All Who Are Thirsty

All Who Are Thirsty   Isaiah 55:1-11

Audio:

Introduction

 Maybe everyone has an idea of what they want for Christmas, or what the perfect Christmas might be. Are you dreaming of a White Christmas? God has an idea of what he wants his people to experience. In the end, His idea will prevail and his Kingdom will look just like he wants it to. In the mean time, our own sin and weakness prevent us from experiencing all that God has in store for us. Isaiah was a prophet to Israel – and they had lost their entire image of what God wanted for them to enjoy. The loss of the Promised Land because of their own idolatry and failure was stunning to them. In the hands of their enemies they at times felt there was no hope … but God is not in the giving up business!

Isaiah 55 is God’s open invitation to the beaten up, discouraged, broken, hurting humanity … it’s His “Christmas list” that all would follow Him. God’s List is much different from ours. It’s not speculative nor doubtful, but certain, inviting. It’s not only for the shining special ones, but for those who’ve come through the mud and dirt of a long  messy journey through life. Through Isaiah God invites us to into his vision for His eternal kingdom. Today I hope we hear God calling us closer to Him, and that we will joyfully respond in faith!

1. WHO NEEDS TO HEAR GOD’S CALL? (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Those who are living in great need. (1)

Isaiah 55:1 All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
 Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
 Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!

Thirsty, poor, hungry people are called toward Him. “When you have nothing left but God, you become aware that God is enough.― Maude Royden. Whether physically or spiritually, the needy are wanted and welcomed.

It’s for the frustrated (2)

Isaiah 55:2 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
 and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
 Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
 enjoy the richest of feasts.

Unfilled, unsatisfied, unable to take another step. “Isaiah said that this offer is for everyone…God’s grace leaps over racial barriers, leaps across class distinctions, soars over social bars, and finds its way to every hungry, languishing dispirited souls. The Church of Jesus Christ is the only institution in the world some doors are open to every class, caste, race,  color and nation.” – Billy Graham

If anyone ever felt that life was too big a mess for God to accept them, take heart… God built his Kingdom for you and calls everyone to come.

2. HOW WE CAN ANSWER GOD’S CALL (Is 55:6-11)

Thirsty For God 

Isaiah 55:3,6 Listen and come to me;
 listen, and you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
 my faithful loyalty to David. … Seek the Lord when he can still be found;
    call him while he is yet near.

God is outreaching to Israel, even after their continual rejection that landed them in captivity. God is reaching out to us no less…no matter what rejections or failings we have experienced. His offer is based on an everlasting covenant he made with King David – a great example of someone who had everything a human could want but still blew it. What are you doing to seek God in your life?

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Thirsty For Mercy

Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked abandon their ways
    and the sinful their schemes.
Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them,
    to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.

Because of our sin: Mercy is for those who need it – a withholding of what we deserve because of our sin. 

Because of our thoughts: Isaiah instructs to leave behind old sinful ways and thoughts.

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Because of His grace: We should be eager to seek God because He is generous with forgiveness. 

Thirsty For His Wisdom

Isaiah 55:8, 9 My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways,
 and my plans than your plans.

The more we follow our hearts, the more we get into trouble. We need the insight of One who is greater than we! God sees a much bigger picture than we do.

Thirsty For His Word (10-11)

Isaiah 55:10,11  Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky
 and don’t return there without watering the earth,
 making it conceive and yield plants
  and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater, so is my word that comes from my mouth;
 it does not return to me empty.
  Instead, it does what I want,
 and accomplishes what I intend.

“His word, which once spoke the universe into existence…has lost none of its ancient power. Nothing can frustrate it, or divert it from its course.” –  Webb

“Take heed in how ye hear. In all tenderness and yet with great earnestness and great conviction. … How shall we hear? Prayerfully, obediently, and in faith. Let us pray that in our lives God will plow up the fallow ground, give us the receptive heart, the child heart, willingness to hear and learn…” – G. Campbell Morgan

Conclusion

All who are thirsty are invited to come to God seeking His Mercy, His ways, his words. We do this by seeking Jesus who calls us to to Kingdom in vivid ways.

He calls us from His amazing birth!

He calls us from his amazing teachings!

He calls us from the cross!

He calls us from the empty tomb!

With Jesus the hungry, thirsty, needy find fulfillment in every way that matters.

You might get everything on your wish list for Christmas, but in the end it’ll leave you empty and unsatisfied. No possession in this world offers can fulfill us and lead us to the Kingdom of God. Seek God, Listen to Him!

