It’s Hard To Live In Exile And Harder To Do What God Says About Your Place Of Exile

God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God.

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Do your circumstances feel like you are living in exile? You work at a job that under-appreciates your work, and under-pays you for overworking you. You have been terminated from work and the pile of bills is now a mountain of bills. Your spouse has left you for more excitement that you were able to provide. You wish your spouse WOULD leave because all they do is belittle you and tell you all that you do wrong. You look in the mirror with great disgust at the person looking back at you because you hate what you see. The doctor prescribes a series of chemo and radiation treatments because of your cancer. The church you attend is embroiled in political and in-house bickering and fighting. Your parents lament on a daily basis on how you could have done better. The air conditioner, refrigerator, and hot water heater all died the same day. The Sheriff’s Department just posted an eviction notice on your door.

Now, add to all of that the cultural and political wars going on in the good old U.S. of A. The news channels blaring away at all the upheaval, and the violence that is happening every day, all day long. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments where I felt like I was in exile.

Feelings of exile have a long history. In many cases, it was more than a feeling, it was a national reality. Jeremiah lived in such a time–a literal time of exile. And Jeremiah has something to tell them–something God wanted them to know.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jeremiah 29:2-7 (NLT)

They are living in a foreign land, under foreign rule, with foreign customs and a pagan culture. Pagan Culture–does that resonant with you? It resonates with me as a Kingdom Citizen. And I hear a lot of voices that seem to echo the same sentiments. Face it, as Followers of Jesus our culture neither likes nor embraces Kingdom Truth. This time has been appropriately called “The Post Christian Era”. Values of the Kingdom of God are considered outdated. And add to this, that many who professed to be Followers of Jesus looked nothing at all like Jesus. In fighting and self righteousness turned many away from becoming Followers of Jesus.

So, how do we live in a time and place that feels like exile? It seems to me, that the words of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies spoken to Jeremiah still apply today. Look carefully again at what God instructs those exiles to do:

Build homes, and plan to stay

Establish your allegiance and loyalty to Jesus and God’s Kingdom. Be that city on a hill, that candle on the candlestand.

Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 

Be a producer of the positive wherever you are. Do not lower yourself to engage in the bitter fighting that is so entrenched in this culture. Bring good things into your part of this dysfunctional culture.

Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

Reproduce Kingdom Values within your family, your circle of close friends, at work–wherever you happen to be. Be the example and encourage others to be that example. You reproduce those Kingdom Values as you teach others–and they see them verified in your daily life.

So far so good, right? Challenging, yes–but doable. But there’s more–and it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.

Did you just see that? Work for the peace and prosperity of those people who make us feel like we are in exile. It’s simple, really simple. If you are on the left–help and pray that the right would be at peace and experience prosperity. For you on the right–help and pray that the left would be at peace and experience peace. If you are a centrist, then do the same for both the left and the right.

It doesn’t seem fair or just that God would tell us to do that. But…don’t miss that next line from the passage: “the city where I sent you into exile.” God sent Judah into exile because of their disobedience. And for us today? God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God. Their reason for exile was disobedience–and our reason is Obedience–obedience to God’s call to wage spiritual warfare against Satan.

Oh, and that last line: “Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” OK, do you want to see our culture transformed? The pray for their Shalom. That is the Hebrew word used. It means, among many things, peace. Pray for the opposite side from you to do well, be strong and have inner peace. If you don’t, well, God said what the outcome will be: You will NOT be strong or be well or have peace.

Your welfare rests upon what you want for others, even those on the opposite side. Followers of Jesus, we are in exile–but we are in exile for a purpose and a reason–to bring The Kingdom Of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” If you want some practical advice on how to accomplish this, well…listen to Paul in Romans 12:21

As long as you are agitated and mad at your culture, nothing will change and you will be miserable. It’s not easy to do–it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to cause you to turn to God, seek His Holy Spirit and rely on The Spirit. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way. But…it does work!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him…and it does when you pray for the peace of your enemies.

Why Not Go Ahead?

(Disclaimer: I am NOT a member of the NRA)

Tragedy–“an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress”. The past 2 weeks we have seen this definition of tragedy intensified to the nth degree. My heart aches for all of the victims, friends and communities. And the rallying cry of our culture is to fix it so it won’t happen again, or at the very least, make it more difficult to happen again. On this we can all agree. I am tired of seeing these tragedies happening over and over. And please, do not forget that these tragedies happen every day in other places. Last weekend there were 7 killed and 46 injured in Chicago, alone. The cause of these tragedies has a label: “gun violence”. So, what is the “solution”?

