Levi Lusko - You Blew It. Now What?
This is the finale of a series of messages called "Thank You, Next". And what we're trying to do is identify what are maybe some of the most loved but least understood passages of scripture in the Bible. And I reached out to my buddy Bobby Grunwald. Bobby is an amazing leader. He works at a church called Life Church, pastored by my friend, Pastor Craig Groeschel. But Bobby is one of the most innovative thinkers literally on the planet. And a long time ago when the iPhone first came out, he had this idea that he went to his pastor, Pastor Craig, with and said, hey, what if we put an app out there that could allow people to download the Bible on the iPhone? And so they were, can you believe this, first to market with a Bible app when the iPhone first opened up the App Store.
And so this church in Oklahoma just had a vision to put the resource into this app that has at the moment of this preaching of this message been downloaded on over 500 million iPhones around the world. Raise your hand up if you have the YouVersion app on your phone. Exactly, yeah. That's because this guy Bobby said, well, what if? And he took that step of faith, and this church invested resources in it. And so I reached out. I texted Bobby. I said, Bobby, could you talk to the team at YouVersion and ask them, what is the most highlighted verse in the entire YouVersion history? What is the verse that most people are highlighting and sharing and putting on a wallpaper to put on their phone background? What is the verse that really gets people hot and bothered, spiritually speaking, when it comes to the Bible?
And Bobby wrote back and he said, it is the granddaddy of them all. The granddaddy of them all is Jeremiah 29:11. And it was a confirmation for me, because I had kind of scratched down a list of verses I wanted to cover in this series. And so when he told me that, I said, I'm saving that one for last. We're going to end this series with the granddaddy. I know I called John 3:16 the granddaddy of them all, but according to Bobby it's Jeremiah 29:11. Anybody know themselves some Jeremiah 29:11? Yeah, here's what it says. It says on the screen here. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. How good is Jeremiah 29:11, y'all? Anybody thankful that we have a God who said, hey, you want to know what I'm thinking? You want to know what's on my mind? It's thoughts about you, first of all. He says, do your feet hurt? Because you've been running through my mind all day.
And what are you thinking, he says? He says, I'm thinking thoughts of goodness and not of evil. No wonder that's the most underlined, shared, clipped verse in YouVersion's history. It is a verse that blesses us like crazy. I remember when I gave my life to Jesus as a freshman in high school. I got a Bible. I got a new Bible, I should say. And my new Bible, I wanted to put a verse on it. And so I went to the little bookstore, and they could engrave a verse on it in foiling. And I said, I want Jeremiah 29:11 on it. I still have that Bible sitting in my study. And I pick it up sometimes and read through the notes and read through the things I wrote. I mean literally, you know, bibles have empty pages. Some of you are like, there's a physical version of this thing that I read on my phone? Yes, there is. You should get one sometime. They're awesome. And they have all these white pages. And on that Bible, every possible inch of white space is full of little things I wrote down in sermons and little things I wrote down that God was speaking to me, little verses that I wanted to remember.
There's a few girls' phone numbers in there, too. That's the Cheesy Pick-Up Lines for $500, Bob, right? Like if you say to a girl, hey, I noticed that my Bible is incomplete. It says it has the Book of Numbers, but yours isn't in it. That's how you get it, that's how you get it. I'm telling you, you're welcome. Some of you, one day you're going to say, "I want to introduce you to my fiance, Levi". And you're going to point back to the finale of "Thank You, Next" as to how we got that done together. But I wanted it on the cover. And I remember every time I picked that Bible up, just being blessed remembering and thinking that God is thinking about me. And so that's where we're going today. And yet to fully understand and to really get our hearts around Jeremiah 29:11, we have to broaden our horizons and not just look at this one little verse, but to really understand the context of it. Let me just brace you for impact. It gets a lot worse before it gets better, all right?
So we're starting with the understanding that we're going to end up at God's thinking about you, and his thoughts are good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. But before we get there, we first have to get our hearts around that wonderful line from Princess Bride. "Cheer up, Wesley. I'll most likely kill you in the morning". Right? Which is where he lived for a while. It got good, and he became the Dread Pirate Roberts himself, but it started out with just, have a good night's sleep. You're probably going to die tomorrow, OK? So that's where we're going to get to by way of, it's not so good on the way there. And my shoe is untied. So we're going to deal with that so I don't fall off the stage and die, and our insurance rates will go up and all the things. And Jeremy 29, year is 597 BC, so 2,600 years ago. It says, "now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem".
So you want to underline that because where is Jeremiah at when he's writing? If you're going to be a good student of the Bible, you've got to be a journalist. And to be a journalist, what do you do? Who, what, when, where, why, how, right? So who is this letter written by? Well, we were just told. It's a letter written by Jeremiah. And where is he writing from? Jerusalem. And who is he writing to? To the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive. Who are those leaders? Priests, prophets, all the people Nebuchadnezzar carried away from Jerusalem to where? Babylon. So he's in Jerusalem. There's a bunch of leaders, presumably originally from Jerusalem, who have been carried away by who? Nebuchadnezzar. To where? To Babylon. OK, so that's what's going on, basically.
