Sermons
Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Created for a Purpouse - January 14, 2018

Jeremiah 29:10-14

How many of you have heard verse 11 somewhere before? For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Christians love this passage. It offers such a beautiful promise. We use it pretty loosely. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And the promise is true. But what it doesn't show us is what comes before this. Most of us don't know the context in which God said it.
How many of you have spent much time studying the book of Jeremiah? Ok, so let's take a few minutes to put things in context. Jeremiah was a prophet. And prophets are sent by God when

the people of God are in trouble. They've been disobedient. They've been unfaithful. They've been sinful. And so, God sends a prophet to say, "Hey, you, you're getting a little lost, come on back to me." Jeremiah was one of them. He was a messenger of God who tried to call the Israelites back to faithfulness and warned them of what would happen if they continued to disobey. The Israelites were in a bad place. They were worshipping other gods. They were disobeying God's commands. They were selfish and self-serving and they were not headed for the life God intended. So Jeremiah was sent to help them get it.
Now, if you're reading through the book of Jeremiah, you'll find it reads a lot like a dialogue. First, we see the Israelites in action. Then we hear God talking, then the people responding, then a little overview of what is happening, more back and forth. Jeremiah served over 40 years, so he wasn't just there one-day giving speeches and bam then there was punishment. He was there for the long haul, constantly trying to call God's people back to faithfulness.

Here's a little taste of God's messages for Israel. These excerpts come from the message version. You can certainly read them straight in a traditional version, but the colloquial ones help get you through 30 chapters!

In chapter 3, Jeremiah shares this message from God:
"'Turn back, fickle Israel.
I'm not just hanging back to punish you.
I'm committed in love to you.
My anger doesn't see the nonstop.
Just admit your guilt.
Admit your God-defiance.
And this is what will happen: You will increase and prosper in the land. The time will come"...." when no one will say any longer, 'Oh, for the good old days! Remember the Ark of the Covenant?' It won't even occur to anyone to say it—'the good old days.'
And then he goes on...19-20
"I planned what I'd say if you returned to me:
'Good! I'll bring you back into the family.
I'll give you choice land,
land that the godless nations would die for.'
And I imagined that you would say, 'Dear father!'
and would never again go off and leave me.
But no luck.

Chapter 4: 1-2 "If you want to come back, O Israel,
you must really come back to me.
You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia
and not wander away from me anymore.

18
"It's the way you've lived
that's brought all this on you.
The bitter taste is from your evil life.
That's what's piercing your heart."

Chapter 6: 27-30 God gave me this task:
"I have made you the examiner of my people,
to examine and weigh their lives.
They're a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch,
rotten to the core, the lot of them.
Refining fires are cranked up to white heat,
but the ore stays a lump, unchanged.
It's useless to keep trying any longer.
Nothing can refine evil out of them.
Men will give up and call them 'slag,'
thrown on the slag heap by me, their God."

