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I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8, AMP)

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Plans Built on Love
Published on 10-22-2013 , 10:08 AM

"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, NIV)

Those are familiar words of a familiar Bible verse. It gives us encouragement that God is with us no matter what we are dealing with, that what we are facing is part of a larger plan that God has for us and for the world at large. In fact, these words were written to people facing a major trial of their own. This passage is part of a letter that the prophet Jeremiah, located in Jerusalem, wrote to the thousands of people that King Nebuchadnezzer had taken captive into Babylon. Jeremaiah penned that letter not only to encourage those captives, but to counteract the lies that false prophets were spreading.

In his letter, Jeremiah relayed bad news, followed by good news. The bad news was they would be in their Babylonian captivity for seventy years. After all, they were in Babylon in the first place because the majority of the people in Judah failed to love and follow God as He told Moses to instruct succeeding generations. They were to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). But the people in the Kingdom of Judah were not doing that. They worshiped other gods as much or more than they worshiped God. The law of Moses also told the people to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18, NIV). Instead, the people were imprisoning and oppressing the poorest and weakest of their own people. Because of this poor treatment of their neighbors and because of their failure to love God exclusively and whole-heartedly, those former residents of Judah had lessons to learn in the land of Babylon. Their self-sufficiency had been replaced with dependency and loss. The captives got a taste of the oppression that they had dished out to their fellow citizens.

In the midst of their pain, fear, and ignorance, God assured those long-ago spoils of war that He has a plan. If the people would not listen to Him through His prophets about that plan, then perhaps they will listen when they have nothing else to rely on but God. What He had been trying to tell them for generations was that it was all about love. Instead of partial interest, grudging respect, or superstitious appeasement, God wanted His people to love Him. Because loving and trusting God sets all our priorities straight. This is borne out in the sentences following that more famous passage. "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:12-13, NIV)

I am reminded of the definitive passage on love that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV) This list tells us how God wants us to love and treat others in our lives. But it has equal application for how we should love God, who loves us and tells us to love Him.

Love is patient. We know that God is patient with us, but are we patient with Him? Do we insist that things happen as we want them to happen in the time constraints that we insist upon? Or do we express our love for Him by trusting patiently for His plan to unfold?

Love is kind. God is kind to us because He can be nothing less, given the goodness and love that is a key part of Him. But are we kind to God? Do we ask Him or do we tell Him? Do we treat Him more like a servant, or are we true petitioners? Do we take time out of our lives to be with Him as He asks, or do we more often than not forget His very presence?

Love does not envy. Do we envy God the control He has over our lives, craving that for ourselves or even pretending that we already have it?

Love is not proud. Are we prouder of ourselves or of God? What does it mean to be proud of God? We can be satisfied with and excited about His creation. We can recognize His hand in our lives and thank Him. We can recall that we are created in God's image and respect ourselves for that, if nothing else. We can remember that everyone around us is created in God's image; concentrating on that aspect of others, rather than their flaws (which we all have).

Love is not self-seeking. Are we looking to get ours, get ahead, and what is coming to us? Are we constantly focused on what we want or what we deserve or what we plan? Or are we seeking God, instead.

Love always protects. Do you feel more protective of your own reputation than of God's Holy Name?

Love always trusts. Do you trust God more than anyone else, even yourself?

Love always hopes. Is your hope in other people, or a system, or stuff, or money, or yourself, or in God?

Love never fails. The bad news is that we will repeatedly fail God. The good news is that He repeatedly forgives us. The even better news is that God's love for us never fails us, no matter what we go through. Because, you see, God has a plan.