Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas With A Twist

The Christmas season is now in full swing and God has been at work preparing hearts, specifically my heart for one, to take a deeper look into an appropriate response to the “Good News”. We have a Savior and we also have responsibilities in maintaining our personal relationship to Him.

God expects us not only to hear the “Glad tidings of great JOY”, He expects us to respond to that news with actions that demonstrate the transformation that news has brought about in us. If I have any hope of presenting this message in any sort of meaningful way, I suppose I should start at the beginning. What follows is a personal reflection, yet I openly invite you to take the journey with me and along the way spend some time in your own self-examination.

James 1:23-27 “23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (NASB)

I’m convinced that transparency is the key to effective ministry so I am telling this just as it happened in my life, but I will keep it family friendly and “G” rated. A few weeks before Thanksgiving after a Friday night Bible study at my mother’s house I was in the living room talking to my mom about some of the family dynamic and or dysfunction that is taking place right now. Michele was in another room playing with the newest addition to the family, a very beautiful and happy baby boy. She was having a conversation with a niece. 

Okay, you can probably imagine bits and pieces of the judgmental conversation I was having with my mother. We all have families right? So I won’t bore you with the details but I will tell you the emphasis in the word judgmental would have been clearly on the mental that evening. I know this because on the way home Michele shared this comment from my niece, “Well, there is no doubt that he’s part of this family – He’s just like all the rest!” By that I’m sure she meant loud, opinionated and undaunted by the devastation in the force of my words.

Matthew 5:33-45 “33 Again, you have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not swear falsely, but you shall perform your oaths to the Lord [as a religious duty]. 34 But I tell you, Do not bind yourselves by an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is the throne of God; 35 Or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you are not able to make a single hair white or black. 37 Let your Yes be simply Yes, and your No be simply No; anything more than that comes from the evil one. 38 You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the evil man [who injures you]; but if anyone strikes you on the right jaw or cheek, turn to him the other one too. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your undershirt (tunic), let him have your coat also. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles]. 42 Give to him who keeps on begging from you, and do not turn away from him who would borrow [at interest] from you. 43 You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; 44 But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].” (AMP)

Today, I pulled back the curtain and talked about some of my shortcomings, but are we (you and I) that different? Hollywood makes millions depicting family strife during the Christmas season. They could not do that if we didn’t think it was funny and rush out to see someone else’s struggle. Usually the thing we laugh the hardest at hits the closest to home in our lives.

Proverbs 18:7 “A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” (KJV)

Manufactures spend hundreds of thousands to convince us we cannot be happy without their product. They do it in the hope of making billions from the holiday set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior and God’s FREE gift of peace and good will. In my journey of personal reflection thus far through the Christmas season, I’ve found that I have left myself too unprotected by the grace and love of Christ. What have you found in your self-examination, as you journeyed with me?

Someone years ago said, “JOY=Jesus Others then You”. This Christmas may we all rediscover the joy in putting others before ourselves because we are following the example Jesus set for us. May we stop being driven by foolish pride and exercise His wisdom.

Proverbs 14:3 “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.” (NIV)

There is wisdom in not opening your mouth. The older I get I look back at youth and remember the “Magic” of the Christmas season. I also remember my uncles telling me, “Boy, don’t let your mouth write a check your body can’t cash.” That statement may have lost some of its effectiveness with the introduction of direct deposit and debit cards, but it means our mouths can get us into big trouble if we don’t learn when to keep them shut.

Ecclesiastes 5:7-8 “For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God. If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.” (KJV)

Right about now, you should be asking, “What’s the ‘take away’ from this message?” Since I began with the observation that the Christmas season is in full swing, I’m going to work really hard at wrapping it all up in a nice package today.

So here’s what is in the box. It’s not enough to simply hear the “Good News”. We have to do something with it. God’s law of liberty compels us to reach out to those in need. We cannot share effectively the life giving “Glad Tidings of Great Joy” without controlling our tongues. We must keep our answers simple and do more than is asked. If we are children of God we cannot merely serve those we think deserve our service. Sometimes keeping our mouths shut is the best protection, but even in the face of oppression and injustice God is watching how we treat each other. Don’t just dream and talk about what we should do. Give God reverence and take action.

