A Message to the Exiles from the prophet Jeremiah (and Kathi Dunlap)
I had the privilege to attend an Evening of Impact in Ft. Wayne, IN last night for Lifewise Academy. As I listened to life-changing, impactful stories about Bible education being offered to public school students DURING school hours, I was moved. I was not listening for the first time. I have been teaching an 8th grade Lifewise class in my local community for 3 years and I have seen with my own eyes the miracle of Lifewise. Yet - I was moved and challenged about the big picture impact of this movement.
Here's the thing. As I sat there listening to one life-changing story after another - from students to parents to staff to community leaders to volunteers - shadows of a verse long-forgotten came to mind. "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat..." I was so eager to look up the verse that I grabbed my phone and emailed myself a reminder to look deeper when I got home.
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat..."
This phrase is from Jeremiah 29, a message from God through the prophet Jeremiah to a people downtrodden and discouraged by their long captivity. They were ready to give up, but God basically told them "Get busy living in the land I've placed you in." Live my hope, live my purpose, do things that expand and grow and build.
Jeremiah 29:4-9 says "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “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 Lord."
As believers in God in a time of darkness and depravity, aren't we exiles? Aren't we sometimes the ones who are discouraged and weary?
The story of Lifewise (and many other good, godly ministries) is that of hope and perseverance and 'building houses.' Each time God's people operate in faith and hope, lives are changed and we are honoring this appeal given by Jeremiah:
- build (make, create, assemble - leave a legacy)
- settle down (live in stability and permanence)
- plant (put in something small expecting big things to grow!)
- eat (enjoy and be strengthened)
- marry & have sons and daughters (nothing communicates 'future' more than marriage and family - look to the future)
- invest in the next generation (make sure sons and daughters have a future too!)
- increase, do not decrease (this is a repeat of God's plan in the garden and again after the ark - multiply!)
- seek peace
- seek prosperity for your community
- do not be deceived by lies
Friends, in our current world, we are not being called to retreat, react, hunker down, hoard, insulate ourselves, or hide. Nor are we being called to assemble an army and trample our enemies. We are called occupy, build, expand, invest, seek peace, PRAY - all while refusing to be deceived by lies.
We have clients and friends who are very concerned about the economy, the usurping power of the government, the moral direction of our nation, the breakdown of human worth and identity, the reckless debt of our nation, and more. It is critical to be like the sons of Issachar (I Chronicles 12:32) who "understood the times and knew what Israel should do..." We must see and assess what is happening in the world around us. BUT - we must not live in fear and cowering and defeat. II Timothy 1:7 reminds us "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
I started this out by talking about life-changing impact. I'd like to end there as well -- will you live in such a way that your money, your time, your attitude, your "investment" is in changing lives, not living in fear? I believe that is where satisfaction and peace and hope is found.
May God bless you and bless others through you, my friends!