What Now? Embrace a New Relationship

At Gateway Church in Austin, Carlos Ortiz shared week two in a two part series What Now?

In times of trouble, we find ourselves asking, “What now?” We long for a way out, for hope. We look for leadership we can trust and a light at the end of the tunnel. But what greater light is there than Jesus? What can we learn from Him that will help us in our current reality? No matter what your experience has been over these last several weeks, Jesus has the answer. Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

NEXT STEPS:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Embracing a New Relationship – Next Steps

MESSAGE VIDEO:

MESSAGE NOTES:

It was the early 1990s and I was 14 years old, a Freshman in high school, and blown away when LL Cool J dropped what some might say was the anthem of his hip hop career.  (personally I liked “I Need Love” “Around the Way Girl” “Going Back to Cali”), but this song was different from all of the rest, “Momma Said Knock You Out” was catchy, repeatable, and at the height of MTV, it had a music video that you couldn’t help but watch.

The key to this song was it’s passion…it was a response to some of the hate was getting from other MCs…MC Hammer, Kool Moe Dee and Ice-T.  I mean, he starts off the song saying, “Don’t call it a comeback…I’ve been here for years.” It’s iconic because it was passionate, creative, strong and had a catch phrase…(a hook if you will)

“I’m gonna knock you out…Momma said knock you out.” – Did your mom ever tell you to do that to someone?  Did your grandma ever encourage you to knock out your competition?  (Some of you are thinking as a matter of fact I was raised that way)  But for most of middle class, suburban America, it was counter-cultural. 

This is the emotion, the juxtaposition I want us to be feeling when we read this passage in Jeremiah, because this passage in Jeremiah has some of those same elements…the prophet Jeremiah is sharing some strong language that gets the attention of the people of Israel…and it’s still getting our attention today.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.  

This verse has hope tied to it, so it’s an easy place to go for times of trouble.  We see it on signs, bumper stickers (and yes those still exist), profile pics on social media, and for good reason.  It is a promise from God to his people. 

In our humanity we look for signs of hope. We look for leadership that we can trust, and a light at the end of the tunnel.  So our leaders from one generation to another provide language we grasp on to, and they mark us towards a better tomorrow.  These sayings are timeless:

  • “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
  • “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston S. Churchill 
  • “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman!’ Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” – Sojourner Truth (abolitionist)

…and in some cases it can feel like the words weren’t written decades, or centuries ago, but that they were written this very morning. 

  • “Hunger is the best sauce in the world.” – Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote) 
  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – MLK Jr.
  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  ― Nelson Mandela
  • “Give me liberty, or give me death!” – Patrick Henry
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” – Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities) 

Why are these quotes important?
How do they become so potent when we hear them? 

Because they had the same elements as LL Cool J’s musical hit…they have passion, creativity, they’re strong, they had a catch phrase, AND they come during moments of time when we need to hear truth.

So as we dive into the second part of this passage of Jeremiah 29, we do not forget what we are going through, we don’t ignore the culture, we cannot expect to live in a bubble…we bring those to the table as we read Jeremiah 29, but let’s pick up this week with verse 10: 

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

What is it that God is trying to communicate through Jeremiah?

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

Relax (we’re in this for the long-haul)

Relax is not a term for a vacation, although that can help…to relax is to become less tense or anxious, to make less strict…to alleviate the pressure. 

So for some of us relaxing is to escape, but the Israelites were foreigners, they were slaves, they were conquered…they weren’t dreaming of vacation and escape, they just wanted to be able to breathe, to be alleviated of the stronghold that was causing them to be filled with anxiety and stress…they wanted to return to Jerusalem to relieve the pressure. 

So when God is telling his people…relax, we’re in this for the long haul, they are having to embrace a new reality. It’s like he’s using Jeremiah to speak and to be used mightily, and to remind the people…

“You heard it right…70 years!!!  You will be in this place for 70 years.” 

In our human timeframes, that is literally a lifetime.  Do you know how many people have been waiting a life-time for their dream?  I am a NY Mets fan and I’ve been waiting 34 years for a return to glory with a World Series win. But consider that there are people who lived and died and did not see their team win a world series: 

Cubs fans waited 107 years for a world series
Boston Red Sox 85 years for a world series

In 2016, on the brink of the World Series, Cubs baseball operations president Theo Epstein was quoted as saying, “Those moments are really special and impossible to replicate, and part of the reason they’re special is it represents so many generations waiting for this to happen at Wrigley Field. For our fans, it’s all the losing, all the waiting, all the patience, all the support, all the emotions that they’ve given us, this is their chance to be rewarded. So you feel all that when you see ‘World Series’ (painted) on the field.” 

The reality is that many men and women have lived, raised families, taught their kids to love their teams, cheered together, cried together during losses, and died without seeing their dream come true. 