Despite each of these messages, and more, the Israelites remain unfaithful and disobedient, and so there are consequences. They end up in exile. They lose their land. And Babylon, who kicked them out, destroyed the temple. It was a really rough time. One where the people probably felt like God had deserted them. They weren't eating high on the hog. They suffered great loss as they left the promised land. And it's then, in chapter 29, that God says, "Go ahead and settle in, get married, have babies, get comfortable, you're going to be in this place for awhile, but never forget this, you won't be in exile forever "for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you."
God does say that. And God does mean it. But God's promise of hope and care for the long haul doesn't mean God cares nothing for consequence or obedience or faithfulness. God had a plan for Israel, which took them to the promised land, and their amazing things were to happen. And God continued to plan good things, but those good things required Israel's participation. It wasn't an eternal birthday party where God kept setting up fun and games and big mounds of gifts. It was life. It required hard work, patience, and persistence. Abundant crops wouldn't come without hard work. Peace wouldn't come without understanding, compassion, and healthy boundaries. God had good plans for God's people, which included them being a part of things...faithfully and consistently. And when God's people fail to be obedient....things start to fall apart. But God doesn't just throw the dice and let things happen. God is an active partner in life...there, reaching out to the people so they can work together. How else could God make any ongoing promises to the people?
Think about it this way. Say, God wants you to be successful here on the Palouse. So God sets you up with a 2000 acre farm, lumber, some seeds, and some people around you. You could even take it a step further and say God gives you the house and the combine and says, here's what I want....for you to be successful in working this land. You say great and get to work. But God walks away. God set you up well but doesn't have any plans to see it through. So then what do you do when your house floods? Or the combine breaks down? or you run short of seed? Or the bugs are particularly bad? How do you keep managing if there's no help around you? You could ask your neighbors...right? But they don't want to help. They want you to fail because if you do, then they can take over your house and your land and get your combine up and running for themselves. Do you see? You need someone, an ally, a helper, to help keep you successful. Not a one and done, but a companion for the journey.
It would be altogether different if God set you up for success and then hung out to help you work through the problems.
It's similar for the Israelites. God didn't give them a house and a combine, but God did give them a place for a new beginning where they could work the land, and grow the crops, and raise the herds, and build a life for themselves. And in that, we don't hear God saying, "good luck, see you later." Instead, we hear God saying, "hey, that doesn't seem to be working out so well, how about you let me show you a few tricks? I could help with that one? Anyone interested in learning from an expert? No?! It's going to get really hairy if you don't listen to me...I taught you the rules for a reason...trust me...you should listen..." And the Israelites didn't. They insisted on doing things their own way...and eventually, they paid the price.
And a lot of us would not be surprised if God simply walked away. "Look, I gave you the land, and the house, the instructions, and the resources to do really well and you didn't take care of it. You didn't listen when I tried to help. Good luck next time." But God doesn't give up. God persists and sticks with them. And God says, it's going to be hard for awhile, you wasted what you had and lost it....that's on you, so, settle in for some hard lessons, but know this....I'm not walking away. I'm not leaving you. I love you. I chose you. I will stick with you. And after things run their course, I'll give you another chance. Why? Because my plan has always been for you to have good things. I want that for you. So, know there is hope in front of you. And when this part is over, I'll still be here and we can start fresh. And I hope that you come to me, that you ask for my advice because I'm willing to help you. I'll give you the best of what I have if you show me you're all in. I need to know you care. I need to know you're willing to see that I know a couple of things that can help you. But we have to do it as a team.
I believe that's how God is with the Israelites. And then through Jesus, we see and hear how God makes those offers to all of us. God wants good things for us. Has great plans for us. And is constantly trying to call us to faithfulness. And a lot of us would like to take the promise and run with it. "God has good plans for me! Plans to prosper me and not to harm me!" But if we want to claim that promise, we have to remember that it comes as part of God's discipline....not in meanness and anger, but in trying to help God's people live good lives...lives that work in concert with God. So we have to ask ourselves....have I been disobedient? Am I following God's laws? Am I working in concert with God? Or am I all about my ways and my dreams and myself?
Part of receiving God's blessings includes walking in God's ways? Have you made faithfulness your priority? This morning's scripture says:
12 "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen.
13-14 "When you come looking for me, you'll find me.
"Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

God's action is a response to our action. When you call on God, when you look for God, when you draw close and pray, when you get serious about finding God....when you are earnest in your relationship with God....God will listen, God will appear, God will show up for you. God is here for us. But not just to rain down blessings and shield us from hardships...God's here to be a partner and partnership takes work. Are you showing up to call on God? to find God? Are you serious about your partnership with God?

Current Church News

  • Christmas Eve Services - Dec 24, 2018

    4:00 PM Family Christmas Eve. This service is especially designed for wiggly, giggly children and is intentionally kept shorter. It will include music by Children's bell choir and leadership from children.

    7:00 PM Traditional Christmas Eve. This service includes music from Choir and Bell Choirs, plus Holy Communion and the Candlelight Ceremony. Child care is provided.

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...