And here’s the bow that holds it all together, it’s not our vanity that matters – It’s God’s glory.

Please share the gift of God’s grace and forgiveness this Christmas and don’t neglect the poor. Remember the way you measure blessings to others is the way they return to you. We can all afford to share the love.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Setting Our Minds on Christ – Ensuring Our Peace

What does following Christ mean to you? Who were you when you came to Christ? Who are you today? These are all questions we face when we evaluate our relationship with Jesus. I hope the answer to the first question is the same for each of us. But, following Christ means everything to me. Before Christ came into my life, I was self-centered, willful, filled with hate and prejudice. I wanted my own way and did not care what I had to do to achieve my desire.

Today I can honestly say, “I am not the person I was.” My motivation has changed. My desires are different. Christ is the Lord of my life and anything I accomplish is because He is at work within me. I believe every Christian can agree, we are not the people we were, and yet we are not completely transformed into the people He is calling us to become.

Many of us have been distracted by this world and chased after comfort and possessions instead of the blessings of God. Chasing possessions and climbing the world’s ladder of success does not ensure our peace nor does it secure God’s favor upon our lives. It is time to hit the reset button on our faith. When programming goes wrong in our technological devices we all know to hit the reset button. We need to do the same thing when our spiritual compass gets misdirected.

The title of this message is “Setting Our Minds on Christ – Ensuring Our Peace”.

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (NLT)

Many of the things going on around us could easily distract us from our commitment to Christ if we do not remind ourselves that our TRUE lives are already hidden with Him. This world holds no promise for us and anything it can offer pales when compared to our reward in Heaven.

God will protect the righteous here in this life, and receive the righteous in the life to come. The question is: Are we righteous? What does God count as righteousness?

Isaiah 26:1-4 “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; [the Lord] sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the [uncompromisingly] righteous nation which keeps her faith and her troth [with God] may enter in. You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].” (AMP)

God counts FAITH in Him as righteousness. Believing what He has spoken, living by His ordinances, keeping our minds focused upon Him in spite of the direction this world is going, that is what the Lord recognizes as righteousness.

Proverbs 15:28-33 “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous. Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.” (NASB)

Satan through the influence of the world throws temptation after temptation our way. Questions fly at us from every direction as to why we believe in God and choose to serve Christ. The wisdom of Scripture tells us not to rush into an answer for them. By pondering the question and following the lead of the Holy Spirit we can always find the answer within the Bible.

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (NIV)

No matter what comes our way He has promised to deliver us. Simply share the TRUTH in love, live as examples of God’s grace, and teach those who will listen. The world and those attracted to its treasures may never understand. They will not recognize what is right in front of them, but we must present the TRUTH. As we pray God will answer. As we plant the seed God will bring up the harvest. As we walk worthy of the calling God has given to each of us we will see His glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (KJV)

We used to say in the church, “You can be so Heavenly minded that you’re no Earthly good.” As I see more and more clearly the signs of the times, I wonder why we are still trying to fit into the world’s pattern of success.

Philippians 3:7-9 “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” (NLT)

Lord, set our minds on You and help us live our lives in such a way that Your grace can be seen by all. Prepare us for the work of the harvest and ensure that none of us falls short of Your grace. Uproot the bitterness in our lives and allow us to share the TRUTH of salvation with others. You Lord are our only hope, in Christ’s name we ask these things. Amen!

Hebrews 12:14-15 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;” (NASB)

There is a Highway Option

There is a popular saying that has been around for years. How many have ever been told, “It’s my way or the highway” and, almost as quickly as that statement is out there, it is recanted by “Oh, wait, there is no highway option”. Tonight I want to remind the church, there is a highway option.

We can take a look around the world and say, “We don’t like where this thing is headed” but, the truth is the world is headed just where God has ordained from the beginning that it should go. He did not consult with me for my opinion on the matter. He in His power and authority has allowed everything throughout history to lead us to this point.  The question is where is the church going? The world is going its own way, but where is the church going?

