Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do Not Be Deceived (Jeremiah 29.4-9)

June 27, 2010
Sermon by: Robert Austell
(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Sometimes the spoken version varies more, sometimes less, from the written (early) draft. Typically, I'll encourage listening to the audio over the written version.  In this case, the two are just different - same point, but different.  I'd commend the written version below as well as the audio, as the manuscript goes into more detail and includes some content omitted in the spoken sermon.

Last week we looked at the beginning of a letter from Jeremiah to the Jewish people exiled in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. We considered all that those displaced people had lost – homes, family, health, jobs, status, and seemingly even the nearness of God – and we talked about their greatest need being shalom. Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace, wholeness, healing, well-being, being complete, and being blessed. And we read God’s Word to them, a challenge to look not behind them at what they had lost, but to make a home where they were, grounded in the old values and imperatives God had given their ancestors. Build homes, have families, and teach the Scriptures.

And God challenged them to seek the shalom of the city – of their captors. God challenged them to pray for the people who had defeated them, carried them away, and who were the power against them. And God said, as Jesus would later echo, that as they loved these new and strange neighbors as themselves, His people would find the blessing and peace they sought.

That was a hefty challenge to apply in our own lives. It is so easy to live with an eye cast in the rear-view mirror, when things were better (or so we remember). It is so easy to live life with our eyes focused way off into the future, when things will be better (or so we hope). But Jeremiah’s message challenges us to live life fully where we are, with eyes and ears focused on God and our hands and hearts focused on the neighbors all around us. God’s promise and challenge to His people from ancient times through the New Testament to today is that He has blessed us to be a blessing. As we love God whole-heartedly, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jeremiah was as much on-topic with this ancient directive as Jesus was when he would preach it 600 years later.

So last week we dug in a bit to what it might look like for us, as a church and as individuals, to seek the shalom of our city and our neighborhoods, to be the people God wants us to be here and now. I noted that only a few verses later in the letter, in verse 11, God does mention a future – a good one, rooted in His shalom. But the path from here to there is living obediently in the here and now, attentive to where God leads.

Between the challenge in verses 4-7 to live obediently in the here and now and the future mentioned in verses 10 and following, there are two verses of warning and caution that I want to focus on today. God’s call is neither easy nor safe, but if we are obedient in listening and seeking God, there is no better place we could be.


Do Not Be Deceived

Here’s what the Lord warns through Jeremiah: “Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.” Interestingly, I was going to focus on the ways that the Babylonian culture might have deceived the Jewish Exiles, but it sounds more like the false teaching was coming from within the ranks of the Exiles! I’m sure there was plenty enough to be careful of in the Babylonian culture, but Jeremiah seems to be singling out those who would speak with spiritual authority. What dreams might they dream? Perhaps it was of what lay behind or ahead – precisely where God had said not to focus.

The Lord goes on to add one more sentence describing these deceivers: “They will prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them.” So, this is perhaps the most tricky deception with which a person of faith struggles. There were blatant traps within the Babylonian culture, to be sure. But far more gray and hazy were people who claimed to speak for God, but who were seeking to lead people away from the Lord’s path.

Indeed, if you had been one of these Jewish Exiles, how would you know whether to listen to the prophet among you or to Jeremiah’s letter?

We aren’t given that information in the text – we just know as readers that Jeremiah is the Lord’s man. All I know to say is what I would say today: if someone purports to speak for God, consider their message and measure it against the Word of the Lord. And pray for discernment. I do know, based on what we heard last week, Jeremiah’s letter resonates with the deepest truths of the Hebrew Scriptures. Had I received it as one of the Jewish Exiles, I may have found the command to make a home in a foreign land challenging emotionally, but I would have heard loud and clear the many connections to God’s commands to Adam, His covenant with Abraham, the Shema of Israel, and the deep concept of shalom. Jeremiah’s message is tough to chew on, but it resonates with the truth of God’s Word. So much easier, of course, for a holy man to tell you of a dream he dreamed that promises health and wealth and what you want… but that’s just tickling your years.

Let’s consider this caution about false teaching and a deceiving influence in more specific terms.


