Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wow, what a week it has been! There has been so much volatility relating to the markets as we read the headlines. The loonie slides, the TSX plunges as the credit bailout reaches Canada. We read in Jeremiah 45 v4, ‘The Lord said, “Say this to him: ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land.” This verse takes on a whole new meaning for me as it reminds us where we need to place our trust in. We come to Thanksgiving and we are reminded that in everything we need to give thanks and yet it is about so much more. In verse 5 we continue to read, ‘Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. Unfortunately in many ways it has been greed that has got us into this position and may we truly find the spirit of thanksgiving that rests in giving of ourselves, our time, our talents and treasures in such a way that builds up the storehouses of heaven!

We come to holiness through thanksgiving. We can’t lose it even when we are treated unjustly, cheated in a financial way, when there has been a significant loss. It can certainly drain from our lives, but we can’t let it die from our lips. Thankfulness is a concrete step in dying to self. Today we will learn about the relationship that was fostered between Jeremiah and Baruch and the tough, but necessary lessons that bring us to a life of thanks IN giving!

In chapter 36, Jeremiah was confined yet again and had warned not to step foot into the temple courtyard again. The king really had no patience or time for prophets. Now, entering stage left, welcome Baruch. At some point around 605 BC when this took place, we come into contact with a teammate for Jeremiah and it was Baruch. Seeing that his ministry to speak out had been hampered by his lack of mobility, he teamed up with Baruch. Now either Baruch was feeling very sympathetic for him or Jeremiah sought him out. Either way it was a great risk for Baruch to begin ministry with him. He came from a good noble family according to Josephus, a Jewish historian during the time of Jesus. He had a good education and had a job working most likely as one of the city’s officials under King Zedekiah (51 v59 refers to him as a staff officer). Baruch was faithful to read Jeremiah’s prophecies and following the sack of Jerusalem he resided with Jeremiah, he was also arrested with him and either died in Egypt or possibly along with Jeremiah carried captive to Babylon from Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar. Baruch’s name means blessing or happiness so you have to wonder what in the world does Mr. Happiness have in common with the weeping prophet?

Taking risks is inherent of those who receive blessing! 36v1-10; 45v1

In his book Axiom, Bill Hybels, challenges leaders to make the big ask! He writes we tend not to drift into better behaviors. We usually have to be asked by someone to consider taking it up another level. This may be exactly what happened in the case of Jeremiah’s challenge to Baruch. We usually just don’t step up unless we are called upon. It is called the power of invitation. It was also around this time that King Nebuchadnezzar also took the youngest and brightest of Jerusalem’s youth including Daniel. In chapters 25,36 and 45 the message was pretty similar to what the nation had already heard, but now the timing was clear – the captivity would last 70 years and Baruch would be the messenger.

It was a huge risk for him to align himself with Jeremiah. He could have easily stayed in the position that he was in, comfortable and happy, but something stirred in his heart and he knew what he had to do! Gulp, gasp, I just signed up to be your scribe. I don’t remember this being in the job description From the beginning it was a big risk because Jeremiah is asking Baruch to go back to his peers, people who respected him and he also respected. Baruch also knew that the climate was not very favourable and knew that it was a toss up as to how they would respond. However big the risk, you name it – your life, your family, your finances, the more you put on the table, the greater the opportunity for Him to really work and move…however

Don’t get caught up in your own glory…leave the results with God 36 v11-19, 45v2

Initially things look bright and good. He received a positive response from the political leaders. It looked like this was going to be the turning point and Baruch certainly would receive kudos for his part in all this. After he had connections at the palace gates. v15 sit down, please and read it to us However, it goes from a really promising situation to downright scary as King Zedekiah in his act of defiance begins to have the scroll cut into pieces and burned in the fire. Baruch thankfully he wasn’t present to see it and those who had a healthy fear of God hide Jeremiah and Baruch…guilty by association. The king had commanded his military to arrest them both…. It wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out for him. He imagined it quite differently. Jeremiah knew better, he had been in the stocks, the slimy pit. The visions of greatness for Jeremiah had died long ago. This was new to Baruch and Jeremiah must have thought, boy does this sound familiar…

45v2,3 What is the answer to visions of greatness?

v4 Ultimately it is all in God’s hand. Be faithful to your calling, to your life situation and leave the results with him. Yes, work hard at it, be diligent, follow through, but at the end of the day, it is God who builds up and uproots people, situations, you name it. Just like the current financial markets, wisdom and history teaches us not to panic with impulsive decisions.

But let’s be honest, a great deal of the sub prime difficulties began with average people using home equity to finance a third big screen TV, a second SUV and other toys through the use of highly questionable financial instruments. Sure, many were fraudulently propositioned but many were also blinded by greed. I caught a short video on CNN that actually touched on this. It was proposing that greed was no longer in. They felt that there was evidence that people were beginning to take a long hard look at how their lifestyle pursuits were coming back to haunt them.

Laurie Cook World Relief Canada

When there are no guarantees, there is one for the believer – God’s presence. 45v5b

Jeremiah gives Baruch nothing more. He doesn’t make promises of God that are untrue. He tells him straight up, be thankful that you are alive. There aren’t too many people that are going to make it out of this situation. People get discouraged. Baruch was discouraged. He had been certain that Judah would listen and repent, yet the opposite happened. Now he was discouraged. Jeremiah is in a much different place than he was when he too was depressed and when he cursed the day he was born. Have you ever been discouraged? If you have, don’t be afraid to tell others about it especially when they are going through it as well. Matthew 11v28 Come to me all you who are weary and weighed down…Do you know what that means? It means that there are people that are tired and fatigued and often carry heaviness.

Baruch was there and no doubt you have been there as well. If you haven’t taken the time to reflect on how you have been blessed, there is no better time than this weekend to do it!

The Takeaway

There are two parts The greater our risk, the greater the opportunity for blessing.

I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land.

Ok, this may not look encouraging at first, but look at who is in control and reminding us 3 times. God is at work, He is still on the throne. Things are not always going to be good all the time, but when they are, be thankful and when they aren’t remember and be thankful then too. Recognize that if He is your Lord then He is watching over you, through the good and the bad.

Malachi 3v6-12

If we were to lose it all, all the blessings, we still have Him, we have life with Him for eternity.

And none of the blessings of this life could ever measure up to the greatest blessing of all. God brings back the focus and realigns Baruch to center. Don’t lose sight of the goal. We have so much to look forward and experience with Him so look beyond the blessings now as good as they are to the ultimate blessing

v5 Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life. It is a tough pill to swallow. We all want to be recognized and know that what we did made a difference, people came to know the Lord, lives were transformed, a person’s life was really blessed by our generosity or giving. God doesn’t even give Baruch that assurance. He really has absolutely nothing to show for his efforts. God’s words almost seem cold and harsh and coming through the prophet Jeremiah they may have had more of an edge to them as well.

Jeremiah knew how it felt and wasn’t sugar coating God. He was just keeping it really honest and real. It isn’t too popular in our NA culture, but in many parts of the world where the threat of persecution is almost a daily occurrence, the thing they cling to is God’s presence in life and death. They know that He is with them.

Questions For Discussion and Small Groups:

1. Go on a hike with your family and talk about your top 5… the things that you can count on one hand that you are thankful for!

2. When are you most vulnerable to sinking into a low spot?

3. Talk about how we come to holiness through thanksgiving.

4. What holds you back from taking greater risks for the Lord? What is legitimate and what is not?

5. What are your absolute non-negotiables in your relationship with the Lord that keep you from pushing the panic butt

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