“When Christ went to Jericho, He touched the lives of two men: Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus. One was at the top of the social ladder, a tax gatherer; and the other at the bottom of the social ladder: a beggar. Christ saw both of them, not as rich and poor but as miserable, disillusioned, unhappy men. Freely He applied His grace to the needs of both, and sent them on their way rejoicing and satisfied. I submit to you that if Christ can meet the need of the highest, and the need of the lowest, then He can meet the needs of all of us in between.”  – Billy Graham

LifeGroup Questions

1. Christmas wish lists have probably changed a lot over the years. Can you remember the kinds of things you had on  your list as a child? What are some things are on Christmas wish lists of children of today that you would have never asked for?

2. Isaiah’s initial invitation in chapter 55 is for all who are thirsty to come and drink. In what ways was Jesus’ ministry open to all who were thirsty? What are some examples of people Jesus talked to that were unexpected of a Jewish Rabbi?

3.  What does it mean to you when God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways” (v. 8).

*Can you think of some ways that our thoughts about things are so different from God’s?

*Read Matthew 5:45-48 and as a group talk about how different God’s thoughts are than our typical thoughts as expressed in that passage.

-How can we be more like God by adopting His attitude toward people who have made themselves our enemies?

– Jesus asking us to be perfect – in what sense?

4. 2 Corinthians 10:5 addresses the difficulty of our thought life: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself  up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

*How do you think we can take our thoughts captive?

Charles Stanley suggests three ways we can govern our thoughts:

1. Screen them – ask yourself about your thoughts…if they are going to build you up or tear you down? Can I  share this with someone else? Does it make me feel guilty? Does it fit who I am as a follower of Jesus Christ?

2. Select them. Every time an opinion or teaching hits your screen, you can choose to either let it through or discard it.

3. Cultivate them. Dwell on ideas that align with God’s word and then start practicing them.

5. Isaiah says that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways. What is another way to say that? In what way does this verse impact your faith?

6. In verse 12 God affirms that his word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” What do you understand that passage to be teaching?

7. What are some promises that God makes to the wicked that respond to Him? (Isaiah 55:12-13) In what ways does Jesus fulfill those promises?

8. If God had a Christmas wish list, what do you think would be the first thing on it? Go around the room and share your thoughts on this.

No LifeGroups will meet next week. You might want to have a discussion about December 31st .. the next Sunday night is New Years Eve.

Resources

http://www.aplainaccount.org/single-post/2016/02/22/Isaiah-5519

Barry G. Webb, The Message of Isaiah, IVPress, 1996.

Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (pp. 396–400). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

G. Campbell Morgan, The Harvests of the Word of God, The Westminster Pulpit, Volume 9, No. XX.

Billy Graham’s sermon Are You Getting What You Want is from 1957 and is found in A Treasury of Great Preaching, Volume XII, p. 336.

New Life for Tired Bones

New Life For Tired Bones   Ezekiel 37:1-14

Audio:

Introduction

The legendary cheerful gift giver we refer to as Santa Claus has his origin in the life of St. Nicholas, often called Father Christmas. Nicholas was a Bishop in Myra, modern Turkey.  According to legend he was a wealthy man who was widely known for his generosity – a trait that inspired the story of Father Christmas as a bringer of gifts on Christmas Day. Nicholas died December 6, 343 AD. Most of his remains have been held in a Basilica  in Italy, since 1087,

Saint Nicholas

where they are buried beneath a marble altar, but over the years relic fragments have been acquired by churches around the world. A few days ago a newspaper in the UK reported that Oxford University analyzed a bone fragment that was owned by a priest in Illinois. There may never be any way to prove definitively whether or not the bone really was from St Nicholas, but it does date to the correct historical period.

Our text today is from a vision of the prophet Ezekiel and relates to some ancient bones. This vision is both poetic and prophetic. Ezekiel preaches to a people in captivity because of their own sin, and lets them see how God views it using the imagery of bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

There are three views of life presented in this poetic prophecy that we should reflect on today.

1. LACK OF LIFE a valley of dry bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-2)

This is not the valley God intended it to be. It is what it has become because of separation from God. The Psalms reflect this same kind of thought.

Psalm 38:3 There’s nothing in my body that isn’t broken because of your rage; there’s no health in my bones because of my sin.

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

In the absence of God there is no life.

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own, that we’re not able to direct our paths.

 “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” Rick Warren

The bones of Israel scattered throughout the valley remind us that when we wander away from God we wander away from everything that gives our life meaning, purpose, and eternity.

Can these bones live? Only God knows. (vs. 3)

2. LOOKS LIKE LIFE – they’re moving but not breathing! (37:4-8)

Some may be away from God and lack life, but there are some who may be closer to God but only have the appearance of life. The thing about sin is that it is deceptive.