And then, there's a parentheses that just gives more information that is not going to mean a whole lot to us. This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths, it's not the family. It's like blacksmiths, valuable people who do certain things in industry, had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasa. So now, we're getting to know our UPS driver. The son of Shaphan, and Gemariah, the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah the king of Judah sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. So that's all the biographical information that gives us the understanding and the context of the circumstances that were taking place. These, by the way, are real people, and this lines up with real history.
And I always point out that when you're reading the Bible, it never starts out with a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And when we recite the Apostles' Creed, we talk about Jesus suffering under Pontius Pilate. This dates our faith and roots it in actual, verifiable, archaeologically sound data, right? So we know who. We know what. We know when. We know where. It's not vague. It's not like a fable. It's not like these things are very unclear. It's rooted in events that actually took place, OK? So a bunch of people were kidnapped and taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon, and this is what Nebuchadnezzar did. He was the king of Babylon. Babylon, at the time, was the reigning superpower on the earth. And what they would do is conquer people in battlefield.
First, they would send letters and say, hey, we're coming. And the gates of hell are coming with us, right? Our arrows will blot out the sun. Then, we will fight in the shade, right? And they would say, surrender now and be basically a vassal state under us or perish. And inevitably, people would put up a fight. And so they would conquer them until they had to say uncle. And then here's what they would do. They would take all the leaders, and they would take the best and the brightest, and they would bring them to Babylon, leaving some meager amount of people there in the country to run and be farmers. And of course, they would have huge taxes imposed now, and their empire would get bigger. They didn't actually intend to run that country. They just wanted it to be subservient to them. But the cream of the crop would be brought in, and they would be brainwashed, right?
This is events that we know about in the Book of Daniel, where Shadrach and Meshach and Abednago and Daniel all were apparently the smartest of the whole country. And so they were put into positions of authority. And this is how Nebuchadnezzar would grow his kingdom. But Jeremiah, the prophet who wrote the book that bears his name, he also wrote a book called Lamentations in the Bible. If you ever feel like you're having a bad day, give it a read because it was worse. He wrote, ministering both to the remaining people who lived still in Jerusalem and Judah, but also as identified in the pre-script, he wrote to those who had been carried away captive. And so he's basically going to speak into their situation, which is bleak.
All right, thus, verse 4, says the Lord of hosts, big deal. Meaning this is coming from me, but it's actually coming through me. I'm not writing on my behalf. This isn't Jeremiah's opinions or thoughts. When a prophet identified himself as writing thus sayeth the Lord, meaning this isn't my opinion, he's like, here's God speaking to your situation, right? To all who were carried away captive, whom I, God, have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon... now, we have a problem. Problem is, this terrible situation, God is saying, this is me. I'm working in these events.
Now, we need to have some understanding of why God would do that. And to have understanding of that, we have to remember that when God established the nation of Israel, he through his servant Moses, and then reiterated through Joshua, told the people, so long as you walk with me, so long as you walk this way, Aerosmith song, so long as you do the things I've called you to do, there is not a nation on Earth who is going to be able to oppose you. Every place you put the sole of your foot, I will prosper you. They will not be able to fight you. They will not be able to oppose you. You will go up in battle against them. And even though you're going to be smaller than they are militarily, every single one of them will be vanquished in front of you. But if your heart turns away from me, and how am I going to know if your heart turns away from me? If you put other things in place of me. If money becomes more important to you, if sex becomes more important to you, how will you know if these things happen?
Well, if you start departing from how I've laid out how your marriages should go and families should go and life should go. If you turn to idolatry, which is what all the surrounding people did, then your heart's going to be pulled away from me. And if you do that, the power that I've given to you that causes you to be untouchable militarily will essentially be taken away from you. And your enemies will have the key and the code to take out your force shields, like in Star Wars. And once that happens, you will be laid waste in battlefield, battle after battle, and you'll be taken away captive. So God told them this before it ever even happened. And then when they started to wander, when they started to want to be like the other people, when they started to value sex and value money and value prestige in a way that the other people of the world did, and their humility began to erode, God sent prophets to warn them. God sent prophets to call them back to him.
Elijah and Elisha and many other righteous prophets warned them warned them, warned them. Well, 722 BC, the northern tribes of Israel, which was the 10 northern tribes, got taken away by the Assyrians in captivity. And so prophets started to warn the southern two tribes. And they said to Judah, because there was a civil war, and they split north from south, look, this is going to happen to you too, if you don't repent. And even after watching God's promises come to pass, they still stopped keeping the Sabbath, which was one of the ways that God said you can show me that you trust me, by once every week taking a day to not put your career first, to not put making money, I know, we're going to make hay while the sun shines, but you'll show that you care about me more than money by taking one day a week to rest from your efforts. To have a day to worship, to have a day to reconnect with yourself, to reconnect with me, to reconnect with your family.
