Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Living in Babylon part three

This is the third part of a series.  You can view Living in Babylon part two here.

Sometimes we find ourselves, like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, living in circumstances that feel more like exile than home.  Jeremiah's words to those exiles in Jeremiah chapter 29 encourage us today . . .

4.  Listen to the right voices (8-9, 15-23).

Soon after the exile began, false prophets arose among the Jews.  Their popularity soared because they told the people what they wanted to hear.  They declared, "Don't unpack your bags.  You won't be here long.  God loves you too much to keep you here.  We are going home soon."

Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles (chapter twenty-nine) to encourage them but also to warn them to not listen to the false prophets among them.

God's people still love to listen to false voices today.  When life is difficult and we don't get what we want, opposing voices fight for our attention. 

Discouragement will come and whisper, "God has forgotten you.  You are not important to Him anymore.  He has given up on you, and you might as well give up on yourself.  " 

Friends may give poor counsel in attempts to make you feel better.  They may say, "I think God wants you to be happy.  I know you are not supposed to have sex outside of marriage, or participate in that type of entertainment, or cheat on your business, but you need a break.  It's always easier to ask forgiveness later."

As our culture becomes increasingly more pagan like Babylon, false prophets will claim to speak for God.  They may be in the form of a politician, a movie star, or a famous television preacher.  Today those voices may say . . .

"I know the church taught for hundreds of years that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.  But we have evolved in our understanding, and polite society does not accept that belief anymore."

"We can't really believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to have eternal life.  There are many ways to God."

"God doesn't care what you believe.  What he wants is your sincerity."

"You can't tell someone else that you disagree with their lifestyle.  It is wrong to judge."

Today, the church in the United States needs to listen to the voice of God through Jeremiah: "They are prophesying lies to you in my name.  I have not sent them" (9).

Listen to the voices that resonate with the Word of God and the encouragement of the Spirit of God.

5.  God still has His eye on you - even though He may seem out of sight (10).

When we find ourselves in exile it is easy to feel like God has forgotten us.  When your spouse dies.  When the bills increase and the revenue doesn't.  When the wanted pregnancy never comes.  When the promotion or raise seem to pass you over.

These are strange times in America.  These are troublesome times in the world.  As Christians become more marginalized, I sometimes think, "My grandparents and great-grandparents would no longer recognize this country." 

In such times God may feel 1000 miles away.

But He isn't.  He still has those theological qualities I learned as a boy in church.  God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere.  God is omniscient.  He knows everything.

Ken Gaub shares an amazing testimony in his book God's Got Your Number: When you least expect it, He is there!

Feeling forgotten by the Lord, Gaub stopped his Silver Eagle bus at a Dayton, Ohio, exit for his family to get lunch.  Walking outside he heard the continual ringing of a payphone - yes, long before cell phones.  He finally answered it and heard, "Long distance call for Ken Gaub."

Wondering if he were on Candid Camera, Ken was dumbfounded.  Responding to a persistent operator, he accepted the call.  The caller, Millie from Pennsylvania, told him that she was about to commit suicide.  She remembered seeing Gaub on television and thought he could help her, but she did not know how to reach him.  Writing her suicide note, several numbers spontaneously popped into her head.

Picking up the phone and dialing the numbers, she thought that it would be a miracle if she were calling Ken Gaub's office in Washington state.  He explained to her that he was standing inside of a phone booth in Ohio. 

The woman gave her life to Christ over the phone and began mapping her life in a new direction.  Gaub writes, "I walked away from that telephone booth with an electrifying sense of our Heavenly Father's concern for each of His children."

God sees you.  He knows.  You trust Him and be faithful.

He's got your number.

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