The Appealing, the Alluring, and the Challenging


Retreat is So Appealing

The options the Jewish Exiles faced were not so different from those we face today. When faced with a new challenge, particularly one that involves discomfort, loss, and change (not to mention spiritual darkness!), retreat seems so appealing.

For modern Christians this has been one of the most tempting and seemingly Biblical ways of dealing with the sins of the world. We speak out against sin and evil, but our net strategy is to withdraw into enclaves of what we believe to be holiness, drawing more and more narrow boundaries of who is in and who is out.

This can sound so spiritual and right because it reflects an aspect of holiness, which is commanded and commended in Scripture. We are to be holy because God is holy. And holy means “set apart.” In the Old Testament, there were examples of this holiness-by-withdrawal: God’s presence within the Tabernacle; the Jewish people not marrying outside their race or religion; the food and other laws that so emphasized keeping things separate. However, even with that approach to holiness, God was clear to describe the purpose in terms of blessing the nations. With the coming of Jesus, and even in significant portions of the Old Testament narrative (like this one in Jeremiah), God seems more interested in being holy-in-the-midst or set-apart-while-mingling-among.

This has been one of the growing edges in our own church in recent years as we stretch to understand how to be faithful and obedient, but not keep it to ourselves. It has been a conscious decision to stretch beyond our walls, to offer programs and ministries not just to our members, but to our neighbors. It has been with purpose that we keep asking “what about our neighbors?” even as we strive to be a holy people.

I believe that for people who are serious about the first part of the Great Commandment – loving God – it is easy to start to withdraw into ourselves, to deceive ourselves, and forget about our neighbors. And I believe that is what Jeremiah was writing against in verses 8-9.


Accommodation is So Alluring

The other great danger to making a home where we are is that of cultural accommodation. I was going to say that this is the great danger for those who focus on the second part of the Great Commandment – loving neighbor – and lose sight of the primacy of loving God. But I have observed that even those most hunkered down into the Christian sub-culture face the danger of importing the trappings of culture into their bubble. So whether you spend so much time in bars that you worship beer and rock ‘n’ roll or whether you spend so much time in the Christian sub-culture that you worship coffee and 91.9, both have missed the mark.

Two of the chief sins to which humanity is prone are idolatry and selfishness. We will look to culture (that which we’ve made) rather than to the Creator to find our fulfillment. I don’t know whether the false prophets in Jeremiah were focused more on the “let’s get back to Jerusalem” or were selling out to Babylonian culture, but passages like Ephesians 5 in the New Testament make it clear that accommodating to the culture around us is a real danger as well.

Culture, as the creation of fallen humanity, is shrouded in darkness. Like Jeremiah, the verses you heard read from Ephesians also warn against deception. And we are cautioned not to “partake” of the darkness. Ephesians 5:8 reads, “you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” And later in verse 15, “…be careful how you walk, not as unwise… but as wise.” That’s Jeremiah’s point as well. Be wise and thoughtful and live in godly and obedient ways where you are. Don’t withdraw, but don’t partake and give in. Be distinct in the midst; be light in the darkness; live in your culture as those who belong to the Light of the World.


In-and-not-of-the-World is So Challenging

And that’s the bottom line of Jeremiah 29, of Ephesians 5, and Jesus’ own teaching about being “in the world, but not of the world.” We are challenged to love God with all we are and have, and we do that by loving our neighbor out in the world where God has planted us. We must not abandon our calling to our city and our neighbors in the name of holiness. Nor should we lose ourselves in the culture in which we serve. The great challenge – but the one for which God has equipped and empowered us – is to love the world that God loves.


More Practically

So, let me be even more practical and specific. Closest on my own radar and calendar is the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. I leave for that next Friday and will be there for ten days. To be blunt, there are many official actions and pronouncements of the Presbyterian denomination that I disagree with. Our elders have struggled for years feeling out of step with what’s going on at the national level. Particularly after the last General Assembly in 2008, we had a “come to Jesus meeting” and included the congregation. Is this where we should be? Should we withdraw into a more conservative denomination of churches? Should we hunker down and do our own thing? After wrestling with many of the same dynamics the Jewish Exiles surely did, the Session and congregation and I came to some peace (shalom?) – not peace like we aren’t concerned, but peace that God is challenging me and us to be faithfully engaged in this Presbyterian context in which He has planted us. And there is a peace that comes with doing what God calls us to do. So I’m going to the national meeting to speak up, discern truth amidst many, many competing claims for truth, and see how the Lord would use me at that national level beyond the walls of our church.