It's interesting the commandment for the Sabbath, which was in, of course, one of the original lists of the Ten Commandments, it goes like this. You shall do no work on the Sabbath, and there shall also be a day of rest and shelter for the foreigner who is among you and even your animals. And someone wisely pointed out that when we stop taking the Sabbath, we start to feel like a foreigner inside our own bodies. And we start to feel like an animal, a workhorse. And interestingly enough, the two big things that cost them their freedom and ended up with them in captivity was idolatry and a failure to keep the Sabbath. And I think these two are closely connected because, why do we not rest? It's because other things are more important than God in our lives. So inevitably, they work together. It will be idolatry that will keep us from resting, and resting then that will turn us to idolatry.
And so that's what happened for 490 years. You have to imagine, God was not in a hurry to judge them. This was a slow process, a slow slide, a slow decline. And all along the way, there were prophets and leaders and people, prophetess raising their arms going, stop, turn around. This is not going to go well. Come on. When we were on God's side, Goliath couldn't kill David. When we were on God's side, the Midianites couldn't kill Gideon's 300. When we were on God's side, Jericho's walls fell down. And all we did was walk and yell really loud. But when we are not on God's side, you're going to find out what we can do in our own strength, which y'all is not a pretty sight. And so that's why God is speaking to them, saying this is the captivity that I have caused to happen because I told you it would come if you didn't obey me.
But now, you see the colon after verse 4. Verse 5 is basically him shifting into, here's what to do. Here's what needs to happen next. Build houses, and dwell in them. Plant gardens, and eat their fruit. Take wives, and beget sons and daughters. And take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands so that they may bear sons. Increase there, and do not be diminished. And verse 7, seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive. And pray to the Lord for it, for in its peace, you will have peace. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed for they prophesy falsely to you in my name. There was basically prophets who the moment they got taken away captive started to tell people what they wanted to hear.
And what the people wanted to hear was, we're going back soon. We're going back to Jerusalem. We're going back immediately. Don't unpack your bags. Don't settle in here. God's not going to keep us here long. We're going back immediately. And basically, Jeremiah is going... that's not accurate. These are liars. God did not say that. And so you need to know that's not true. For thus says the Lord, verse 10, what is the truth about it? And I'm going to do a double knot this time on this shoe because this one's come undone now. This is the casual reading of the Bible while tying the shoe that you came for. For thus says the Lord, after 70 years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.
Because Jeremiah is still in Jerusalem. Return to this place, for I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then, you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord. And I will bring you to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.
And so, Father, having read your word, we ask this as we take a few moments to consider what it means, God. What it meant not only to those who originally heard it, but what it means to us now as you continually speak to us through your word. And in the New Testament, this age of grace that we live in, this church age that Jesus has opened up for us, this new and better way, we look back on the Old Testament, knowing that Peter told us that whatever was written before was written for our learning, that we would have hope. And so I pray, God, that as we understand the implications of these words for our present day situations (yes, 2,600 years removed) there really is nothing new under the sun. We tend to gravitate towards the same shiny objects that caused hooks to be put in mouths long ago. And we today, God, are still dealing with these same things. And so I pray you would breathe fresh life into this moment, both for us as a church gather, a church online, but also those listening to this later on Spotify and YouTube and however you would through your spirit take this message and send it to the four corners of the Earth. And I pray that there would be hope and a returning to you that would take place in this moment, Jesus. And we ask this, believing that anybody today who is far from you, whether because they've never come to you or because they've wandered and backslid, would be drawn back to you. And we pray this, believing for peace as a result, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Title of my message is "You Blew It, Now What?" You blew it. Now what? Of course, all of us can resonate with the idea of that great Billy Madison quote. You blew it! If you can't, I pity you, honestly. Shampoo is better, right? Conditioner is better. Stop looking at me, swan. You blew it, right? That hits differently for each of us. We all feel that on different ways. We all can think of regrets in our lives. We all can think of things.
Look, if I had the power of a mulligan in life, especially as you get older, you look back on different seasons of your life that you wish you could go and live again with the present knowledge and wisdom that you have now. I think about if I could live life again, I would have never gotten addicted to pornography as a sixth grader. And I think about how different my life would have been had I not brought to salvation and brought to my marriage the frustration and the heartache that came from those hours spent poring over those magazines my friend's dad kept in a box in his garage that I was exposed to as a young person. He said, well, you can take some of these home with you, and that I buried, literally buried in my backyard, knowing full well this was wrong.
And knowing I felt empty every single time I indulged in that time of fantasy, knowing the depression that came as a result and the way it made it so much more difficult for me to relate to sexuality and my eventual wife in the way that God intended for me to, without the hours having been spent poring over the bodies of women who were not my wife. Who were, in fact, not for me at all. And the way in which that touched my soul in a dark way. Knowing what I know now, listen to me, young people, I would never have said yes to those temptations then.
