This past Sunday, Mars Hill pastors preached at the local churches on Jeremiah 29, a text that greatly encouraged me as we prepare for our grand opening in downtown Seattle this upcoming Sunday. Here’s why.
A different take on Jeremiah 29:11
This chapter includes one of the most recognizable verses in all of Scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (v. 11). This verse gets a lot of press in the Christian world. It’s used on framed pictures, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and even baby onesies.
Often when someone recites this verse, they are thinking that God will give them their own American Dream, with all the trimmings they have dreamed of since childhood. But when you inspect the context of the verse and what is actually being communicated, it radically changes the message: God does have an good plan for your life, but that doesn't necessarily mean it’s one of ease and comfort.
If we look right before verse 11, we find that God had “sent” his people “into exile” into the large, hostile, secular city of Babylon, which had varying views on morality and spirituality. Sound familiar? When we live in any big city we can sometimes feel like exiles, especially when we first move there. But God has a plan for you, for me, and for cities. God instructed his people to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (v. 7).
This word for “welfare” in verse 7 comes up again in verse 11. God’s plan for his people is that they would be a part of God’s redemptive purpose for the whole world. His plan wasn’t that they would end up having nice comfortable lives, but that God would allow them to be used to bring peace to a whole city, and in that, they would find their peace. The picture we have is not a tranquil view of mountains, forests, and streams; it is a picture of an urban landscape, a city that God loves and goes to great lengths to see people understand his goodness and grace.
Continuing the legacy
Friends, God has an amazing plan for your life and it involves radically pursuing him and those around you who don’t know him! This is why I am so fired up for this Sunday in downtown Seattle. God’s plan for us is urban redemption, and Mars Hill Downtown Seattle has the incredible and unique privilege to re-open one of Seattle’s most storied church buildings in the heart of Seattle. Our desire is that Seattle can know the goodness and grace of God. The church family that met in this building was started by the founders of Seattle, David and Arthur Denny, two men who loved Jesus and wanted Jesus to be lifted up in the new town of Seattle (you don’t hear that on the Underground Tour). This Sunday, we’ll have the privilege to have David Denny’s great-granddaughter with us to reflect on the historic nature of this occasion.