Closer to home, I know that many of you have experienced this past year as one of unprecedented stretching as we’ve reached even further into our neighborhoods to be faithful witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ. We’ve stretched outside our physical walls. We’ve been stretched financially. We’ve stretched beyond traditional approaches of “attractional church” and “they will come to us” programs. We’ve been stretched outside our comfort zones as we’ve met and interacted with people who look different, talk different, dress different, and relate differently from us. We’ve had to learn to be more cautious, as vandalism has increased. I am confident that the vandalism and the engagement with our neighbors are related. Six years ago, rarely venturing into the neighborhood and surrounded with thick trees and a berm, I think nobody really knew we were here to mess with us. Do I regret having to lock up and get cameras and hire a police officer? I do not, any more than I regret the statue being stolen and seeing how the Lord used that to bear witness to the city, help us experience a Good Samaritan’s generosity, and bring two families into contact with the ministry of the church. If you long for the good old days when children sat silently, everyone dressed nicely, and church was quiet – I understand!! I grew up that way. But we no longer live in Jerusalem; we are Exiles in Babylon and I believe we are listening to the Lord! Remember that question I keep asking? - What is God doing around me and how can I be a part of it? That’s the Exiles’ question, the Jeremiah question, the question that we need to keep asking to be God’s people in the here and now.

Finally, there is always the danger of coming unmoored, of hearing the wrong voices and the wrong visions – even from me. So, with the warning in Jeremiah, I would remind you that even with a strong call to get up and get out, to seek the shalom of our city, we need to keep gathering to study God’s Word and worship in Spirit and Truth. That rootedness in God’s Word and Spirit is what will help us discern truth when I or any other leader speaks. Does the message ring true with God’s Word? Is God speaking and leading and stirring me by His Spirit as confirmed in that Word?

We have a mission before us, together at Good Shepherd as well as in our personal lives. The past is behind us, to remind us of God’s faithfulness. God holds our future and His plans for us are good because they are His. God has challenged us to make our home and be His people in this place at this time and in this city. I am thankful to be called together with you in this. Let’s do it! Amen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Seek the Welfare of the City (Jeremiah 29.1-7)

June 20, 2010
Sermon by: Robert Austell
(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Sometimes the spoken version varies more, sometimes less, from the written (early) draft.  This is one case where the spoken version varied more significantly in terms of organization (though the same basic points).  I'd encourage listening to the audio if possible.


Have you ever found yourself in a place you don’t want to be? Other than the obvious desire for immediate extraction, does God have any direction for us in those places? Whether those places are geographical, emotional, physical, or something else, those are some of the questions raised in today’s text. There are some important limitations to note as we try to apply Jeremiah 29, but also some helpful and important applications as we struggle with places, people, and situations that challenge us deeply.

First, let me briefly set the context, then I’ll look at God’s message back then, and then we’ll consider God’s message to us today. Please turn to Jeremiah 29 as we look at each verse in turn.

Verse 1 provides the context and historical information. Jeremiah is the young prophet who bears the message, usually spoken but this time written. Verse 1 describes the “words of the letter” – a written message – sent from Jerusalem to “the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” The audience, then, consists of Jewish exiles living in Babylon. Lost, for the most part, are the benefits and perks of being elder, priest, or prophet. As had happened to northern Israel generations earlier, a foreign power had conquered southern Judah and taken the people away from their homes, land, and livelihood.

Verse 2 helps date the writing of this letter. It was after King Jeconiah (or Jehoiachin) and the queen mother surrendered to Babylon. That story is told in 2 Kings 24:8 and dates the story to 597 B.C. Verse 2 also tells us that the court officials and skilled labor had already departed from Jerusalem, which was leveled shortly afterwards.

What follows, starting in verse 4, is God’s message to the Exiles, who found themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually in a place they did not want to be. More than a few laments would be written and sung, pleading with God to restore their homeland and health. Exiled from home for their unfaithfulness to God, and seemingly exiled from God as well, they were neither whole, nor trusting in God as He designed them to be.