Appears Benign. ”What would you expect? Sin will not come to you, saying, “I am sin.” It would do little harm if it did. Sin always seems “good, and pleasant, and desirable,” at the time of commission.”  J. C. Ryle

Appears Wise. “See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Appears Fun!  Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character. Sober up by acting like you should and don’t sin. 1 Corinthians  15:33-34a

Appears Religious. “Thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Savior”, who have not first received Him as their LORD.”  A. W. Pink

Ezekiel saw quite a sight … bones that lacked life came together and it looked like they had life, but it was just an appearance. Until God spoke.

3. LORD OF LIFE I will put my breath in you and you will live

New Life For Tired Bones…

New Life only comes from God (37:9-10). Israel didn’t regain life until God gave it. We only find life when we embrace the Lord of Life.

New Life Brings Hope to the Hopeless (37:11). God still recognized the bones and named them. When we have no hope, we still have hope in God.

New Life is possible through God’s powerful promises (37:12-13). Resurrection, eternal life, salvation.

New Life is found in the hearing of God’s word (37:14). Are we listening to Him?

Conclusion

John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

To embrace the new life in Jesus we need to leave behind the old bones of living away from God and living in the deception of sin. The Good news is that the free gift of eternal life awaits the sinner who wants to come home and the one who has yet to give their life to Christ. When we consider the gift of eternal life that God wants to give to all of us, we should never accept life without Him, or life that just looks good on the outside – to to embrace the gift of eternal life today – it keeps us from slavery and opens us to a continual supply of His Spirit … not just once a year but always.

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and celebration again; let the bones you crushed rejoice once more. 

LifeGroup Questions

1. There are many stories about St. Nicholas. One poor man had 3 daughters with no dowry to marry them off. They were destined to live in slavery but mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. What are your Christmas Eve traditions?

2. This story in Ezekiel 37 is a report of a prophetic vision that Ezekiel had. In the vision he preaches to a valley of dry bones. How do you think it felt for Ezekiel to preach to a valley of dry bones? How can we relate in terms of bringing the gospel to a world dead in sin?

3. Christmas is a hard time for many people. What are some ways we can bring new life into the ‘dry bones’ of the Christmas season when people feel discouraged?

4. Read John 15:1-5. Jesus makes it clear that as God’s people, we do not possess life in and of ourselves. What are some ways we can continually draw life from Jesus?

5. Today John said that sin is deceptive in appearance. 

*Appears Benign.

*Appears Wise. Col. 2:8

*Appears Fun!  1 Cor. 15:33-34a

*Appears Religious.

As a group, think of an examples of each one of those.  Why is it so easy to be deceived by sin?

6. As the lesson closed today, we read Psalm 51:8 which says, “Let me hear joy and celebration again; let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.” Go around the group and let each person share one thing that brings them joy and celebration because of their  relationship with God.

Next Week: Isaiah 55:1-13

Resources

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/father-christmas-bone-fragment-saint-nicholas-oxford-university-researchers-italy-christianity-a8094356.html

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=39

Faith Under Fire!

 

Faith Under Fire      Daniel 3

Audio:

Introduction

What would it take to renounce your faith? Peter by the fire renounced his knowledge of Jesus. Persecuted Christians in the world today are faced with life-or-death faith decisions every day. Our text is a story about three men of faith who stood up to a nation.

Nebuchadnezzar built an idol and demanded that everyone bow down to it. Three Hebrews would not bow down to the idol. Even under threat of death – to be thrown into a furnace and burned alive – they would not. The furnace was prepared…

Daniel 3:21-27 (CEB)  21 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. (22 Now the king’s command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire’s flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) 23 So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” They answered the king, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25 He replied, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire! 

We are not under threat of death for living out our faith, but our faith is under fire today in many different ways.

Faith Under Fire

Pressure from Friends (1 Cor 15:33 Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character.) The desire to be liked is a strong one. Our faith can take a beating from our desire to conform with our friends.

Pressure from Culture (all forms of media). We can never trust our culture as a basis of God’s truth – we will be misled every time. Romans 12:2a Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds .

Pressure from Temptation. 2 Timothy 4:10aDemas has fallen in love with the present world and has deserted me… I don’t know what Demas loved about the world, but it was enough to draw him away from Christ. We have to be cautious that we are not taken captive by the temptations we face.

Pressure from our Fears. We feel pressure because we face losing relationships. We feel pressure because we face our own weakness. We feel pressure because we face our Lord. Matthew 13:20-21– falls away when trials come. Instead of a faith under fire, have a faith on fire!