I think about, even as a young leader, if I could restart Fresh Life Church all over again. We're 15 years in, and as I think back, I don't regret the sermons that I preached. I don't regret the messages. I don't regret the intensity and the zeal of youth. All of those things are good, all of the fire. I think it does take a little bit of sanctified ego to get anything off the ground in this world. It takes a little bit of drive. It takes a little bit of moxie. It takes a little bit of, show me where the gates of hell, and I'll go in there with a water gun, right? It takes a little bit of that. I respect anybody who starts anything. I respect anybody who creates anything because of what it takes to see something go from zygote to actual living, breathing organization.
I'm telling you, I applaud those who create much more than those who criticize. I'm telling you, leading something, starting something, building something like a business, a song, a book, anybody who does anything to better themselves or get in shape, I just respect it because it is so much easier to sit back and criticize, and point out why it doesn't work and all the problems. I'm telling you, I'm with Teddy all day long. It's not the critic who counts. It is that man or woman in the arena whose face is marred by dust and blood, right? I'm telling you. So I don't regret any of that drive. I don't regret any of my youthful zeal. But I do look back on the shadow side of that and the way that it can hurt people along the way, that intensity and some of that ruthlessness, and some of that drive and some of the unyielding.
And as I look back on my younger years, I wish I could get a mulligan on some conversations. And maybe some of the insensitivity that along the way, in the name of doing something good, that can creep into life. I think about even my own family and marriage and kids. And I want to have a good time. I want them to have fun. And when they're not working, it's got to be so wonderful. But the shadow side of that again, where you're stripping the gears, relationally speaking, of having a good vacation. We've got to get there on time! Why? So we can have fun and love each other! Anybody relate here at all? I know it's not Father's Day, but getting a little bit off of my chest of, what's the actual point here, right? Super pissed at your spouse for being late to date night so you can tell them how much you love them, I'm so frustrated with you! Why? Because I'm trying to love you!
And at times, what you're setting out to do is sending mixed messages with what you're actually doing. And maybe I'm the only one, but I've written in my journal more times than I know. Today, I'm not going to be frosty. Today, I'm not going to be huffy. Today, I'm not going to be edgy. Today, I'm going to have a really long trigger pull and not have a hair trigger. And then, things happen and you look back on it with regret. If I could have a mulligan over yesterday, if I had the power to get to the end of the day. I don't know if you've ever watched your kids sleep, parents. When you watch your kids sleep, you just rethink everything. You rethink everything. You stand there in the doorway, and you think about anything unkind. You think about the times when they were trying to get your attention, and you were on your phone. You think about all those moments that if you could get them back, and I'm not an empty nester yet, but every conversation I've ever had with any empty nester has made me rethink all parenting, right?
Not that this one's unimportant, not that there's not at times hard conversations, but of course just that sense of what was so important then, I just look back at differently. And as a pastor and having been in many deathbed situations of course in my life, and having been in many end of life moments and having watched many people face the hardships of funerals, it's just different how you look back versus when you're in it. And the common denominator, it seems, to everybody who gets to the end of something, is to look back with some regret. And that metallic taste in your mouth of the heartache of, if I could go back and do it differently, I would.
And for all of us, we bring something different to this conversation of, you blew it. Now what? And I think what's so hard for these people, the Jews, in this captivity is they say, if you have a limb amputated, you have something called phantom limb sensation where you still have nerve endings firing, telling you of pain in a part of your body that's not even there anymore.
My daughter played, and plays, on the tennis team at her high school. And on her tennis team this last year, he just graduated, was a senior whose name is Joe Brandt. And I have such respect for him because he lost his hand as a young child in a lawn mowing accident at home, but has gone on in life. I'm telling you, this guy plays tennis better than most people with four hands would ever play tennis with one hand. And to watch him be able to serve the ball and hit it, and the strength and the grace and the grit, and just has been such an inspiration to so many people. But having lost a hand, there would still be in his brain the pain sensation for a hand that's no longer there anymore. What I experienced though, is that can be true of people and not just limbs.
When our daughter died and went to heaven as a five-year-old, there was for so long phantom limb sensation but for a person. And anybody who's ever grieved the loss of someone, you still feel all of those feelings of wanting to hug and wanting to love and wanting to protect and wanting to buy gifts for and all the phantom love sensations. It doesn't go away just because that person's not on this earth anymore. But interestingly enough, I was this week listening to a podcast that was discussing the way in our brain we can even have those sorts of exact pain sensations for places. You have in the hippocampus portion of your brain something called place cells.
By the way, if everybody could just help me out with this sermon. Right now, just in your mind imagine your bedroom. Imagine the layout of your bed. Imagine the layout of anything at the foot of your bed, one of those little couch things. What do they call them? Michael Scott slept on his. There was a little love seat thing at the foot of his bed. And oh, no, it's comfortable. Jan sleeps there, I sleep here. It's wonderful. Huge TV, big swivel mount, it's awesome. And the Dundee went into the TV. But if you can in your mind, imagine your bed. How would you navigate to go to the bathroom in the dark in the night without cussing? I caught that sucker yesterday, and I almost let her rip. I caught it though, Ben, right at the last second. I'm a Christian. But in your brain right now, you don't even realize this is happening.