For too long now, the church has followed along in lock step with the philosophies, actions and attitudes of the world. When the direction we should choose is 180 degrees the other way.

1 John 2:15-16 “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (NLT)

I hope no one is in a hurry this evening because as God unfolded this message before me, I quickly realized it was too much for a one hour study. In my estimation we many begin to have a good grasp of the concepts after about thirteen weeks.  Tonight I will attempt to give you just the overview and get us all home at a reasonable hour, but I’m not making any promises.

As I said a moment ago, this world is traveling the course God has mapped out for it. What we are seeing around the world, the failure of economic systems, increased storms, vast amounts of people blindly following anyone promising to fulfill their desire, it’s all in the Bible. God said it’s all going to happen. Regardless of how you voted or who is in the white house, what we are seeing around us are all signs of the times.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (NIV)

There is a highway option – It’s mapped out in the Bible!
      66 books
      Old Testament
      New Testament
      40 Different authors
      At least 3 different languages
      1600 years in its construction
      One Holy Spirit

We will be taking a look at the highway God is offering to us. On this highway we will come face to face with responsibilities. We will be warned about the wrath to come. We will be comforted by God’s promises and we will recognize the benefits of traveling the highway of holiness.

Isaiah 35:3-10 “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes. A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, And the ransomed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (NASB)

Truths for Travelers – There are two responsibilities, one warning, two promises, the identification of the highway and its travelers mentioned in this passage from Isaiah. The way I see it, they break down as follows:

      Encourage the exhausted – One of the responsibilities given to believers traveling the highway. How many feel exhausted and discouraged tonight? Begin to be built up by the promises in the Word. Look at your neighbor and tell them, “There is a warning. We do have some responsibilities, but the promises and the benefits make it worth the trip.”

      Strengthen the feeble – The other responsibility of traveling this highway, the word feeble can mean weak either in mind or body, but our responsibility is to help, strengthen, teach encourage and train those less fortunate, blessed or able bodied than we ourselves.
      The recompense of God will come – Here is the warning. Judgment is coming to anyone not traveling the Highway of Holiness. The church should not accept, practice, or promote the standards of this world. We should uphold the standard of holiness and purity of heart outlined in Scripture.

      He will save you – The first of two promises from this passage gives confidence to those who have chosen the highway option. If you hold on to the truth of Scripture, accept the gift of salvation offered through Christ and live a life honoring toward God, He will save you.

      The highway will be there – This second promise from Isaiah 35:3-10 states,  the highway will be there. We can count on this roadway being safe and getting us to our intended destination.

      It will be called the Highway of Holiness – The identification of this highway as the Highway of Holiness should serve to remind us of the many benefits available to travelers on this highway. It also explains who is and is not allowed to travel upon this roadway.

      The redeemed will walk there – Only the redeemed will travel this highway. We will travel in health, safety, and security. Joy and gladness will be our traveling companions. Sorrow and mourning will be things of the past.

How do we successfully make the trip?

Repent – Begin the journey with a U-Turn.
Proverbs 15:19 “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway.” (NASB)

Proverbs 16:17 “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who watches his way preserves his life.” (NASB)

Renew – Choose the Right Traveling Companion
Psalm 51:12-13 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted and return to You.” (NIV)

Ephesians 4:23-24 “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (NLT)

Reestablish – Follow the Rules of the Road
Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (NASB)

Ephesians 4:17-19 “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” (NLT)

Rejoice – The Right Compass Leads Us Home
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB)

Ephesians 4:30-32 “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)

How to successfully make the trip!

      Repent – Begin the journey with a U-Turn. God always deals with individuals first. Each one of us knows our own sins, faults and shortcomings. Before a nation can turn around we have to turn around. When we have repented, we can set our homes in order. If our homes are in order, we can turn our communities around. When our communities are turned around, the nation will follow suit. Repentance requires the church to offer a clear relevant option opposite the way of the world. If we tell people they are okay the way they are there is no need for the redemptive power of Christ or the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.  

      Renew – Choose the right traveling companion. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. By the Spirit we understand Scripture and are led into “All Truth” which means the correct interpretation of God’s Word. When we have been filled with the Spirit, we have the ability to understand and teach Godly principles as well as a holy and righteous lifestyle.