Let’s use our imaginations right now and not hold them back. Let’s imagine for a season that suddenly all lawmakers agree 100% to pass every proposed law that is believed would limit, even eliminate the next tragedy from happening. Not a single dissenting vote. I know, some of you are thinking that this is fantasy not imagination. Just humor me, OK?

Imagine that those on the left, who for decades have insisted you cannot legislate morality, change their minds and say, “Yes! We can legislate morality! We’re so sorry we said you couldn’t.” And imagine those on the right saying, “You know, we never saw gun control as a morality issue, and we’re sorry for that.” So, the left, the right, and the middle vote unanimously in favor of those laws. The POTUS signs the bills. Imagine now how different our culture will be because of the legislation.

That very evening, sporting good business, gun dealers, ALL immediately take the banned guns off the shelves and walls. The new background check system is implemented that night. Coders and programmers work diligently throughout the night to make it happen. The very next morning, it is a new dawn and a new day. There are no banned guns anywhere. All people line up at local law enforcement agencies and turn in all banned guns. This senseless “gun violence” is a thing of the past. After all, this is the purpose of all that new legislation. Right? Few, if any tragedies to read about, right?

This “solution” is based upon the premise that the presence of such guns is the true “cause” of these horrible tragedies. Eliminate this “cause” and these types of tragedies will cease to be so prevalent. Thus, we see the word: Gun Violence.

While this “Solution” seems to be logical, it leaves out one element; an overlooked component of these recent tragedies. A man from long ago, noted for his wisdom, describes the missing component this way:

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.

Ecclesiastes 9:3 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

The Supposition Of This Legislative Solution is elimination of the object equates elimination of the tragedy. The real cause of these recent (and all other) tragedies is what lies not on the shelves, but in the heart. The prophet Jeremiah, sharing what God revealed to him put it this way:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)

The Wisdom from Heaven embodied in Jesus, gets us to the crux of this matter when He said:

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Mark 7:20-23 (NIV)

If Jesus had waited until our current culture to arrive in human form, he would have put it this way: “Look, it’s not what’s on the shelves that is hurting everyone. It is all that stuff, that evil stuff that is coming from the heart that’s the source and cause of what is happening. These kinds of evil tragedies come out of the heart, not the store.”

Out of the evil in the heart of Santino William Legan, he would have found another way. The evil in Patrick Crusius’s heart would have led him to another way. Even Connor Betts would have found a different way. And of the 53 casualties in Chicago last weekend, I doubt any of the guns used were purchased legally. Chicago has some of the strictest laws concerning gun purchases and ownership.

But…it’s so much easier to blame an inanimate object that to admit the current Ethos of our culture has led us to this…this way too frequent tragedies. Some say our Ethos is broken–not so fast, my friend. Every culture has an Ethos –some good, some not so good, and others are down right evil.

it’s so much easier to blame an inanimate object that to admit the current Ethos of our culture has led us to this…this way too frequent tragedies

This Ethos is what determines what is right and acceptable and what is wrong and unacceptable. Only Ethos of the Kingdom of God can prevent more of these tragedies from occurring. The current Ethos did not happen overnight. It was a journey, a step by step journey away of the Ethos of God’s Kingdom. Our current Ethos began with rejecting 1 part of the Ethos of God, and like dominoes strategically lined up, the entire Ethos of The Kingdom was traded away for an Ethos that cheapens human lives.

Only Ethos of the Kingdom of God can prevent more of these tragedies from occurring.

So how do we stop such tragedies? By committing our hearts to The Kingdom Ethos that is tethered to a life of loving God with all our heart, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and pursuing with everything in us a life of holiness. These most recent tragedies, the past tragedies, are fueled by the Current Ethos. And without a change of Ethos there will be more tragedies.

These most recent tragedies, the past tragedies, are fueled by the Current Ethos. And without a change of Ethos there will be more tragedies

One immediate change will help transform the current Ethos. And that is to stop the hate. Hate produces hate. Hate spewed by the right produces hate spewed by the left; a different hate but hate nonetheless. Hate spewed by the left produces hate spewed by the right; a different hate but hate nonetheless. Hate diminishes the value of human life and is a horrible degradation of human dignity–the dignity of the person being hated and the dignity of the person doing the hating. The thing about hate being spewed is that it covers both the hater and the object of their hatred.

The thing about hate being spewed is that it covers both the hater and the object of their hatred.

Without a doubt, there needs to be an upgrade to the current system of background checks. But emptying the shelves of certain types of guns…well, those empty shelves will not change the Ethos but become a symbol of the hearts empty of God’s love but full of evil. Call it what it is: #HumanViolence and perhaps we can begin to move away from this mess.