Faith On Fire

The three young men faced quite a challenge – a fiery furnace that was so hot it killed the men who tended it. What two things did they teach us about a faith on fire?

Faith on Fire Believes in a God who is Able. He may rescue  / He may not rescue. Our faith is in God, not in what He does for us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans.

Faith on Fire Believes in a God who is Present. He is not far away, but rather near.  Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego were not alone in the fire. God was with them. We sometimes think trials mean that God is not here, but maybe it means he is closer than ever! Because of their faithShadrach, Meschach, Abednego were men of courage, conviction, and confidence in a sovereign supreme God.

How Do We Cultivate a Fired Up Faith?

A Heritage of Faith that Begins at Childhood. These three young men were brought from Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar gave them new Babylonian names. Their parents were people of faith. Original Names:

*Hananiah (The LORD has Been Gracious).

*Michael – Who is What God Is?

*Azariah – the Lord has helped

Their parents had named each of these young men in demonstration of their dedication to the Living God. Parents, what are we doing to instill in our children a heritage of faith? Bringing them to church/Sunday school/youth group are all great. But it all falls second to a life of faith at home. Not everyone was blessed with a Christian home… and not every child stays with Christ. But this is our best effort for the future of faith for our children.

A Habit of Sticking to Convictions.

Daniel 1:8-10 Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so.Now God had established faithful loyalty between Daniel and the chief official;10 but the chief official said to Daniel, “I’m afraid of my master, the king, who has mandated what you are to eat and drink. What will happen if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men in your group? The king will have my head because of you!”

These three Hebrews and their friend Daniel would not eat the royal food and wine presented to them. It was offered to idols and they didn’t want it. What conviction to tell their captors that they would only eat certain food! Not afraid of the consequences. Do we stick to our convictions or are we washed about like waves of the sea?

Ephesians 4:14-15 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ…

We can never have a fired up faith without convictions

A Hope Beyond our Circumstances.

Daniel 3:17-18 If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us. 18 But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”

They had no reason to believe that they would walk out of the furnace but that didn’t change their decision.

2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil action and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and always.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Conclusion

The fired up faith of these three Hebrews led to the change of heart of King Nebuchadnezzar. He then recognized the power of the true God of Israel.

Daniel 3:28-30 Nebuchadnezzar declared: “May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God. 29 I now issue a decree to every people, nation, and language: whoever speaks disrespectfully about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s God will be torn limb from limb and their house made a trash heap, because there is no other god who can rescue like this.” 30 Then the king made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prosperous in the province of Babylon.

If we fail to have a fired up faith, how will the world know the wonders and awesome power of our amazing God!

LifeGroup Questions

1. What is your favorite fire-related activity? Grilling Out, Bonfires, Fireplace, Burning leaves, Lighting Candles or something else?

2. Read Psalm 135:1-7; 15-18. There is quite a contrast between the living God and the dead idols. Idolatry is a sin we do not often confess. Maybe we have trouble identifying it. What is the difference in having something you’re very interested  in… and treating it as an idol? How would you know if something in your life was being treated as an idol?

3. In the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch did a study that demonstrated that people often conform. He invited 8 men to take this test with a series of cards. 7 of them had secretly agreed to give a wrong answer. The 8th man was unaware of  the conspiracy. 75% of the men conformed to the group when it was wrong. 

*Why do you think we are always in danger of conforming to others around us?

*Can you remember a time (maybe a religious discussion) when you were the only one who held your opinion? How did that feel?

*What can give us the strength to be different from the crowd around us?

Resource

4. What does fire often symbolize in Scripture? Can you give some examples?

5. Nebuchadnezzar (and others) saw four beings in the fire, not just the three Hebrews. How do you picture that in your mind? What did Nebuchadnezzar see? Some suggest it was an angel; others that it was Jesus Christ. What part did that play in the King’s change of heart?

 Here is a link to art from some Christians in 300 a.d.

6. The great preacher of another generation, Charles Spurgeon, said of this passage: “Duties are ours, events are the Lord’s.” What does this statement mean to you? Do you agree with it?

7. Why is God’s presence more precious than his deliverance?

8. As you consider the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, what is the one thought you have that stands out  the most?