So what follows is what God has to say to them as an exiled, broken, and hurting people. I described the context for this message, though, because there are some important limitations to put on the application of this passage. I want you to hear those clearly when I get to application at the end. So do hear God’s message to the Exiles and start letting it wash over your own life and experiences, but don’t tune out the limits when we get to them. I’ll remind you when we get there!

I’m going to start in verses 5-7, where you will see a series of charges or commands from God to the Exiles. I’ll put them in two groups.

Build, Plant, Take, Multiply (vv. 5-6)

The first grouping of charges come in verses 5-6. Look for the verbs, which all come in pairs:

BUILD houses and LIVE in them
PLANT gardens and EAT their produce
TAKE wives and BECOME fathers… (MARRY and HAVE FAMILIES)
MULTIPLY there and DO NOT DECREASE
All of those pairs have a common theme. Yes, you are far from home, cut off, and exiled. But don’t give up on life; make a home for yourselves. Build and live, plant and eat, marry and have families. In other words, keep living life! For the Jewish people, these particular challenges tied rather directly to the covenant challenges to grow families and teach them about the Lord. While the Holy Land was part of God’s gracious provision, it was not the only place where His people could be faithful. Indeed, both in the generations before coming to that land and in many generations after being displaced, His people had to learn and re-learn what it meant to be faithful in every setting. God’s challenge to the Exiles was no less than His challenge to His people wandering through the wilderness between captivity in Egypt and arrival in the Promised Land: “listen to me; trust in me; make a home and teach them about me.” That home was and continues to be our “first congregation” even before that of the church community.

Seek and Pray, for in its Welfare You Will Have Welfare (v. 7)

God’s message continues on into verse 7, with the challenge to “seek the welfare of the city… and pray to the Lord on its behalf.” This challenge also connects to the covenant of old, in which God told Abraham He would bless him that he (Abraham) and his children might be a blessing to the whole world. It does not matter that God’s people have been taken from Jerusalem; they are still able to fulfill their covenant purpose of being a covenant community of faith and blessing those among whom they lived.

There are several points about this challenge to “seek the welfare of the city” that I want to lift out. First is the meaning of the word translated here as “welfare.” Some translations will have “peace,” translating a Hebrew word that you may have heard before. The underlying word here is shalom. Depending on context and shade of meaning, it can mean peace, well-being, completeness, wholeness, blessing, or as translated here, welfare. The use of shalom here stands in marked contrast to what the Jewish Exiles seem to have lost. Taken from home, they felt lost, broken, incomplete, and cursed – anything but shalom. Yet God asks – even commands – that they pray on behalf of the city of Babylon for the very thing that they feel is missing. Can you imagine? In fact, I think some of you can, as you are identifying with the kind of loss the Exiles experienced.

“What about me, Lord?” What about MY welfare? Interestingly, and this is the other thing I want to lift up out of this verse, God says, “In the city’s welfare you will have welfare.” Pray for the shalom of this city and her people – the place where you are exiled – and as they experience my peace, healing, and wholeness, then YOU will experience my peace, healing, and wholeness.

“But Lord, I had those things back in Jerusalem. I just want to get home.” In this case, the Lord had them in Babylon for a reason, and peace was not to be found in returning to the place from which they had come. Peace and healing and wholeness and blessing was to be found in their praying and God’s providing shalom for the city of Babylon.

The New Testament talks about some teaching as milk and some as meat. Well that, I believe, is a thick bit of steak. The shalom that I long for – that I NEED, Lord – is not found in the place I came from, nor where I think I might go, but in obediently following the Lord to the place He leads.

That’s the key application that we need to hear out of this passage. But I want to be very, very clear about what this passage is NOT saying. So, listen closely – or if you get home and think you didn’t hear me right, call or e-mail me and ask, because I want to be clear.

While the application of this passage is significant and broad, some of the particulars are very specific. As we think about applying these charges or commands into our own life, we need to ask “whose welfare?” we are to pray. But first, let me note the particular limits in this passage.

What is NOT being said…

There are two clear pointers to the limitations in this passage. One is in verse 4, when we read the description of the recipients of the letter: “…to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile…” Another is in verse 7, in describing the city as the place “where I have sent you into exile.” Do you hear it? God did this to them. This homelessness, this brokenness, this curse, if you want to call it that, was God’s discipline for their faithlessness and disobedience over generations. And that’s the point where we have to be very, very careful in interpreting and applying into our modern experience.

