Sermon Notes and Manuscript:

Hello Mission Hills. Wow, I missed you all. There is nothing like the holidays to reunite with those you love. So, good to see you! It feels like coming home.

For those of you whom I have not met, it is great to meet you. My name is Josh and I had the privilege of serving on staff here at Mission Hills for several years. I taught here often and had the privilege of serving in several roles here. Now God called me to serve at a church down the road, but at the risk of sounding a little bit like the Apostle Paul, I say to you, I give thanks to God every time I remember you.

I told you when I preached my last message here (when I built that cross on stage) that we would team together for years to come. And look at this—we are doing it! As I am here today, Shannon Popp, your youth pastor is preaching at Grace Chapel. I love that!

The invitation to come back shows your pastor’s heart.

When Craig asked if I would fill the pulpit, the first thought that came to my mind was—what a Kingdom, big “C” church mindset! Too often we get a wrong mindset that churches are like business and we compete with one another—that was never God’s heart. Rather, we are on the same team, serving the same coach, playing against the same opponent. Mission Hills and Grace Chapel are in this together! Craig gets that!

While I miss you, I can say that I have seen God be very clear with me that I was supposed to be at Grace chapel. Get this: we are 8 miles down the road, the other end of County Line. Only 8 miles, on the same road trying to reach the same side of Denver with the gospel message! Our hearts need to be about partnership… I know Craig’s is.

And your new pastor, Craig, wow! Love this guy. We had the opportunity to meet before he started, and as we sat there at Chili’s I said, you are going to love these people. And as I left there, I thought, they are you going to love him. Craig is the real deal. He loves God, loves God’s Word and loves serving God’s people. He is a catch!

One more Craig Smith story before we dive into God’s Word: Let me give you a bit of context—I was working with a church in Santa Cruz California this summer. I had Byron John along with me, who was the executive pastor here for 15 years. Byron did amazing things here—including help us get in this building. Byron is an amazing leader and was a gift to MHC. So, we are in Santa Cruz, CA, not far from where Mike Romberger, the former Sr. Pastor is now living. We had planned to get together with him the next night for dinner. So, we are sitting in this restaurant—of which there are many in Santa Cruz—and in walk Mike Romberger AND Craig Smith. I swear I hear a voice from heaven say, “You are now standing on holy ground.”

It was crazy—we all came from 3 different states to the same restaurant at the same time. There is Mike Romberger, Sr. Pastor of MHC for 14 years; Byron John, EP of MHC for 15 years; and Craig and Colletta smith, about to start as the new Sr. Pastor of MHC. Then there was little ‘ol me. I said, guys we have got to take a picture—this is too weird and it will never happen again. Craig later explained that was a confirming God moment. I agree. You have a good man in Craig Smith. I am excited for what God has ahead for MHC!

With that said—Let’s do what we do best here at Mission Hills, and what I have missed the most since I left. Let’s dive into God’s Word. Will you first pray with me?

PRAYER and then Introduction—My Favorite Socks

How many of you have hobbies? How many of you have a cool hobby? Most of you are not afraid to admit your hobby to another person. Well—I have a hobby, but I will be honest, I already know it is a bit nerdy. Yep. I collect crazy socks. This is my sock drawer.

This is Just socks. Yes, I am addicted to socks. Nearly 6 years ago I decided that I was not going to wear plain sock anymore. I remember even announcing it my siblings who were quick to make fun of me. But I didn’t care—crazy sock it was, for life. Now you must understand, at that time, crazy colored socks were NOT all the rage as they are today. To get a pair of crazy socks took intentional searching, online shopping and serious scouting. As they have become more available, I have developed eve more of deep affection for crazy socks. I collect them, sort them prioritize them track them in excel. Love them.

Now let me tie this sock fascination to the Bible: For many of us, we have a “sock drawer” of Bible passages that we like and use often. We have favorites in there that we pull out and slip on when life is hard, comfort is needed or I long for the nostalgia of something familiar. I bet that if could look in the sock drawer of your favorite passages, I’d find today’s verse. That is Jeremiah 29:11.