      Reestablish – Follow the rules of the road. God must be reestablished as Lord of our lives. The Bible teaches us to remove everything that gets in the way of serving Him completely. Anything we trust to deliver us other than God has become an idol.

      Rejoice – The right compass leads us home. The Highway of Holiness is filled with blessings and reasons to celebrate. Make the right choice. There is a highway option.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Exiles or Faithful Followers

Our attitudes and perceptions have a measurable impact on our accomplishments. If we see ourselves as abandoned, lost or forgotten we are more likely to lose heart, suffer depression, and give up. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as called, chosen, equipped and faithful, we are more likely to be motivated, empowered and courageous. So, I ask the question: Are we exiles or faithful followers of Christ?

Psalm 146:1-10 “Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.” (NIV)

God reigns forever and He is our help. He is our support and because of His faithfulness we have reason to praise Him. We cannot put our trust in human efforts. No matter how great and powerful or wise and understand human institutions appear they are powerless to save us. Their influence dies with them. The benefits and blessings recorded here for those who put their trust in God should encourage us to see ourselves as “Faithful Followers of Christ”.

God has not and will not abandon us. He lifts us up when we are bowed down. He remains faithful forever. The Lord loves the righteous. So, as long as we are committed to His Word, living according to His standards of right and wrong dedicated to His service, He supplies our needs. But, He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

You are not lost. You are not forgotten. You have not been driven into exile. The world has marginalized the “Voice of the Christian Message” not because it cannot understand the message, but because it does not want to adhere to the standard of righteousness it sets. Do you see yourself as a powerless exile or are you a faithful follower of Christ?

Persecution is not a new reality for Christians. From the very beginning those who have put their faith in Christ have been a target; yet, God upholds the cause of the oppressed.

Acts 26:14-18 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’” (NASB)

This passage from Acts reminds us that even the Apostle Paul was once a persecutor of the church. Even in the midst of his conversion he knew who he was persecuting. Paul called Him Lord.

God chooses His servants. He plans our lives. He directs our paths. He trains and equips us. He gives us our assignments. As long as we remain on the path God has chosen for us we are never exiles. God knows who you are. He knows where you are and He understands completely what you are going through. Begin to see yourself as a “Faithful Follower of Christ”. Give up the idea that you are somehow an “Exile”. If you have not abandoned God, He surely has not abandoned you. Scripture tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.”

Romans 5:1-9 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (KJV)

God never promised we would live a problem free life. He did promise we would be saved from His wrath. He also promised that He would not abandon us. Seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness will meet ALL our needs in this life.

Hebrews 8:10-12 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will imprint My laws upon their minds, even upon their innermost thoughts and understanding, and engrave them upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And it will nevermore be necessary for each one to teach his neighbor and his fellow citizen or each one his brother, saying, Know (perceive, have knowledge of, and get acquainted by experience with) the Lord, for all will know Me, from the smallest to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more.” (AMP)

Our quality of life and our accomplishments for the Kingdom of God are both a matter of choice. We can accept and live under the covenant God has established or we can walk away from His offer and doom ourselves to a lifetime of exile. The wise choice is to be a faithful follower, but God gives us the choice.

Jeremiah 29:4-14 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: ‘Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.’ This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,’ says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.’” (NLT)

Our stubbornness often forces us to live in exile when all God desires of us is our faithfulness. If you truly are living in that place of exile, how long are you willing to stay there? Have you built such a comfortable house and cultivated such a beautiful garden that you are willing to raise your children and grandchildren in a land of sorrow?

Yes, according to these verses, even living in exile we can have a positive effect on our communities, but however good our life in exile appears to be it does not measure up to the plan God has for us. Wholeheartedly seek God from the place of exile you find yourself in and God will not only hear your prayer – He will quickly bring you out of exile and restore you as a faithful follower of Christ.

The way you see yourself determines what you will be able to accomplish. How many years will you spend in the vanity and pride of exile before turning to Calvary and becoming a faithful follower of Christ?