New Sermon Series coming in April!

Submitted by First Brethren on Wed, 02/01/2023 - 2:41pm
New Sermon Series!

              “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

              Consequences can be difficult things. You teach your kids about how actions have consequences; sometimes they are predictable, sometimes they aren’t. But even when you don’t get to choose the consequences for your actions, you have to own them.

              This was certainly true of God’s people in the Old Testament. When Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they swore a covenant with God to worship Him alone and follow His commandments. Should they honor the covenant, they would be blessed. If they broke the covenant, they would be cursed. God spelled out these consequences in Deuteronomy 28. As you probably know, the Jewish people didn’t keep their end of the bargain. They turned to idolatry, pagan customs, sin and corruption, even child sacrifice. They trusted other nations to protect them rather than leaning on God’s promises. God sent them prophets to warn them of God’s coming judgment, but the people and their leaders wouldn’t listen. One of these prophets, Jeremiah, insisted for decades that God would use an ascending Babylonian kingdom to punish Judah if they didn’t repent. But they people would not repent, and as a consequence for their rebellion, God sent His people into exile in Babylon.

              A hard truth about consequences is that sometimes we feel the consequences of other people’s decisions; we experience pain because of someone else’s mistakes. The truth is, not all of God’s people had turned away from the Lord. Many devout Jews died by the sword or starvation when Jerusalem fell. Many others were taken from their homes with only the possessions they could carry. These exiles, confused and bewildered, had to trust that God hadn’t really abandoned them, and that He had a plan for them even now.

              One of these exiles was a teenage boy named Daniel, who was taken to Babylon in the first Jewish exile, about 605 B.C, along with other young men the Babylonian king hoped to train to be leaders within the kingdom. Daniel quickly rose to prominence within the kingdom, as God gave him supernatural wisdom, the ability to interpret dreams, and several visions about God’s plan for the future. Another young man, Ezekiel, was taken in a second group of exiles about a decade after Daniel. Ezekiel, who was from a priestly family, was called by God to be a “watchman”, a prophet to the exiles. Through his message, Ezekiel assured the Jewish remnant that God was not finished with them, but that He would bring them “back to life” and resettle them again in their home.

              These three men- Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, were eyewitnesses to the downfall of the kingdom of Judah. Their lives were at times very difficult, yet God used them for an important purpose. He used their ministries to purify and mold His people, to take away “their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19) And through their lives, God demonstrated that He could (and would) sustain the people He loved even through the most difficult of circumstances.

              This spring, we will begin a new sermon series entitled “Change of Address: Letters from Exile,” that will look at episodes from the lives and ministries of these three prophets. I am looking forward to embarking on this series with all of you, because I believe we can identify with their circumstances, and the lessons God taught through them. Why? I’m glad you asked!

              Let’s be honest, many of us feel like we’re in cultural exile. We can remember a time when it could be honestly said that America was a “Christian nation”. By that, I mean that most of our society was influenced by a common morality that was based in Scripture. But over the last several decades, that foundation has quickly eroded from under us, and we’ve come to the sudden realization that those earnestly seeking to follow Jesus are now a minority. Our cultural influence is waning, and oftentimes unwanted. Behavioral rules we assumed to be basic morality are now often thought to be outdated, if not oppressive and evil. It feels as though we’re in a different world.

              What do we do now? Are we being punished? Has God left us? Will we ever get back to where we came from? And what lies ahead for our children? Questions abound, and it may seem we don’t have answers. What we do have is our hope in Christ, our mission the world, God’s Holy Spirit, and His written Word. And the truth is, there’s a lot written in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel that can teach us today. Lessons like, “God is not done with us.” “We are right where God wants us.” “He is making us pure.” “He is building toward something better.” “We must choose joy over anger and hope over fear.” And “we must maintain our spiritual zeal and not sell out to the culture around us.” Over this 23 week study, we will see how those lessons are laid out during the real lives and ministries of very real people. And we will see that even in the most disorienting of times, God remains with us, and He has a plan which He will work for His glory!