamed of the gospel? In a culture that often says I should be ashamed; do I take every opportunity to tell others the Good News? Paul knew the risks of sharing the gospel. But he felt compelled to because of his desire for others to know Jesus. He says there is no reason to be ashamed of such universal Good News.

Secondly, do I limit those who might benefit from God’s grace? What about those who are not like me or who I just don’t like? Those who don’t behave like me? Those who hold different views to me? Paul was writing to the almost exclusively gentile Christians in Rome (Claudius had banned Jews from Rome until shortly before this letter was written). The “Apostle to the Gentiles” was at pains to point out that salvation was still on offer to the Jews, too. It’s available to everyone – we are all the same in Christ. We aspire to be generous and unconditional. Am I? Are you?”

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