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Title:    The Preferred Future                                   Alma United Methodist

Text:     Jeremiah 29:10-14                                            June 29, 2008

There are two futures.  The one we get and the one we wish we had gotten.  Every business has a preferred future and it is a future with growth and increasing sales.  Every parent has a preferred future for their children.  That future would include success, happiness, family, health, and a better life than the parents had.

          That preferred future is not automatic, however.  There are many variables that can, and do, affect our future.  Economic upswings or down turns affect a business, along with population growth, and etc.  Our children’s future are also tied to those economic pressures plus their abilities and education and their willingness to work hard.  A preferred future is not the easy future.

          In this reading, Israel is experiencing exile.  They have been taken, by force, to Babylon and there they live.  They live in slavery and captivity and want more than anything to go home.  Their future looks anything but bright. 

          It is to their future that God addresses them.  For I know the plans I have for you… says the LordGod has a preferred future for his people.  He knows what it is.  It isn’t just the future that is going to happen, even if nothing new takes place, but it is the preferred future.  Listen to the kind of future it is:  plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Notice the preferred future God wants for Israel: wholeness and hope.  What the ESV calls ‘wholeness’ the NRSV calls ‘welfare’ and the NIV calls ‘prosper’.  Whatever word is used it talks about God’s good things coming to them.  I think I like ‘wholeness’ better for it captures the implication of completeness better than the other two.  And, of course, ‘hope’ in the Bible is more about ‘assurance’ than anything else.  Hope has the meaning of firmness here, and not the element of doubt we typically have when we use the word.

          So, what is our preferred future here?  Are we going to be content with what ever future happens here, or are we going to work toward that preferred future that God has for us as this congregation?  How do we even know if there is a preferred future for us here at Alma?  I think there is one.  God always has a preferred future for his church.

          How do we find it?

          There may be many ways of finding it, but the one recommended here is prayer.  Listen to verses 12-13 again.  Listen to the words that Jeremiah uses:  call, seek, pray, and then find.  Those are active words.  Those are words that put us into an active partnership with God.  God has a preferred future for us, but it is up to us to cooperate with what God wants to do.    

          Israel’s preferred future was to return home, rebuild the temple and be the voice of God to the world.  Their future they got was a return home, the temple in the hands of Herod and under Roman Rule.  Not the future they wanted.

          I saw a sign that read: The future is not optional, everyone will participate.  That is a very true truism.  The future is not optional.  We will participate in one way or another.  The question is: how will we participate?  Will we take whatever future that is out there, or will we pray, seek, call into the preferred future that is ours?

          What is ours?  What future do we want here?  The future we get is largely up to us.       The future is not optional…what will it be like?


Title: The Preferred Future                                        Alma United Methodist

Devotional Guide                                                                June 29, 2008

Devotional Guide.  Monday, June 30, 2008.  SPIRITUAL EXILE. Jeremiah 29:1-9 must have seemed strange to the Israelites.  They were in Babylon in exile and living as slaves to their hated masters.  Yet, God tells them to build homes, have children and marry them off, and to pray for those who hold them captive.  They were to seek the welfare of the city…’for in its welfare you will find your welfare’, he says.  Exile is hard enough, but to pray for those who hold them captive is asking a lot. Sometimes our ‘exile’ from God seems to be caused by those around us (more often it is not however) and when that is the case, do we seek their welfare?  Do we want to pray for them?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008.  Israel’s sins had led them to a place of spiritual exile, where God’s presence was seemingly limited.  These 70 years were to be a time of spiritual discipline and repentance.  Jeremiah 29:10-14 tells them that they will find God when they seek him with a whole heart.  Our times of ‘exile’, when God seems far away, are also opportunities for spiritual discipline and times of repentance.  How do you use those times of exile?  Is that time used to bemoan our sins, or to repent of them?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008.  The blame game, we all play it.  ‘My sister made me do it!’  ‘My boss told me to.’  Adam blamed God and Eve.  Eve blamed the snake.  We blame everyone but the right person.  James 1:12-15 puts the responsibility right where it belongs, on us.  We decide what to do and when to do it.  Temptation is just that—temptation.  But we decide to yield to it or not.  The blame game stops here.  Who do you blame?

Thursday, July 3, 2008.  Exile is not meant to last forever.  There is always the possibility of forgiveness and renewal.  Jeremiah 23:5-8 raises the possibility of going home.  That going home is a reversal of the exile and that happens when we acknowledge our sins and repent.  The length of our exile is mostly up to us.  How long will it take us to repent?  How long will we be obstinate and unyielding?

Friday, July 4, 2008.  There are some scholars who believe that the average Jew of the first century AD still believed that they were in exile.  They had come home, to be sure, but the temple was still in the hands of Herod (not a true Jew) and the high priest was a puppet of Rome.  Not all of Jeremiah’s prophecy had yet come true.  These scholars believe, and I agree, that Jesus’ turning over the tables in the temple was a sign that the temple was over as the place where sins were forgiven.  That was now done in Jesus.  Jesus ended the exile.  Has Christ ended your exile?  Matthew 11:25-30.


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