Monthly Archives: August 2019

New and Improved…

We’ve all seen it or heard it–NEW AND IMPROVED. Could be on any product, really…breakfast cereal, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, salsa, cars’ designs, computers and thousands of other products. Seems like we have been targeted by marketing gurus who seem to see us as people obsessed with an insatiable desire for the new and improved.

I’ve always been curious about what ‘new and improved’ actually means. So I decided to ask a friend of mine who worked as an R and D consultant for a national corporation. I asked him to explain to me the regulations regarding the presentation of a product as new and improved.

He said that the ‘new and improved’ label could be used if a company did little more than simply change the box the product was packaged in. I thought for a moment and asked, ‘So new and improved doesn’t mean more and better’. ‘Nope’, he replied. ‘It actually may be less and worse. All the company is required to do is change the package and they are allowed to say the product is new and improved’.

Though these tactics are misleading at best and outright deceptive at worst, there is an area of interest where ‘new’ means something real! I ran across it a few weeks ago while restudying Jeremiah 29:11. This verse is written on a plaque that hangs in my bathroom. Shirley got it for me. She bought it in order to encourage me as we step further into succession.

On this particular day, I decided to look at this verse as recorded in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. There I discovered an interesting insight. Where the English word ‘plan’ or ‘plans’ is used, the translators of the Septuagint used a Greek word from which we get our English word ‘logic’. So, as we see God ‘planning’ on our behalf in order to give us hope, we understand that He is using ‘logic’.

If we use the normal understanding of that word to determine its meaning, it could mean that God is in Heaven sort of sitting on His throne, watching the actions of men, stroking His beard with one hand while His arm is resting on His knee and wondering what He is going to do. It seems, from that perspective, that He is considering His options and attempting to figure out what new thing to do next. He’s using logic.

But, if we believe this way, we will have fallen prey to the false doctrine of ‘open theism’–an error that teaches that God is not omniscient–all knowing. It teaches that He is like us, wondering what will happen next. He then figures out a way to respond lest humanity runs completely off the rails. THIS IS NOT WHAT ‘logic’ means in our text.


God has always known what was going to happen. He always knows and understands what is happening. And, He knows what will happen. He has it all covered from the very beginning. As He says through Isaiah, ‘I am the Lord God. There is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning!’ Whenever God works the ‘plan’ that He has for us, it is a plan that is simply the next facet of His work. To us it is new. But to Him it is just the next part of His unfolding work in our lives. Everything God does is saturated in omniscience, sustained by omnipotence and secured by omnipresence. WOW!

This is part of the reason that the Christian life is so exciting. Each day is simply an unfolding of the ‘new life that we have in Christ’. For us His plans are plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give us a hope and a future. What a blessed life it is, indeed.

Dead or Alive

Now that we are well into the season of ‘planting and transplanting’, discerning the health of our plants is a vital activity.

I have spent quite a few hours monitoring the health of our garden plants. Battling the insect pests and unwelcome creatures is constant. But, I also frequently check on the condition of two transplanted bushes.

Though I could have chosen better timing than the hottest week of the summer, the time seemed right to move two shrubs from the east side to the west side of our house. Both appeared to be quite healthy when we began the process since both ‘loved’ the heat and sunlight. Confident of success and careful to do all I could to protect the root system of both plants, I watered and watched.

Sadly, each day brought new revelations of a possible miscalculation on my part. Within a few days, both plants, once filled with bright green foliage, showed signs of stress. Actually, they looked like the plants we had pulled up and thrown onto the mulch pile. This was definitely not the goal toward which I was working.

After a few days of anxious watering and weeding, I noticed the first signs of success. On a few of the plants’ stems that, by now, looked a little bit like wiener roasting sticks, a few tiny sprigs of green life began to appear. First one leaf emerged…then another…then another. Now it is apparent that the transplanting work will succeed. WAIT–we still have a Wisconsin winter to endure! Oh, well, we’ll just take one step of victory at a time.

Recently, while reading and meditating on Revelation 3, I noted a similar, though not exact, process conducted by Jesus, The Master Caretaker. He was assessing the health of two churches: Sardis and Philadelphia. During His examination, Jesus concluded that Sardis, though appearing to be quite alive, was actually dead. And He noted that Philadelphia, though quite weak, was actually very much alive.

This made me think: Is our church dead or alive. It’s a critical question to answer.

In Sardis, the cultural conclusion had been drawn–here is a church alive! This church is relevant, affirming, active, responsive and popular. And yet Jesus concluded that it was dead because it was spiritually asleep, decaying and incomplete. How could a church that seemed to be so ‘alive’ be so ‘dead’?

On the other hand, Philadelphia appeared to be so insignificant. As a matter of fact, Jesus said that the church had ‘little strength’. And yet, the church was actually very much alive, because it ‘kept Jesus word’ and ‘refused to deny His name’. To this church, Christ was much more important than anything. This church did not curry favor with culture. It cultivated faith in Christ Jesus.

We all want to make a positive impact on culture. But, it might be true that exalting Christ may just exasperate culture. It could happen that as we revel in Christ culture may just revile us.

So let’s be cautious. Find out what pleases the Lord, walk in His ways and let Him decide if we are alive or dead regardless of what culture concludes.