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Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream.” 
Jeremiah 29:4-8

Recently a friend and I were lamenting the coarseness and seeming decline of the culture. As we wondered what it meant for people wanting to faithfully follow Jesus, my friend observed: “We do not have the home-court advantage any longer.” I thought those words of my friend nailed it. The secular, relativistic culture does not cheer Christians or want the Gospel to win. Where we might have once had the home-court advantage, we no longer do. 

Pondering what it means to live in such a culture got me to thinking about the prophet Jeremiah and today’s scripture. Jeremiah writes to Jewish exiles that violently ripped out of their homeland and force-marched hundreds of miles to Babylon. They have suffered the destruction of their homes, temple, way of worship, and government. They are given Babylonian names and indoctrinated into pagan culture. What will it mean for them to live for God in a culture so thoroughly idolatrous and decadent? 

Jeremiah’s first concern for the exiles is that they not deceived by false teachers and politicians with other ideas about how to engage the culture: “Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you…” 

What stands out in today’s scripture is that Jeremiah does not want the exiles to isolate or to assimilate. He does not want them to try and separate from the culture of Babylon or be sucked in by it. Rather, they must live distinctive lives ‘in the world, but not of the world, for the sake of the world’ (See Jesus in John 17:14-16). They must be like salt and light in a debased culture. 

Jeremiah’s counsel to the exiles is much like what many of our elders were taught, and what they wanted to teach us: 

  • Build a house
  • Get married
  • Have children and love them
  • Make yourself productive
  • Pray for your city and country
  • Seek the welfare of the city and country where God planted you

I am struck that in Jeremiah’s counsel there is nothing new or fancy. Nor are there easy answers or quick fixes for 2020 or 2024. There is nothing here you can shrink to a bumper sticker, political slogan, or 140 characters. God’s people are not to stir up trouble, but be godly and good citizens. So build a house. Get married. Raise a family. Plant a garden. Deliver Meals on Wheels. Teach a Sunday School class. Coach Little League. Run for office. Pray for leaders. It won’t get you a write-up and picture in the Babylonian Times, but you will make a difference for today and for eternity. 

And why must we do this? “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel.”

Just some thoughts on winning without a home-court advantage!

A fellow traveler,

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You will bring water from rock for the community.
Numbers 20:8

We take our name from the Bible’s story of the archetypal Exodus journey during which the people of God came to a place in the desert wilderness where there was no water. Yet, it was there in a hostile wilderness that they experienced God’s provision of water for them and leadership into a new future. We trust in a God who still provides, renews and leads His people.

Rooted in the Word

We are a ministry of Christian renewal rooted in the Living Word, Jesus Christ, as He reveals Himself through His Written Word, the Bible. Through the Written Word we encounter the Living Word in the incomprehensible wonder of His love. We are mindful that knowledge, even of the Bible, “puffs up” while love “builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). We engage the Scriptures seeking to love more and know more of love. We purpose to search out God’s Word with both our minds and our hearts.

Ecumenical in Outlook

We honor all followers of Christ who have gone before us, and all who are among us now. We have much to learn and receive from all who have a lived experience of God’s transforming love. By reaching out to embrace the universal Body of Christ we strive to balance orthodoxy (right belief) and right living (orthopraxy).

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
(Rupertus Meldenius, 1582 – 1651)

Experiencing the Living God

We thirst to know God and not just to know about Him. We long for a living experience of God. We believe that God breaks into our world on the holy ground of His Word, and seek through His Spirit a living encounter with Him there. We daily aim to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30).

The arms of God be around my shoulders,
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s church in my hands,
The service of God and the neighbor in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being. Amen.
—Fursey of Yarmouth, 6th century Irish monk

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