For most people—dare I even say Christian and non-Christian—Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite passage. It has been quoted in graduation speeches, governmental addresses, written in birthday cards, engraved on tombstones and clung to in hospital rooms. Let’s see if you can recount it from memory—if you know it, say it outload with me:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

This is what I call “Tweetable.” I could tweet this passage—I probably have—because it is 140 characters or less and it is direct, powerful and to the point. The bible is full of “tweetable verses” that we all like to post, like, favorite, repost because they are so strong.

How many of you have that verse in your drawer of favorite verses in the Bible?

Today we are going to unpack this more and apply it to our lives, in a message I have called Hashtag Wait For It: The Bible’s most famous tweet about your future. Now, while passages like this may be tweetable, we too often we treat a passage like a tweet, limiting it to the 140 characters and neglecting the context, therefore forfeiting the greater meaning. Have you ever read a tweet and thought, man, I must be missing something here—I have no idea the situation. We do that with the Bible too. We take a verse, isolate it and are missing some vital background.

As we look at this verse today, I want to make two promises to you: I won’t steal your favorite verse from you today and role it up and put holes in it, causing you to think you’ve had it all wrong all along. I know some of you probably already have this tattooed on your body and I don’t want to you to have to leave today to buy tattoo removal cream.

But here is my other promise to you: I will take this all-familiar verse and bring it fuller meaning by helping you understand it in the grander landscape of Scripture.

So, let’s start by taking a journey back in time to find the historical context. I want to take you to ancient Israel to find the biblical and historical background of Jeremiah 29. By taking a journey in time, we will find more meaning because we’ll better grasp why God said these words to those people and then better apply them to our lives today.

First look at the big picture of when this verse was written: Get this slice of time in your head: 970 bc to 585 bc. There were many kings and prophets who lived in this time. David was one of the early kings and at the time of David’s death, the people of God seemed to be in a good place, headed the right direction. The enemies of Israel were at bay and God’s nation was prevailing. Then Solomon, David’s son, who he had with Bathsheba, took over and was king. Solomon reigned and during his time built what his dad could not—a great temple for the people to worship the Lord around 966 BC.

Ten years after Solomon was gone, the nation was divided around 922 BC.

From 930 to 538 bc you have all the minor (12 of them) and major prophets, living, writing and speaking on behalf of God during a terrible political time. Israel, the southern part of the land, was captured by Assyria in 722 BC. Then, Babylon destroys Jerusalem and the exile goes on for fifty years.

Jeremiah was considered a major prophet (4 of them) and he live during the Babylonian exile. In his lifetime, the scrolls were returned to the temple by Josiah, but then the temple was destroyed and the people forgot their God and we growing hopeless.

The exile lasted about 50 years—so imagine a fifty-year war with Iraq, as that is where Babylon is located. During that time, Jeremiah is speaking on behalf of God to the people telling them to turn to God and repent and He will save them. But they didn’t listen.

Now let’s zoom in to the exact time when Jeremiah 29 was written. We know that at the time Jeremiah grabbed the pen to write this, there were two kings reigning. The first was Jehoiakim and we can read about him in 2 Chronicles 36:5-9  and 2 Kings 24:5-9. Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years and “Did what was wrong in the sight of the Lord.” So King Nebuchadnezzar came and took items from the temple for His own palace.

How many of you think it is a good idea to take things from God’s palace and not give them back? Yeah, not a good idea. But God shares. He is kind. Yeah, but His things are His things and His way is the the only way and Kind Neb. didn’t seem to care. So, God allowed Babylon to be a tool of discipline to Judah for their wrong doing.

Jeremiah kept saying, guys, we must change—it is only going to get worse if we don’t, and sure enough it did. Jehoiakim was out and they didn’t get a better king, but  worse one. His son, Jehoiachin, reigned in his place, Get this, for 3 months and 10 days (in 2 Chron 36: 9). But then like father like son, He did was what evil in the sight of the Lord and the Babylonian siege continued and Israel was captured.  

Jehoiachin’s reign was brutal three months where things went from bad to worse. No one was returning to God, no matter how clear Jeremiah was being with his instruction or warning. So, at this point, Jeremiah changes his tone from one of warning to one of hope. Nebuchadnezzar had already done the first capture so Jeremiah knew they were in for it. A full exile was inevitable, so he started to talk about what restoration would take place eventually, after Babylon would be destroyed for their evil deeds.