As you imagine the orientation of your bedroom, place cells fire in your hippocampus. You can literally feel yourself navigating around it. But did you know that if someone went in the night and changed everything in your bedroom, you would have those same things fire as you try to navigate it, but with the place no longer where it should be. Instead of place, something called trace cells would fire. And trace cells fire in the hippocampus any time there's an expectation of an orientation to be a certain way, place wise, situation wise, as you navigate your life wise. And when it's not there, it literally fires a different kind of cell, which exposes distress in the brain. It's a sort of grief over what you're expecting your reality to be like that's not that way anymore.
And I thought that's so profound because isn't it a sort of grief? Isn't it a sort of grief to have place be like you thought it was going to be, where you were at in life, where you thought you were going to be at in life. It's almost like there's a sense in which we experience duress. And one study has found that the grief feeling that comes over your body physiologically is something that's similar to depression, but is different and distinct from depression. And they found that antidepressants do not work on grief the same way they actually work on depression, so it's something different happening entirely. And I think it's so appropriate for us to sort of feel all of that because of Jeremiah writing to people who are still bumping their legs into imaginary coffee tables that aren't even there anymore, because they're not in their home. They were carried away captive to somewhere else.
And it was trace firing after trace firing after trace firing for them, the phantom limb of the life that they always thought they were going to be living in Israel, and now they're captive. They blew it. Jeremiah wrote them to say, now what? Because according to Psalm 137, their response was to hang their harps up on the tree. Read Psalm 137, and feel the bittersweet regret of them waking up in Babylon. Talk about the morning after. Talk about, what did I do last night? This is waking up in a jail cell, being told what you did last night, and realizing with a sickening feeling in your stomach now, you may not have a job. You may not have a spouse.
Some of you listening to me in Deer Lodge Prison right now as you hear this message, the trace cells firing in your brain still from the home that you haven't been in, in years. And you're saying, I blew it, I blew it. I shouldn't have been friends with him. I shouldn't have been there. I shouldn't have thought I could control myself. I shouldn't have trusted myself over to this substance, to be under its control. And Jeremiah says, and the question we ought to be asking is, now what? Some of you are tempted to keep your harps hung up on the willow trees, to say I can't sing a song of praise here in this foreign land because I belong here. I deserve to be here. This is the prodigal son saying, I'm no longer worthy to be called your son because of what I did. And I have no one to blame but me. Here am I, in this new normal. So now what, Jeremiah writes.
And you would be wondering, Levi, what does this have to do with us? Because even though we're dealing with all of this, the Covenant is different, and the Old Testament may not apply to us in the same way. Actually, it does more than you even know. Because according to First Peter 1:1 and James 1:1, we today are currently living still in exile from heaven. Our true home is heaven. Where we belong is in the presence of God, a place with no pain, a place with no death, a place with no mourning and no grief and no sorrow and no despair. And that's why we still have the phantom sensation of heaven's pull. That's why all of us still are longing for immortality. None of us can accept the finality of death because as we stare at the casket, something inside of us says, that's not how things should be. That's the pull of heaven. You're in exile. Heaven and God's presence is your true throne. That's why none of us bat an eye when in movies, we see animals talk. Maybe just maybe it's because we know that should be how it is.
And CS Lewis imagines, maybe that's how it will one day be. There is a sense in which this whole world has gotten stupider, in which this whole world has become sort of off kilter. It is the way it is. And there's beauty in it when the sun rises. There's beauty in it when you see the Grand Canyon. But it's almost like there's a glitch to it, isn't there? Because then, someone has an aneurysm, and then someone has a stroke. And then, heck, Justin Bieber's face can't move. And we just see there's a perfection to this world that's how it should have been, and we know that deep down. But there's also a brokenness to it because just as it starts to get good, something bad happens. We're exiles from heaven. So this letter is more pertinent than we could possibly understand. So what do we do when we blew it? Because all of us did. Collectively, humanity did. That's how we ended up in exile. I'm going to give you the tips to getting straight A's in exile today.
Five things that we can do to get straight A's in exile. The first is build up your anticipation. Straight A's, this is going to be the report card I never got today. What do I mean by anticipation? Anticipation is the confident expectation of something about to happen. If you've read any of my books, you've heard me talk about tiptoes. I love the idea of living on tiptoes. It is a thoroughly biblical concept. The Bible says very little positive about flat footed living, living with your arms crossed. Sort of like well, we'll see what happens. Well, maybe it will be, maybe it won't be. It is what it is, right? Story of my life, right? There's this sense of just kind of waiting to see what comes of it. I'm telling you, the Bible talks about building yourself up on your faith, about living on your tiptoes, of craning your necks to see what God has up his sleeves.