First, as you ask yourself what your “exile” entails, realize that not all things you might deem “exile” are God’s doing. Yes, I realize nothing surprises God and there are levels upon levels of talking about God’s sovereignty, but for today I simply want to differentiate between God’s discipline of His covenant people for their disobedience and the various struggles we face. You may experience aspects of exile because of your own choices, those of another, godly discipline, God allowing a test or trial, God’s calling or leading in your life, or any other number of reasons. This passage describes one scenario for a people to be anxious for God’s shalom, but it does not describe every scenario.

Having said that, I believe the principle that is being taught is not primarily about suffering, but about faithfully listening to God’s voice. Said more simply – your reason for needing God’s healing, help, wholeness, peace, and completeness, may be different from the Exiles’ reason, but God’s prescription for finding that shalom is broad, because it connects with His covenant of old as well as the teaching of His Son who was yet to come. Let’s turn then to that prescription and explore it in more depth.

Whose Welfare?

God’s prescription for shalom was to live full and godly lives in the place where you are, and to seek and pray diligently for that shalom for those all around you. In that living and seeking, He told the Exiles, you will find it for yourself.

I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) I am also reminded of the sermon Will Dolinger preached from this same letter in Jeremiah 29 a few weeks ago. One verse he keyed in on reads: “For I know the plans that I have for you… plans for welfare [shalom] and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (v. 11) That same word shows up there and links to our text today. God’s plan is indeed for His people’s shalom or welfare, but His prescription for them experiencing it was through their listening to His Word and obeying His instruction to seek and pray for others’ first. That again reminds me of Jesus and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

If you and I were to take this prescription seriously, what would that look like? For whose welfare would we pray?

Perhaps the most literal application would be to seek and pray for the welfare of our city. God challenged the Exiles to pray for Babylon – their captors! Surely we should pray for our city and our neighborhoods. Let that be the first and broadest challenge today: and not JUST prayer but “seek and pray” – get up, move, do, listen, pray, follow, obey, connect with Charlotte, with the Old Providence neighborhoods, with our neighbors around the church and around where you live. Where in our neighborhoods and city do people most long for or need God’s shalom – His peace, wholeness, help, completeness, and healing? If we are to be God’s covenant community in this place – this Church – than that is our mission. If we want to know God’s complete plan for us, then we need to seek and pray for the welfare of THIS city. After the pattern of God’s people of old, we are to live full and godly lives where we are, and diligently pray for and seek out those all around us, that they might know the fullness of knowing God.

More specifically, I want to challenge you on a personal level. It may be for different reasons than the Exiles, but you may recognize a need for God’s healing, help, and wholeness in your life. It may be work-related; it may be a hole in a relationship; it may be physical disability, sickness, or limitations; it may be spiritual dryness or feeling completely disconnected from God – in whatever form you need God’s shalom, consider this prescription for finding it. Seek and pray for those who need what you need, and in connecting with them and laying those other similar needs before the Lord, you may find the peace and wholeness you need as well. Amen.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Proper Confidence (Jeremiah 9

June 3, 2010
Sermon by: Dan Isadore
(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell (or Dan Isadore)"**

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Plans for Good (Jeremiah 29.10-14)

June 6, 2010
Sermon by: Will Dolinger - graduating high school senior on senior youth Sunday
(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

I first began thinking about doing this sermon early this year. As many of you know, the middle of your senior year of high school isn’t exactly the most stress-free part of your life. I had no idea what I wanted to preach about. And then I remembered a subject we discussed on our mission trip last summer to West Virginia: control. I’m a huge control freak. I like things to be a certain way. So I looked for a passage that would best assist me in giving up control of my life, and I found it in Jeremiah 29.

For 40 years Jeremiah served as God’s spokesman to Judah. As a result of the Jewish people worshipping idols and listening to false teachings, Jeremiah’s prophecies and basic theme was to repent and turn to God or He will send destruction. No one listened. People rejected his warning. Babylon was one of the largest reigning world powers at the time and conquered Jerusalem, destroying the city and the Temple. Because of sin, Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was ruined, and the people were captured and carried off to Babylon. The Jewish people were responsible for their destruction and captivity because they refused to listen to God’s message to them.