It would be like my tone changing when disciplining my 6 year son for hitting his sister—Chandler, don’t hit. Chander, you are going to get punished is you keep hitting. Chander, the end of your life is getting closer if you keep hitting her and then changing to Chandler, have hope, you won’t be like this for ever. Chandler, have hope—your future is bright! Chandler, Have hope you are going to have a kid just like you some day! (not the last one, but you get the tone change).

That trip in time was to help you understand that these words in Jeremiah were written to people captured and losing hope quickly because of bad leadership.

To get this power of this passage, you must put yourself in their shoes (or sandals)

Imagine being in a foreign land, held captive, being forced to endure a foreign king with pagan beliefs, and having to live with the people who conquered you and likely killed some of your family members. Scared, praying for hope, they just longed for the nightmare to be over, but it was like God was telling them to stay and just hope.

To appreciate the tenderness, sweetness, and the refreshing nature of the words in Jeremiah 29:11 you must let yourself step into the difficult position of the Israelites. Maybe that’s not hard for you.  Maybe you are in a time of hopeless captivity.  Verses 1-10 of this chapter tells us that it was written to those who were still alive but in a foreign land. They wanted out, God was telling them to stay, build houses, plant gardens (v. 5) and have kids (v. 6). During their discouragement, God said pray and stay put—I’ve got you; don’t listen to anyone else but me. Those words that He spoke to His people, His children, are the same words He speaks to you, His people and His children today. As God states Jeremiah 29:11; listen to those words again from their point of view:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Now there is debate over whether this passage is for us today or if it was just for the Israelites. Can a Christian lay claim to this passage or is this just for Israel?

I hope that you know from what you’ve already heard me say that I firmly believe a Christian can have this as a favorite pair of sock to slip on over our soul. We can take this verse and apply it to our lives. We can grasp this verse (and many other OT passages) because of Jesus Christ.

Let me explain: Even though this passage was spoken to them first, we can say this is for us because Jesus established what we know as the New Covenant. Even the night before he was killed, Jesus took the cup of wine and said this represents my blood which is “The new covenant.” What that means is that Jesus was securing all the promises that God made for his people (the Old Covenant) and giving them to all people who will believe and have faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s reflect on what Romans 4 says, that Abraham and those in the Old Testament where saved by faith. According to this passage, when God mad a promises to Abraham or others in the OT, those promises where given to them in the same way today: through faith Yet, their faith was looking forward to a coming Messiah; our faith is looking at the revealed Messiah. We are both children of the promise, because of Jesus. The promises of God like Jeremiah 29:11 are sweetened when we couch them in the Gospel of Jesus.

Jews AND gentiles are now a part of the promise of God if we have faith in the Messiah. We see that in a few very clear New Testament passages, such as 2 Corinthians 1:20 which says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” ALL of God’s promises… Yes! YES! Yes! And Amen!.

So, though those of us who are not Jews may be “Johnny come lately Gentiles,” we can cling to this verse as a promise of God for us. We must not forget its original context, BUT the original context only brings more meaning as we see that God kept this promise to them. He is reliable and trustworthy to do the same for us, through JC.

So what does this mean for us? What can we learn from this passage: first, our God Knows. “For I know the plans I have for you,” the passage says. He knows the details of our situation AND what is to come. It doesn’t matter how far away you FEEL He is, God’s presence is far more real than what our FEELINGS tell us.

I had the opportunity to sit with many of you in various context over my time here at Mission Hills. When I was the Care and Counseling director I sat with you, cried with you, prayed with you and watch God do great things in some of your hardest moments.

Listen, there are going to be times where we go through things that don’t make sense: like marriages hitting the rocks, wayward kids, death of those we love, or the many other kinds of trials that people in this body are experiencing right now. Our God is near. He sees you.  He knows you. He cares deeply about you, even more than you might believe. 

The seasons of suffering we experience are opportunities for God to comfort you. The end process is where He proclaims the good news that He is not a far-off God, but close to us through Jesus Christ. Like the man out of a job last night 5 mo.—God knows!

