Broken for Your Place: Part 1, Jeremiah 29:1-14by Nick Gatzke on October 1, 2012
Dr. Nick Gatzke
Osterville Baptist Church
Series: The 1.5 Push
Broken for Your Place: Part 1
Throughout the course of my time in college at the Moody Bible Institute, I had three different roommates. As it turns out, God called all four of us to be missionaries. My cousin Jeremy is a missionary pastor in Thailand. My friend Nate is a missionary pilot with SIM based in Nairobi, Kenya. Then there is Jon. Jon is a missionary in France. Not just any old part of France, though. He is a missionary in the French Alps……The French Alps. He is really suffering for Jesus.
When Amy and I lived in London, we would hop a commuter flight over to Geneva, Switzerland and visit Jon. He was first ministering in a city called Annecy. Annecy is an incredibly gorgeous city that is positioned on a large lake with the mountain range on the other side of the lake. The city was well kept, it was constructed with beautiful old world French architecture, the food was fantastic, the people were nice, and there was always plenty of do. Jon could spend his free time rowing on the lake, hiking in the Alps, skiing in the winter, or just walking through the beautiful city. Suffering for Jesus? Sounds more like heaven than a mission field.
Now Jon ministers in a town called Bonneville, which is a French town tucked between Geneva and the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. Needless to say, we would consistently make our digs at Jon about ministry in such a beautiful place and how we all wished the Lord would call us to serve in paradise.
Then God called Amy and me to serve Him on Cape Cod. Before you know it, I was on the receiving end of jabs from my friends. Seriously, what’s not to love? I love Cape Cod! - The beaches and beach culture, the moderate weather, the great seafood, village life, the uniqueness of each village, the boats, the fishing, the National Sea Shore. Suffering for Jesus? Sound more like heaven than a mission field.
But you know what? Underneath all of the exterior beauty of Annecy and Bonneville, France and underneath all of the exterior beauty of Cape Cod lies a place that is very dark, very worldly, and very, very lost. Spiritually speaking, this is a place of exile.
As I shared with you a few weeks ago, according to research, Barnstable-Yarmouth, Massachusetts is tied for the second least Evangelical metro area is nation. 1.5% of the population here has been identified as having a personal relationship with Jesus. Statistically, that places this region among the unreached people groups of the world. The “Gospel Presence” here is sparse.
This reality led us to begin this series that we are calling “The 1.5 Push” because we are convinced that the way the Cape is going to be reached for Christ is through God raising up His people to take seriously their roles as his ambassadors. No big events. No flashy programs. Just you and me sharing our lives with our neighbors and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with in that relational context.
How did we get to this place? Why haven’t Christians been doing this along? There are many reasons to be sure. A few weeks ago we touched on what God wants and what God wants of us. Today we are going to talk more specifically of about “our place” because I believe that one of the biggest reasons why we haven’t see the gospel expand here is that we have not been adequately broken for this place. We love it and all that it has to offer, but we haven’t been broken for the people here.
Make no mistake about it, this is a land of spiritual exile. But God’s Word has a message for those who are in exile and I believe that it is pertinent to our study today. It is found in Jeremiah 29:1-14.
Israel had been conquered and many of them had been carried off into exile in Babylon. They were waiting there, in a foreign land under the rule of a foreign king. They were in physical and in spiritual exile and their spiritual situation was really not that different than Evangelicals on Cape Cod. We are the drastic minority, we are called by God to a specific task, and we don’t exactly know how to get there.
Jeremiah the prophet wrote this letter in Chapter 29 from Jerusalem to those in exile in Babylon. It was in response to some false prophecies coming from a man named Hananniah who was claiming that Israel would be brought out of exile in only 2 years, when in fact it would be much longer.
In response, Jeremiah wrote this to the exiles to encourage them and I believe it has some transferrable principles for us who live in Spiritual Exile here in this time and this place.
This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 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. 7 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.” 8 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. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Vs. 1-3 are the introduction that sets the context. We’ve set the context above so I will not elaborate on it here.
Vs. 4– 9 – Becoming invested in your place
Vs. 4 states that the LORD was the one that carried them into exile. Now in the time, I’m sure that not one of them said, “I wonder if God is bringing us to this place,” and yet, God’s sovereign hand was involved there.
When I look at the number of families that come to this place from all over the country, it seems that many of them do not know how they got here, or more importantly, why they are here. Whether you’ve been here 20 years or just a few months, the truth is that a Sovereign God brought you to this place for sake of fulfilling His purposes.
Let’s be clear. You are here, during this time and this place because God ordained it. Some of you might say, “but I don’t want to live in spiritual exile.” Believe me, nobody chooses that intentionally, but if this is where God has you for this time and this place, then it is the best possible place you can be.
Since God has ordained it for them to be in exile, what he says in verse 7 is profound and has implication for us here today. Vs. 7 – “Seek the 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.”
Seek the prosperity of your place. What does prosperity look like in God’s economy? Certainly, it has practical or material implication and it has spiritual implications.
Practically, you all know what prosperity looks like. That is why you get involved in your local community, in local service, taking part in local elections. Pray for your place that it may enjoy prosperity.
These are all parts of becoming invested. Dig deep roots. Make relationships. Impact your community. Why? Because God has called you to this time and to this place and until he calls you some place else, dig deep roots.
We also see in the text that part of God prospering a place is when His people become significantly invested in it. He commands the people to:
· Build houses and settle down
Plant gardens and eat produce
Increase in number
Marry and have kids
Give your kids in marriage
It doesn’t sound like he expects them to go somewhere else anytime soon, does it? He expects them to settle and invest.