Jeremiah then wrote to the captives in Babylon a message from God that said “after a period of waiting, if you change, I will come”. God is telling the people in exile that they will be there for a long time and that after a period of waiting, God will visit and fulfill his word to return the exiles home. Jeremiah warns them not to be fooled by false teachers and prophets living among them. “Remember who I am,” says God. God says to them “when you call out and pray, I will listen. When you seek me, I will be found. God promises, “I will be found by you, I will end your slavery, I will restore your fortune, I will gather you out of the nations that I sent you, and I will bring you back home again to your native land.” God was preparing his people for a new plan, a new beginning.

Now what does that have to do with us? Most of us have heard the phrase “we fear what we do not know” and that pertains especially to our thoughts regarding our future. We want control over our future and other things in life, as did the Jews. They wanted control over their own lives so they turned to idols and false prophets. And they were punished for it.

Throughout the Bible, God exiles his people to correct their mindsets, lifestyles, and thoughts. And he always brings them out of exile when they are ready. And he is the one to decide when they are ready. Because He is the one with the answers.

When God answers a prayer, his three main responses are “yes”, “no”, and “wait”. For those of you that are math people, that’s 2/3 of the time when we will not get what we want. Verse 11 of the passage says “‘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.’” Notice it does not say “plans to please you and give you comfort.” We will not always be comfortable with His decisions. But they are intended to make our lives better. He has plans to give us a hope and a future. He has a plan to always be with us. But sometimes, the concept of a plan we won’t always agree with is difficult to grasp.

This past year, I’ve heard his plans for me in a more direct form. Colleges respond to applications with letters with the same answers as God. “Mr. Dolinger, we are pleased to inform you that you have been offered admission at our university.” Or “Mr. Dolinger, we regret to inform you that we cannot offer you admission at our university.” Or even “Mr. Dolinger, as a result of the competition for admission at our university, we will be informing you of our decision at a later date.” Since I set foot on campus, my college of choice was Clemson University. I knew the exact date on which I could begin the application, it was the first application I submitted, and I was aware of the exact date on which I would be notified of my decision. The day came and I opened my letter to find “Mr. Dolinger, due to the strength and competition of our applicant pool, we are unable to offer you admission at this time.” It was, of course, discouraging and it took time to get over it, but I soon realized that it was not part of God’s plan for me to be a Tiger. Time passed and I am now more excited than ever about attending Appalachian State in the Fall. My life was rocked because the plans that I had set were not going to be met. There’s a saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” We will never have full control over our plans and if we try, we will never be truly happy.

As we grow both physically and in our relationship with God, the amount of obstacles we face does not decrease. As life goes on, we’re faced with yes’s, no’s and wait’s in other aspects of our lives. When I’m out of college, I’m going to have to find a job. I’m going to have to find a place to live. And I’m going to have to find someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with. And the list goes on and on. And there will be many yes’s, no’s and a lot of wait’s.

Even in the beginning, in the Garden, God forbade Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There have always been things that we as God’s creations weren’t meant to know, like what our future holds.

Every week we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done.” Every week we give God the control to make the correct decisions for us. But when the time comes, some of us find it more difficult to accept His decision. Why are we afraid to give God control of our lives when He wants what’s best for us and He wants us to find happiness and fulfillment in life? When we say the Lord’s Prayer, let’s ask for the peace of mind to be confident in His will being done. But we are in a covenant with God. It’s a two way street and that requires something of us. We need to seek God out because we will only find Him if we seek Him. When we seek God, we will find him through prayer and the Bible. We should not only rely on ourselves but keep our part of the covenant. The Jews didn’t keep their part. They were not seeking out God. But God gave them a second chance. He sent Jeremiah to remind them of what God had previously told them. He also sent him to remind the Jews that there was still hope. And there is always hope. Jeremiah says in the book of Lamentations, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

God always fulfills his promises. What He says He will do, He will do. He has a specific plan for each of us. It’s not up to us to know what that plan is. There will be roadblocks and detours in the way. Some things are stops along the way instead of the destination we’re trying to find. But God will take us where he needs us, no questions asked. Amen.