Just like the circumstances ancient Israel found themselves in, God calls us to greater faith and dependence on Him. He never said that he would take away the pain, doubt or confusion—but he also said he would never take away His presence. God is always working in our waiting and our wondering. And he has one goal: to make His goodness, glory, grace and salvation known. Here’s something worth writing down: I can trust God in my waiting because the end-goal is His gloryGod never says, “I didn’t see that coming.” His glory is never thwarted! His sovereignty always wins.

Which brings us to the other obvious application in Jeremiah 29:11, which is our God cares. The passage says, “…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” He’s not a distant dad, but a present parent giving good gifts. Do you see that in your life?  Do you believe that? It’s so important that you do.

God is greater than the best earthly father. We love our kids and would give them anything, but God loves us even more and will give us what is good for us. Considering Jeremiah 29:11 I wrote this down, God’s joy is being good to His people.

Three chapters later, Jeremiah wrote in 32:41, speaking for God, “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” What balm to their hurting, waiting, longing soul… and to ours.

Let me ask you a question—this is rhetorical, don’t answer out loud: Are you frustrated with your life right now? Is there something you wish would go differently than it is? Do you feel like you’re waiting on God to do something and He is telling you just to stay put? Does it feel like he could care less about your best interests?

That is what the original receivers felt, yet God says to them, my plans are not harm you. What comfort to them and to us. In our worst and most confusing times, it should be our routine rehearse this to ourselves, before we pop the Advil or get anxious over the day—remember, His plans are not to harm you, but to give you a future and hope.

Read this principle out loud with me: I can trust God in my waiting because His plans are not to hurt me but give me hope. Not to HURT but to give HOPE. Charles Spurgeon said, “Consider God’s unchanging care [of God]. Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once. He always loves you.” He loves you and he loves you and he loves you and he love you and he loves you and he loves you…

We can hear about God’s care for us, but no matter how long you’ve walked with Christ, no matter how strong you are in your faith, we can forget it and we doubt. Hold on, again, to God’s strong hand. He has you in His grip! He will never let go. Trust Him.

Which leads us to the next two verses after this all famous verse that are too often skipped; look at verse 12

and 13:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” After the promise to have a plan, God makes a greater promise—the promise to be present not distant; the promise to listen, not ignore. Though they (and we) may not always feel like it was true, we can rest assured that: Our God Hears.

It says, “You will call, pray and I will hear you. I don’t’ deserve to be heard—I should be banished to the kid’s table and told to be silent. Yet, he hears me, which is more than the act of hearing with the ears. It means to heed or to respond to, as in “answer.” This is more than an invitation to just communicate; this is a promise to listen intently and know deeply. No matter what it feels like at times, we Have a God who is near, and knowable and personal and is not far from each one of us.  He said, you will seek me and you will find me.

It reminds me of a time my dad wanted to illustrate to us that we could pray and God would hear us—He told each of us kids to go upstairs into his closet and to kneel and pray. It was weird, but we did it because we got ice cream if we did.  One by one we wnet to the closet and just started to pray. Well, unbeknown to us, he hid a baby monitor in the shoes on the floor and he could hear us praying.

Then, near the end of the prayer he spoke back to us—I hear you Joshua, this is God, and I care about you more than you know. At first it was totally creepy, but then became meaningful.

Get this last point: I can trust God in my waiting because He hears and [always] answersIt was true for ancient Israel and it is true for contemporary Christians like us. This passage in Jeremiah 29, and others like it—such as James 4:8—are an invitation to you this morning to come near to God and He will come near to you. Step towards Him. Despite what you feel, trust that God never moves himself from us.

Picture a rubber band hooked around a nail that is pounded firmly into a board. That nail represents God, and your thumb and index finger holding the rubber band represent you. You can pull and stretch that band as much as you want, but the nail will not move; only you move and the rubber stretches. But God never moves. He remains steadfast and true (Heb. 6:19-20). Yet you move closer and farther, closer and farther, all the while stretching the band. You never lose connection with God, but your proximity changes.

In the same way, your faith and trust in God’s plan will be stretched—sometimes slack, sometimes taut. But as we remain faithful to Christ, God promise is that we will never lose connection. There are seasons of when we feel God is silent or distance, but these times allow for our faith to be stretched and God’s reliability to be realized. Just because God doesn’t answer your way on your timeline doesn’t mean he doesn’t hear. This passage is clear; it was for them and it is for us:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Let’s pray.