The Kingdom Building Call (Part Six)

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Week Six Study Overview: Today, we will discuss the widely known scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, and the context it comes from. In the process, we will discover what it means for YOU!

Key Point of Struggle: It’s easy to fall in the trap of feeling there is no future and no hope.

Key Proof of Comfort: The Word of God is solid truth refusing to collapse. We will find comfort in exploring what we can do to stand on the promise of a secure, peaceful future and hope.

Today is our last day with Jeremiah.  Over our weeks of study, we saw the unashamed prophet weep throughout his calling. Through the Word, we’ve watched him be abused and locked up. We saw him through prison bars and witnessed the internal struggle of wanting to give up on his calling. And then we learned of the fire deep within his bones that could not be extinguished.

Though our callings and struggles are much different from those of Jeremiah’s, we can feel a kindred spirit with this man and his ministry. Like Jeremiah, we’ve been afraid, contemplated running, and cried out to God with questions. And, through it all, we’ve allowed the burn in our bones to propel us onward.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

Over the years, I’ve seen Jeremiah 29:11 plastered on social media statuses, posters in churches, t-shirts, and even bumper stickers. I love that we can read a scripture and claim it as our own, but at the same time my heart weeps a little at the lack of knowledge where context is concerned. As Christians, I believe we take the verse of the day, and apply it to our struggle of the day. We don’t read what comes before or after it, and usually have very little knowledge of who wrote it and why.

Listen, I know not everyone likes to sit down and search out the history and author of every book in the Bible. I get it. But friend, a little context goes a long way. It gives us insight and opens up the lines of communication allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us on a deeper level. We often long for God to speak, but we don’t invest time in the relationship and then wonder why we aren’t hearing His voice. And by the way, I’m preaching to myself. I’ll be honest with you: I’m in the word a lot, but I still lack in many, many areas.

Let’s take a few moments to look at the context of this widely known scripture.

As we know from everything we’ve learned in Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah refused to repent. As a result, there were captives taken. We learn in 2 Kings 24 that Nebuchadnezzar II, the King of Babylon, took the Jews captive. Nebuchadnezzar led his armies for over a year and laid siege against Jerusalem killing many, destroying the temple, and leaving Jerusalem in ruins.

God knew, in light of the people’s rebellion, that this calamity would take place. Jeremiah actually prophesies about it in Jeremiah 29 through a letter to the captives. In verse 10, he predicts seventy years of captivity in Babylon, followed by exile.  This is the backstory of Jeremiah 29:11.

Let’s begin by taking a look at verse 10:

For thus says the Lord: after seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

-Jeremiah 29:10

In context:

By way of royal messengers, Jeremiah sent a letter with this information to the captives. Regardless of the people’s sin, after consequence, there would be great mercy given by God. God promised to visit His people again.

Now, let’s apply Jeremiah 29:10 to us:

I believe God pursues each life. There are times we don’t want to listen, or want to go the way He’s directing us. The skin we wear and the flesh we fight have the ability to rise up powerfully without us even recognizing we’re in a mess. When we finally see our spiritual shortcoming, we call out to Jesus. Other times, we are heeding each and every word. We’ve done nothing to deserve the difficulty we’re facing. In those moments, we question God and ask for answers. Regardless of the circumstances, there is a promise: “I will visit you and perform my good word toward you.”

We can take that promise and apply it to our lives. We don’t always feel like He’s with us, but He is. Because of Jesus, we can go a step further from the word visit. He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with us. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. When we are reading Jeremiah, we are reading history before the cross. Since then, Jesus died for every sin, and because of His work on the cross we have the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit.  God is performing His good word in us every day because of His Holy Spirit living in us. We have more power to overcome than we will ever begin to comprehend.

Next we have Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

In context:

Jeremiah was writing the words of the Almighty to the captives, letting them know that the Living God had not forgotten about them. He wasn’t finished with them.

Now let’s apply Jeremiah 29:11 to us:

Remember when we started studying Jeremiah 1:5, and talked about God being intentional in His design of us? Well, this proves that God doesn’t forget about anything He creates. We are always on His mind. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or how deep our trouble may be, we are on the mind of God. Always.

Now that we’ve unearthed the context of this verse, it should speak to us more deeply than ever before. Judah had worshipped other Gods, refused to listen to God’s chosen prophet, and forgotten all the works He had done and still…. And still…. Let me say that again, and still God never stopped thinking about them. And friend, He has never stopped thinking of you. This proves it!

Now let’s take a look at Jeremiah 29:12-14 before we wrap our study.

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.

-Jeremiah 29:12-14

In context:

God is letting the people know that even after all their sin, the captives will once again have a home. However, He tells them they will look for Him, and when they do, they will find Him.

Now let’s apply Jeremiah 29:12-14 to us:

Regardless of our situations, whether it is self-inflicted sin, or a horrendous circumstance it seems we don’t deserve, God is faithful to deliver us. Way back in chapter one, we studied that God told Jeremiah, “I am with you to deliver you.” We can take those words and connect them to Jeremiah 29:12-14!

