I am not long back from a weekend’s Bible teaching in Gardenstown where people from the local Church of Scotland were gathered in annual conference mode and to give thanks to God for their newly refurbished church premises.
As part of this tasteful refurbishment, two new banners were mounted on the wall with Jeremiah 29:11 displayed prominently. The verse said, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future’, words that directed the weekend’s teaching on ‘Promises of renewal’ from Jeremiah 29 – 31.
What an encouragement to hear the session clerk outline the process that had made the words of this verse so real and relevant. At a time when the congregation was unsure about the way ahead, the buildings were seriously damaged by burst pipes during a recent severe winter.
What hit them that winter as an apparent tragedy, soon, under God, became a ‘door of hope’ and an avenue for realising as a congregation that the Lord still had work for them to do. He had plans for them — plans that gave hope for their future.
Over the weekend it seemed to me that what has happened in that congregation could be a parable of God’s purposes for the rest of the church in our nation in these days.
I came away from the weekend more convinced than ever that God still has plans for his church throughout Scotland, and even though, as in Jeremiah’s day, there may still be difficult days ahead, yet the church has a future, the church has hope.
The future is bright because God has his plans which none can thwart. The apparent tragedies that hit us can be turned by the hand of God to our greatest benefit.
The ultimate example is, of course, what happened on the cross. At first, it seemed to be the high point of Satan’s triumph. But the words of Christ on the cross — ‘It is finished!’ — were not words of failure and defeat, but rather of the greatest triumph this world has ever known; words that remind us that God’s love has conquered all.
Principal, Highland Theological College