Below is a letter sent to the congregation of First Central Bible Church to update them on our plans for the next few weeks when we cannot meet together. Ministry will continue in creative ways.
Monthly Archives: March 2020
Because of COVID-19 pandemic and shelter at home directives, many of us feel as if we stuck in an endless loop of Survivor reruns. We’ve been “deprived of basic comforts, exposed to the harsh elements, your fate at the mercy of strangers …” and the question we face is, “…who would you become?” We’re not sure we can outwit, outplay, or outlast anyone to win any kind of prize. And no matter how hard we try, we cannot figure out how to get voted off the island.
In Jeremiah 29:1-14, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to 3,000 Jews who were in exile in Babylonia. He wrote to encourage them to settle in for the long run since the exile would last for 70 years. He encouraged them to take comfort in the fact that God was in control and his promises can be trusted. In light of that, the exiles could face their situation with hope.
We need that same sense of encouragement today. We need to understand that because God is in control, we can live with hope in trying times.
Historical background (1-3). The exile occurred in 597 BC, 10 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar took 3,023 Jews with him to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:28). The group included four teenaged boys named Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Recognize that God is in control (4). When we find ourselves in a trial or test, our first question is to ask, “Why?” God answered the Jews’ question with a statement of “Who!” In verses 4, 7, and 14, God stated, “I sent you into exile.” When life is painful and difficult, we need to remind ourselves of three facts: (A) God is too kind to do anything cruel; (B) God is too wise to make a mistake; and (C) God is too deep to explain himself. With that in mind, we can recognize that God sometimes allows difficult circumstances to come into our lives. If God is behind it, our responsibility is to submit to his plan.
Go on Living (5-7). Jeremiah gives the exiles three specific instructions. (A) Settle in to the rhythm of life (5-6a) including building houses, planting gardens, celebrating weddings and births. In our current crisis, that would mean maintaining a new normal cycle of work, rest, and worship. (B) Continue to grow and mature (6b). Rather than acting like Eeyore and drowning our sorrows, we should engage in activities and pursuits that will result in our personal growth. While pain is inevitable, misery is optional. (C) Minister to others (7) through service and prayer.
Base your Hope on God’s Promises (8-14). Jeremiah warns the exiles to watch out for prophets who give false hope and say that the trial will be over soon (8-9). Watch out for people who say, “Life will be better when …” We need to understand that exile is part of God’s plan to give us a hopeful end (10-11). As much as it might short-circuit our thinking, God carries us into exile so that we can know him better (12-14). As C. S. Lewis explained, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speak in our conscience, and shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. God strips away everything we depend on so that we will focus on him alone.
How would your life be different if …you really believed God was in control … shared what God was teaching you rather than whining and complaining … looked for opportunities to minister to others … acted as if you had a hopeful future … really believed you could know God … believed that God carried you into exile so that you would know him better?
Take the main idea of this passage, “Because God is in control, live with hope in trying times,” and make that your confident statement today. Take your stand and say, “Because God is in control, I will live with hope.”
Today’s sermon at First Central Bible Church is on Jeremiah 29:1-14. It focuses on how to survive and thrive during an exile experience. There is a five-minute countdown at the beginning. Blessings to you.
Do you feel like you an in exile because of the COVID-19 virus? You’re not alone. Here’s a video preview of my message for this Sunday, March 29. “When you’d rather be voted off the island: Surviving an exile experience.”
Here a link to the outline & sermon notes if you’d like to read ahead and study the passage.
How long is this pandemic going to last?!?!?! I’m going stir crazy being cut off from contact with people. If this lasts much longer, I’m going to need treatment for severe cabin fever having to work from home. I’ve got four kids trying to do homeschooling and two adults trying to work … all on one computer. AAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!
Have you said those words? Have you heard those words? Are you struggling to be content in an uncertain world?
30 years ago, I wrote and published an article in Decision Magazine entitled, “Learning to be content.” It looks at the concept of contentment in the Scriptures and how to practice it today. Click on the link to open the article. May it bring hope and encouragement to your life. May you find contentment in the midst of life’s upheaval.