  • When we sin, we can repent. He is always with us to deliver us!
  • When we call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen. He is with us to deliver us!
  • When we seek Him, we will find Him. He is with us to deliver us!
  • When we search for Him, He will be found. He is with us to deliver us!
  • From every situation we’ve been held captive, He will provide rescue. He is with us to deliver us.

Friend, what He’s done for generations past, He will do for you.

 However, we must all learn to call upon Him, pray to Him, seek Him, and Search for Him with our whole hearts. The text actually says, “… with all your heart.” Not a little or even most, but ALL.

If there is anything we’ve learned from Jeremiah, it was that he gave his whole heart to the Almighty. He submitted everything, even his right to a family. He gave his entire life up for his Father. When I think about that, I feel a little overwhelmed with conviction. God hasn’t asked nearly as much from me, and yet I often struggle with giving Him all my heart. My flesh tells me it’s much easier to hand it over one piece at a time. But that’s a lie. I’m required with determination to die to myself every day of my life for the cause of Christ. It’s no longer about me and ALL about Him.

Our friend, Jeremiah, gave his life to answer His call and in the process built the kingdom.

  • Today, in your journal, write Jeremiah 29:10-14. Underneath it, please answer the following questions.
  1. What do the words, “I will visit you and perform My good word toward you,” mean specifically in your life right now?
  2. How does understanding that God is intentional and never stops thinking about you, change how you feel about your future and hope?
  3. We learned that God listens to us when we call on Him. Does knowing that change how you communicate with Him and how frequently you pray to Him?
  4. God tells us He will be found by us when we seek Him with ALL our hearts. Have you given God your whole heart?
  • I recognize that giving God our entire heart is a daily struggle for each of us. In your journal, consider writing a prayer asking God to help break down the barriers preventing you from giving Him everything.

It’s been a pleasure studying kingdom building through the life of Jeremiah with you! If we were to study more often together, who would you want to learn about next? I would love suggestions.

Love,

Jennifer

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When You Can No Longer Envision the Promise

 

He is able

One night last week, as my husband and I were unloading our sleeping kids from the car, I looked up to see a completely clear sky. I’ve been studying the Old Testament for an upcoming speaking engagement, and so as soon as I saw those twinkling lights above me, I thought about a moment where God gives us a beautiful picture of promise.

Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

-Genesis 15:5

When I looked up at the sky on that clear night last week, I was in awe of what I saw. But, I was much more overwhelmed at what I couldn’t see. Do you know that as of April 1, 2014 Hubble revealed an estimation of 100 billion galaxies, and then predicted that number would increase as technology improves?  And guess what? According to the Atlantic Daily, as of October 2016, that number now stands at 2 trillion.  Look at the following quote from Atlantic Daily writer Marina Koren on October 14, 2016: “There’s only one way to count galaxies with existing technology: Point a telescope at a small chunk of sky, tally up the number you see, and then extrapolate that across the whole sky. But when the Nottingham researchers examined the masses of the galaxies in those patches of sky, they realized there must be missing galaxies that are ‘too faint and too far away’ to be imaged by modern technology, even the most powerful telescopes in the world.”

I can’t help but imagine myself being there on that very night God took Abram (Soon to be renamed Abraham) outside and showed him the stars. It appears to me that Abram probably gazed up at that sky and took it at face value. He was probably overcome by the great number of glowing stars above him mingled with the promise God made for his life. I’m not sure Abram ever thought about the stars he couldn’t see. How could he have known the great expanse of the universe? We look at stars in the year 2017 with all modern technology has to offer, and still, we cannot see everything there is in space.

I recently read there are 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Let me repeat that: In the Milky Way galaxy, one galaxy out of what now appears to be 2 trillion, there are 100 thousand million stars. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was a real number! Friend, I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around that number, and yet we serve a God who made a numeric promise based on the number of stars He created. And our God knows exactly how many there are. In fact, He even named each one. (See Psalm 147:4) He told Abram, “Look toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” He knew Abram couldn’t number them, and that is the whole point.

We serve a God who has spoken promises so great that it is beyond our human vision and comprehension to see the fullness of them. There is so much more for each life than we can begin to know. I need to say this to you today:

GOD IS ABLE!
GOD IS ABLE!
GOD IS ABLE!

The creator of the universe is God of the impossible, and there is more to His Word than we will ever grasp.

After Abram looked up at the sky on that clear night so long ago, he modeled something for each of us.

“And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

-Genesis 15:6

Up to this point, Abram didn’t have one child. Not one.  And, yet, he was promised descendants matching the number of stars. Abraham made a choice to believe the promise, and because he believed, God counted him righteous.

Today, I want you to believe in a God who sees everything, not just what is within the line of human vision. I want you to believe there is power in His promises, and that He has promises for you. No matter what you see or how you feel, it does not change the power of God’s promises or the depth to which they reach.  This weekend, if you’re have difficulty holding tightly to a promise He’s made, walk outside and look up. Even if the sky isn’t clear, just think about what you cannot see, and what God calls by name.

He is able.

Love,

Jennifer