And that is exactly what Jeremiah says to these captives, to these people who think their best days are behind them, to these who think that there's no way they could ever get back to good. God says, I've got plans for you, plans that are good and not evil. So get you up on your tiptoes. I dare you to believe I've got something in store. And I think it is so important, church, for us to hear the power of God saying, I know the thoughts that I think toward you. Why? Three things, jot them down really quickly. Because number one, we are really bad at predicting God's thoughts. A lot of us have filled in God's thought bubbles incorrectly in our lives. We have assumed he was mad at us. We have assumed he wanted to judge us. We have assumed he was overlooking us. We have assumed that he has his eye on everybody else but us. We have assumed that he dropped the ball when it came to how we were built. And he didn't know what he was doing when he gave us the gifts he did and the home we were born in and the trials that we face.
And that's why we go well, why, God, if you're a God of love, would you, we fill in the thought bubbles wrong. When in fact, he says, I have thoughts towards you that outnumber the sand of the seashore. When he says, I've got your name written on the palm of my hand. When he says, I am constantly thinking about you, entirely devoted to you, that I see you like a beloved son. You're the apple of my eye. I care, I know, I love. I've got every hair on your head numbered. I know. Don't you tell me how I think about you. Don't you fill in my thought bubble for me. I'm going to tell you how I think about you. Good thoughts, to give you a future. I don't know why I'm so angry. I'm actually not. Just found myself in the wrong gear! Downshift. Engage the clutch. Number two, because we're bad at predicting our own thoughts. It should be really reassuring to hear God go, I know exactly what I'm thinking. Why? Because I am so often conflicted. Well, I think this, but I'm of two minds on the subject. Right?
Have you ever felt that? I'm of two minds. And we debate it, and we endlessly pro and con and write a little list with a thing in the middle. Everyone's like, I know what we should do. Here's what we'll do. This is an entirely great idea. What are we doing with pros and cons? What are we doing with this and this? We're saying, eh, I don't even know my own thoughts. What do you want? Eh. Can you tell me where we should eat? I'm just talking about ordering at Sizzler, you know what I'm saying? It's like this is the confusion. And so to hear God go, I'm not of two minds on this subject. I know my thoughts. They are forever. My promises are forever. And yes, Amen in Jesus my son, good towards you. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came to give you life and life more abundantly. Where will you get to if you follow Jesus? Good things. End of story. That's pretty good. A future and a hope, OK?
So reason number one it's important to hear God say, I know my thoughts toward you, is because we are bad at filling in his thought bubbles. We are bad at filling in our own thought bubbles. But even when we do know what to think, we're bad at bringing those things to life, aren't we? And so he says, give me five more minutes. I'm not quite ready for you. Come back in five, right? So we're on to something here. I could feel something really good happening here. But God's not confused about his thoughts. God's not unable to do what he thinks he should do. God never says like Paul does, what I want to do, but then what I actually do, and what I set out to do versus the kind of dad I really am, right? The leader I want to be versus I'm a jerk sometimes, all the things. That's not God. God sets out to do good and then does good. How refreshing is that? Anticipation to trust him, keep his thoughts. Pick your dang harp up, and sing a song. Pick your harp up, and sing a song, anticipation for something better.
Number two, straight A's, right? Acceptance. Accept where you are. A big part of the grief process is to stop fighting and accept it. Take a hard look at your reality. Take a hard look at what got you here. Take a hard look at what you're now grieving. Call a spade a spade. Name it. Write it out. Say it out loud. Quit using language that kind of shifts the blame around. Accept it. The sooner you come to acceptance, the sooner you can learn what you're going to do about it. These false prophets were going, no, denying reality, denying reality. We're getting back. This isn't real. This isn't happening, this isn't happening. Jeremiah says, it is happening, and you're here now. This is your home. You made your bed. This is the bed. This is the new normal. This is what your decisions have led you to, so you need to accept it. And you're not going home anytime soon. You're going to be here a while, so come to terms with it.
I like what Max Lucado says in his book You'll Get Through This. I have quoted it 1,000 times in my pastoral ministry to hurting, grieving people who blew up their marriage, who blew up their home, whose kids won't talk to them, who have lost their jobs, who have had an affair. Name a thing. I've quoted this to them more times than I could possibly count. And I want to make sure you read it too, because it is words of acceptance but with hope. He says and he writes, you'll get through this. It won't be painless. It won't be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don't be foolish, but don't be naive. But don't despair, either. With God's help, you'll get through this. Those are words of hope, but they're words of acceptance. This is now the new normal. This is now it. Don't think it's going to be happening quick that you're getting out of it, but also don't despair. Come to terms.
Third A, agency. You need agency. This is something psychologists talk about. It's often overlooked, but it's in the dictionary. You think about a creative agency, a business full of designers and typesetters and people who will buy the ad in the newspaper or in Google. But agency is also something within yourself you need to have. And in the dictionary, agency is defined as the capacity to act or to exert power, the ability to make choices that influence your life. When you are grieving, one of the things you will feel, whether you're grieving a place, a person, or a limb, is the loss of agency, meaning I feel disempowered right now. I feel like there's nothing I can do about this.