Spiritually, what does prosperity look like? Plainly, exiles are to pray for their land. It is no coincidence that within the leadership of our church, an increased focus on prayer has been brewing and is now being enacted at the same time of the ideas for the 1.5 Push. It not mere happenstance that believing prayer happens on Wednesday morning with Men, Saturday Morning with women, in Thrive Groups 5 nights a week, and through the many men and women that are signing up to pray in our prayer chapel on Sunday mornings and this results in God working among the exiles. It is not a mistake that the pastors of the Glory of God on Cape Cod prayer movement were just this month talking about how the Lord is stirring up an increased desire and burden for evangelism across many of the churches on the Cape. Believing prayer ignites a place for God. Of course, He is going to prosper a place like that.
There is a confluence of events that happening right now and it marked by the reality that Prayer is almost always accompanied by the sharing of the Gospel by God’s people. This is an integral part of taking up your role as an Ambassador.
Ambassadors are people who are involved. God uses people who show up. Now let’s be honest. The idea of 1.5% reaching the 98.5% percent of an entire community as large as Barnstable-Yarmouth can be a bit overwhelming. But realistically, I think we need to ask ourselves a practical question: What is the specific area that God is calling us to minister to?
Remember: God has placed us in this time and this place to accomplish His purposes.
I think we need to consider the area God will hold us responsible for in 2 levels
Level 1: What is the area our church is responsible for?
Level 2: What is the area my family is responsible for?
God has placed our church family in the middle of Osterville Village, during this specific time in history to accomplish His purposes. He have given us a sphere of influence in the mid-Cape and asked us to take responsibility for it. Likewise, God has placed your local church family in its present location during this specific time in history to accomplish His purposes and He asks each church to take responsibility for their place.
God has also ordained my family to live in the neighborhood that we do during this time in history to accomplish His purposes. What does God want? He wants that all will be saved and that none will perish. There are 70-some houses in my neighborhood and I now look at these houses as our mission field. What that looks like for us is that engage with and try to “do life” with these people. When we walk around the neighborhood, we don’t just bump into our neighbors, we actually stop and talk to them. We try to get to know them. We make our presence in this neighborhood consistent. This is our mission field.
Now, it doesn’t happen over night. It doesn’t happen in a month, or even a year. But I will guarantee you this: For however long the Lord has us living in that neighborhood there will be ambassadors of Jesus Christ who are looking for an opportunity to share the Gospel.
Do you think about your neighborhood that way? If you don’t, it’s time to start. 1.5% - and your calling is to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ. It starts very specifically with those people in your sphere of influence.
Vs. 7 –“Seek the 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. “
Our Sovereign God has placed you where you are in this time and this place to accomplish His purposes
Vs. 10-11 – God has a plan for His Place and These People
He goes on to say, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” 70 years! This represents an entire generation! Some will be born, raised, live, and die while in exile.
There are some of you that have lived on Cape Cod for a long time. Perhaps all you’ve known of this place is spiritual exile. But do you know what the comforting thing about this is. It might feel like a long time to Israel and it might feel like a long time to those of you that have been here on the Cape, but the Sovereign God has a specific amount of time in His plan. The same Sovereign God that has called you to this time and this place is going to accomplish his specific purposes in His specific time. For Israel it was 70 years. For Cape Cod, we don’t know. But we do know that He makes this promise:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (vs. 11) And that, my friends, is comforting when you live in exile. God has ordained this to happen, and He will work in it.
70 years, that takes “staying power,” doesn’t it? And for many of you it has taken “staying power” as ambassadors. And maybe you puttered out along the way. Or maybe you get excited about the statistics and the 1.5 Push for awhile, but after while, things get busy, life moves on and it fades away. But if the 1.5 is going to affect the 98.5 it can’t fade away. You need staying power. How are you going to get it? I see two ways:
1. You need Fuel – Prayer to keep you going
2. You need to adopt the completely different identity that we talked about before. You are not here to be good at your job. You are not here to simply live life in this little piece of paradise. You are not here just have good environment to raise your family or a nice place to retire. You are here in this time and this place to accomplish God’s purposes, and these other things are simply here as a vehicle to make that happen. When you start to look at your through that lens, 1.5% begins to look at 2.5% and then 3.5% and it is met with prayer and consistency and staying power and…..revival.
He has plans for you. He has plans for Cape Cod. He has plan for His people who live here. God has placed you where you are in this time and this place to accomplish His purposes.
Vs. 12-14 – God’s plan is enacted through His people drawing near to him.
Call and Pray – He will listen
Seek me with all your heart – you will find me
With all your heart
What are the things your heart longs for more than the things of God?
If those are not replaced with having your affections in line with God’s heartbeat, the 1.5% will stay 1.5%. If however, we engage God with everything we have then he promises to:
Restore you to your rightful place. For Israel, their rightful place was back in Jerusalem. Out of Exile. For Cape Cod, their rightful place is out of Spiritual exile. It doesn’t mean that God is going transplant us to Dallas, or Atlanta or Colorado Springs, those seemingly spiritually vibrant places. It does mean that He will again be known among the towns and villages of the Cape.
Only 1.5% have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and God has placed you here in this time in this place to accomplish His purposes. What do you do next?
1. I think the first step is to go home and look at a map of your neighborhood and ask God what area he wants you to be His ambassador for.
2. Consider yourself a missionary and this your mission field.
Not for the short term, but for the long haul.
3. Start today, praying for the people in this place. Pray, “God break my heart for these people.” Pray for them by name, by house number, by block. Ask God to show Himself to them. Ask God to bless them. Ask God to give you opportunity to build relationships with them. Ask God to give you opportunity to share your faith with them.
God has called YOU to this time and this place to accomplish His purposes. Let's engage together.