Hope When It Is Least Expected

 

HOPE When You Least Expect It         Jeremiah 29:1-14

Audio:

Introduction

“Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ … rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.” -R C Sproul

Hope latches on to the certain promises of God. Some of the hardest things we experience life threaten that connection. Hope anchors the soul … it connects us to the love and strength of God… but sometimes it seems out of reach. In the book of Jeremiah, the ‘Weeping Prophet’ has two messages. He delivered God’s word for 40 years. In the first part of the book he tells them of the suffering that will come because they continually rejected God. As a consequence God sent them into Exile, captivity by the Babylonians. In the second part of the book Jeremiah reminds that God has not forgotten them and there is hope ahead. But the truth is that when life is tough, we always have hope. But there are things about hope we need to remember:

Hope Can Be Hard to Find (Jeremiah 29:1)

Jeremiah 29:1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

What was it like in Babylonian captivity? They were away from their homeland. Held as political prisoners, robbed of their freedoms. All of their past accomplishments were meaningless, and all of their possessions were gone. The heritage of faith as God’s victorious people under the leadership of Moses, Joshua, David, a dream of the very distant past. They didn’t have any hope that it was going to end.

Psalm 137:1-5 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for  songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we  sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

Have you ever given up hope? Is there some area of your life where you have lost hope of things getting better… Hopes that were lost when a loved one passed? Hopes lost when financial or career struggles are out of your control? Hopes that disappeared over time as we grow older. Jeremiah’s message was if we have any hope, it is…

Find Hope in our God who is at Work (Jeremiah 29:4)

Jeremiah 29:4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…

Jeremiah’s appeal was not to himself but to the “Lord Almighty”, the “God of Israel”. The problem for God’s people is that it seemed to them that God wasn’t at work at all. Nearly everyone has gone through a time when they felt that God was silent or absent.

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart ?

But our hope remains because God is at work even when we may feel He is distant. Hope can be hard to find; Find Hope in God who is at work…

Find Hope in God’s Mission (Jeremiah 29:5-10)

Jeremiah 29:5-10 Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 

Jeremiah’s message might be surprising – He encourages them to live their lives in such a way that the important things remain important: work, family, and caring for others. Especially verse 7 – a great reminder of our mission of living for God.  We are called to look beyond ourselves. We are here in this place and time to seek the welfare of others in our parish. Are we making it a better place? Are we praying for our parish? Doesn’t this prayer extend to our nation and world? Never let anyone sidetrack or dissuade you from the   mission (Jeremiah 29:8-10).

Find Hope in God’s Plans for His People (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Jeremiah 29:11-14 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

*He Controls the Future (11) 

* A God Who Listens (12)

* A God Who is Near (13)

* A God who Gathers His Children (14)

The Bible says we are all exiles; we are resident aliens; we are missionaries in a strange and foreign culture.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27, CEB)

At 17 years old she had recently graduated from high school and was preparing to go off to college. Her sister invited her to go for a swim at a beach on Chesapeake Bay. She wrote, “I remember standing on that raft, not knowing —never guessing—that in the next second my life would forever change.” Joni Eareckson dove into the water but it was too shallow and as a result her neck was broken. This diving accident left Joni  a quadriplegic in  wheelchair, without the use of her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. During her rehabilitation, Joni learned how to paint with a brush between her teeth. Her paintings sought-after and collected. She has authored over 50 books and has won many awards and honors. 

Joni Eareckson Tada wrote “The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.”

Find hope when you least expect it … when it’s hard to find, when God is at work, God’s Mission, and God’s Plans. Hope isn’t found within ourselves, it comes from God.

LifeGroup Questions

1. This past week we created Thanksgiving memories. What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory from the past?

2. Jeremiah writes to exiles … those in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. In what ways can we relate to those exiles? Aside from ourselves, can we think of others who might relate well to those exiles?

3. Apostle Peter addresses Christians who were scattered due to persecution. What do we see in this passage that can help us understand our calling in the world today? Do we think of ourselves as “immigrants and strangers”? If we feel uncomfortable with the term “immigrant”, why do you think that is?

1 Peter 2:11-12 (CEB) “Dear friends, since you are immigrants and strangers in the world, I urge that you avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives. 12 Live honorably among the unbelievers. Today, they defame you, as if you were doing evil. But in the day when God visits to judge they will glorify him, because they have observed your honorable deeds.

4. When we feel that God may not be at work in our lives or that he seems to have been absent, what can we do about those feelings?

5. Jeremiah 29:7 (CEB) says “Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.” Let’s brainstorm some ways to put this principle to practice. 

6. A favorite verse of many, Jeremiah 29:11, is often used at graduation time. This passage is directed at a nation of people in captivity, not at individuals in particular. Does that perspective change the meaning of the text for you? Why or why not?

Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB) “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”

7. Jesus gives a word of comfort and assurance in John 14:27. When you are needing to be assured of the hope you have in God, what words of Jesus mean the most to you?

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27, CEB)

For Further Contemplation

 

Next Sunday: Daniel 3

References

http://www.joniandfriends.org/radio/4-minute/anniversary-diving-accident/