Some of you in Deer Lodge, you feel like you have no agency because you can't go home, because you can't be with your spouse, because you can't be with your kids. You feel like I have no agency. But what you need to remember, what God says to Jeremiah is, no matter where you are, no matter how dark it is in the hole that you're in, no matter how bad you feel, you still have a choice. You still have agency. Pick up your harp. You still have some things you can control. And you're like, what exactly? Didn't he tell him? Build a house. Didn't he tell him? You can't build a house, plant a flower. Can't do this, lead well at work. Do a good job in your new role that you're in here in Babylon. The point is, this is so important, when you can't do the good you would, do the good you can. That's agency.
We tend to focus on what I can't do, what I've lost, what I've given up. What can you control? Shrink it shrink it, shrink it. It could be as simple as planting a flower. When the flower is planted, what are you going to do tomorrow? Water it, and then take care of it. And what are you going to do the first time you see a baby green thing pop up out of the ground? You're going to do a dance because a little thing that you planted, now you've beautified your situation. I'm telling you, you have a tiny little apartment, you have barely anything you can do, and you only think of the house you wish you could decorate. Do something in your apartment. Do something to beautify your current situation.
Now, I'll take it even a step further. Do something for someone else. Do something to plant flowers in someone else's lawn. Do something to bless someone else's situation. Didn't he say in verse 7, in the city's peace, you will experience peace? Pray for Babylon. Wait, what are we talking about here? I want to get back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem means the city of peace. I want shalom. I want wholeness. I want well-being. Well, if you can't be in the city of peace, bring some peace to the city you're in. Bring some of that peace to Babylon. I just want to go to heaven! I just want to be with Jesus! Well, baby girl, that's not happening yet. In the meantime, we need to touch this Earth for heaven. We need to be ambassadors for heaven. I'm on exile. I'm hanging my harp up. This world's icky and naughty and bad and gross.
Well, guess what. God has us here on mission. God has us here on purpose. It's time to rock the city. It's time to be an ambassador. We have agency. We always have a choice. We can always rejoice. Our song sounds best when it's sung in Babylon. So bring that song of praise here. Who knows what God could do? Two PhDs from Harvard wrote, agency is what allows you to pause, evaluate, and act when you face a challenge, be it at work, home, or anywhere else in the world. And agency is chock full of the idea of living with the Holy Spirit of God inside of you. You are not a victim, so don't just sit around moping. Change what you can. Be a bright light where you are.
Dr. Tony Evans wrote, when we examine deteriorating cultures throughout history, we often find that the people of God withdrew from them. For example, when Christians abandon a community's hub, taking their skills, resources, and moral influence with them, neighborhoods deteriorate. When Christians leave the public school system, moral values are systematically erased there until they practically become illegal to teach. When Christians vacate the media, spiritual perspective goes with them. When Christians get out of politics, a godly moral framework through which to define and interpret our laws goes away with them. God's people have been called to penetrate society as both salt and light. No more can we pretend like we're living in heaven. We need to be right there where we are, using our influence in our Babylon to shine the light of the King of Salem, to shine the light of the Prince of Peace. We blew it as humanity. Now what? Realize we have agency. Realize there's a need for acceptance, for anticipation always. God's got good things.
And then fourthly, audacity. Audacity is like a little sense of gall. Audacity is like what the Jews call chutzpah. Audacity is where you've got moxie, where you have courage, you have grit. And I believe that's what's needed for us to see that our influence now can change things long after we're gone. What's 70 years? That's not your lifetime and mine anymore. 70 years from now, most of us in this room will be in heaven. But he's saying, you guys aren't getting back for 70 years. God's got good things and good plans, and you're going to get back to Jerusalem, but not for 70 years. So now, here's what you can do so that will come true. That takes audacity to believe that I can act in such a way that future generations will have a leg up following Jesus because of what I did here and now. That's legacy. That's vision. That's a sense of follow through.
The way I wrote it down on my notes was, based on how we face the skeletons in our closet or what's behind us, it can change what our children have to look forward to. And because of the chain breaking, curse shattering power of the blood of Jesus Christ, we can believe for spiritual shockwaves to ring through our grandchildren and beyond, not only with generational wealth but also generational righteousness and faith and belief. I talked more about that in my book I Declare War. Read it if you think that's awesome.
All right, when we come to our last A on our test, we need to realize we have Authority. That's authority, to take the authority and to embrace the authority. Because how did the Jewish people end up in captivity? Failure to yield to God's authority. Here's how your week should go. I know better. That's not going to go well. Here's how your heart should go. I know better. That's not going to end well. So what do they need to do now? Listen to God's authority. But this false prophet said we don't have to. That's not the right authority. We need to yield to God's authority. There will always be a human capacity to want to know better, to think we know better, to think that we're separate, superior, and the rules don't apply to us. But every one of us who opposes God gets humbled. And every one of us who humble ourselves under God's mighty hand, what happens eventually? We get exalted.
That's how this universe works. You can either go with the grain of it, or you will get splinters in your fingers, OK? So authority, what does that mean? That means we humble ourself under him. Verse 12 and 13, call upon me, pray to me, and I will listen to you. Tell me you're sorry. Repent of your sins. Tell me that what you did was wrong, and confess that you want to follow me. And then, you will begin to watch me work in your situation. Verse 13, seek me and find me. How? By searching for me with all your heart. What is this? In prayer, in humility, this is a responding to God's authority. When it came to rest, when it came to worship, I did things wrong. I've put other things ahead of you, and that's why I'm here. That's why life is hard. That's why there's the phantom limb sensation. That's why we are in exile from heaven. But God has promised to bring us back to his presence one day, and in the meantime, to use us right here in our Babylon. To be a force for good, to be salt and light in this world. So what do we do? We humble ourselves.
Adrian Rogers said this. We will never get to be over those things that God has set under us until we learn to come under what God has said over us. There is strength through surrender. All right, Solomon, you can come back now. I said my piece. And Father, we are grateful. We are most grateful for the promise in this passage of redemption, of hope. We're thankful that because of your spirit and because of the power of the gospel, that dead things can live, that dry bones can move. And I know I'm speaking to people who have made decisions and had other people's decisions come to haunt them in a painful way. And regardless of how we got here, that's not really the point. The point is, here we are. I blew it, and I hear your voice speaking to us. Now what? Do you want to keep your harp hung up on that tree, or do you want to pick it up and realize you have agency? You have a song inside your lungs. You can confess your sins and find healing and refreshing.
Maybe right now, those kids won't talk to you. Maybe right now, there's nothing but bad blood. Maybe there's not ever going to be the sound of music in that relationship. But there doesn't have to be bitterness in your bones. There doesn't have to be that spiritual festering, the animosity. There can be growth. There can be wisdom. And if we will take all of our hindsight and apply it as foresight to what we're facing next, and offer it up to those coming behind us as the benefit of our wisdom given to them with a spirit of humility, then we can see blessing. We can see generational impact.
And I just sense even now, God, so much fresh pain. And also, so much your spirit seeking to speak into our hearts as we face and navigate a world that's increasingly secular. It's more and more feeling like Babylon. What do we do? We wish it could be this way, we should we wish it could be this way. Let's shine light here and now. Let's take our place in the hospital. Let's take our place in the school system. Let's take our place in Hollywood, in the medical sector, in transportation, in real estate. Let's be positioned to live godly lives with that quiet spirit. We feel your wind blowing. And yes, God, we're excited for your kingdom 70 years from now or whenever it is that we meet you face to face. But until then, we've got work to do. We've got people to reach. We've got love to show. And I pray that we would see and feel that we have been anointed for such a time as this, and we wouldn't shrink back or retreat from a world that we're meant to love. I pray for a graciousness to rise up in us. I pray that like the apostle Paul, we would be able to handle and get over the trauma we inflicted and that was inflicted upon us by the decisions we wish we could do differently. He wishes he never had held the coats while Stephen was murdered. That's probably why he called himself the chief of sinners for the rest of his life. But I thank you God, that you can help us to get over these things, to get through these things, and to actually be deepened because of them. And I thank you for what your Spirit's doing even now.
If you would say Levi, I sense the Holy Spirit of God touching my heart in some way through this message, could I just ask that you would release that and respond to that? Raise that hand up. Raise your heart up.
Look God, I feel seen. I believe that your thoughts towards me are good and not evil. I believe that you want to bring me, God, to a good future. It might be hard, but I'm here for it. It may be painful, but I'm here for it. I want to beautify my Babylon. I want to plant flowers and beautify a home, and serve and love the city and be a little tiny colony of heaven. But keeping my heart the whole time fixated on what's to come, thank you, Jesus. Thank you, God. Bless these. I pray for flowers to grow. Little by little, sure, but I pray for your healing rain.
You can put your hands down. And I want to invite those of you who have never said yes to Jesus, you've never made a faith decision, you're here and you're saying, I feel like what you're describing as far as the relationship with God is not something I can relate to. I've gone to church, I've read a Bible verse here or there, I try to be a good person. But God didn't send his son to die on the cross and to rise from the dead so you could just try and be a better person. The gospel isn't about bad people learning to be good, it's about dead people coming to life. It's about graves into gardens. That's what God wants for you. And that comes through you opening the door of your heart to a risen King who's coming again, who loves you and will save you if you call on him. So those of you listening, say I'm ready to give my heart to Jesus. I'm going to pray with you. I'm going to ask our church family to pray with us. Say this to God:
Dear God, please come into my heart. I can't fix myself, but I believe you can. I come to life today in the name of Jesus.