The current protest in our country is the first time many young black people have seen that their voice matters.  They’ve been told they matter, they’ve been told there’s a dream, they’ve been promised a brighter future, and they want to see it come to pass.  This is also a time where white young people, and younger people of color are also recognizing that their voice, their actions can help bring freedom to their friends.  
Let me be clear, this isn’t a white vs black thing…I’m seeing many of my friends of color repent for how they and their cultural communities have sinned against our black brothers and sisters.  And I know there is so much happening, but many of us are still asking, “What is the plan?”  “How do we move forward?”  Well…God’s response is…

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Listen to the key word in this one, powerful verse: plans, plans, plans  The verse is pointing us towards a glorious future, and in light of verse 10, it may be a future we won’t see with our physical eyes, but one we see with our spiritual eyes. 

“We underestimate the power of the long-term, and over-emphasize the fragility of the short-term.” 

God’s view of time and space is not like ours.  He sees time in measurements of generations and legacy.  So he promises Abraham according to his family lineage, he promises David according to his family lineage, he promises that the death of Jesus isn’t just for that time and space, his death was for Jerusalem, Judea and the utter most parts of the world…God isn’t in a hurry…we are!  

Why is this difficult for us?  Because it takes patience, vision beyond the now, good old fashioned hard work, and a selflessness that reverberates for generations

God is present (in the journey)

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

The Israelites goal was to return to the city of God, and but the relationship isn’t contingent on the city of God, it’s contingent on God being the God of their city.

My parents have considered selling their home on multiple occasions, and every time they do, they receive no opposition from my brothers or myself.  Surprisingly, they get opposition to the idea from my son and my niece.  They are the oldest of the grandkids and frequently remind them that they cannot sell their home because they have so many memories there.  Which seems fine on the outside, a warm story of grandkids being nostalgic about their grandparents, turns sideways when we see those same grandkids on their phones and ignoring the grandparents during the holidays. How can these same kids love a house so much, but not be willing to spend time with the owners of the house?  

For the Israelites, the thought of being home in Jerusalem was as important, or maybe even more important, than being with the God of Jerusalem.  

Peter Berger – Theologian and sociologist said this when referring to his own spiritual growth and discovery that there is an “otherness which lurks behind the fragile structures of everyday life.”

This otherness is what sparks our search for truth, it provokes us along the spiritual journey we are on, whether we are at the beginning of who God is, who Jesus is, or if we are wanting a deeper understanding.  This otherness is a healthy FOMO that compels us to exclaim…”THERE HAS TO BE MORE!”

This…this my friends is what God is wanting…for us to slow down, stop, and come to the rude and hopeful awakening that  there is an “otherness which lurks behind the fragile structures of everyday life.”  Our economy, our political system, our unity, our families, our educational system, they are all systems that are fragile, and there must be more…where is the otherness?  Our flesh seeks out utopian ideals, but our soul seeks out for the depths of satisfaction beyond what our resources can purchase.

The very creator of our soul is the only one who can satisfy.  Hence, he tells his people, RELAX…I AM WITH YOU. 

There will be restoration (on multiple levels)

14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

They will be back in Jerusalem…that’s the promise…but there is no promise that it will be the same city, or that there won’t be tough work ahead…but they are promised to be led back there by God. 

Back to God (humble embrace) …FOUND BY YOU

This reminds me of the prodigal story of Luke 15.  This father gives his son his inheritance because the son requested it.  He leaves home, squanders it all with debauchery and mis-steps, only to find himself in a place where he realizes he was living below his lot in life.  He was eating with the pigs to survive, when he could at least live like the servants his dad had back home.

He comes to his senses…seeks out his father (because he knew where to find him), and was surprised when his father came running to meet him with an open embrace, and restored him back to full sonship.

THE FATHER NEVER WENT CHASING AFTER THE SON…when he gave him the inheritance, he also gave him a subconscious knowing that he could always find his way back home.  Jeremiah tells the people that God will be found by you.  

Back to your city (albeit a new version)…BRING YOU BACK
Back to unity (from the nations)…GATHER YOU

The underlying theme in this passage is not God’s sovereignty, it’s not about slavery and oppression, it’s not about justice and reparations, the underlying theme is that the Father wants YOU!  

Do you want the Father?  
Do you want to know the one who created you?  
Do you want to be known by the one who already knows you?  
Do you want your children, nieces, nephews, kids you teach, kids you see in your medical practice, friends/neighbors…do you want them to know this God is trying to relieve the tension, walk with us in this journey, and is trying to restore us back to his image of us?  

I’ve asked my son, my oldest to join me for this close, because I wanted to model for you what I think God is wanting us to do for the next generation. 

Son, I know we live in unprecedented times, and you are getting a front row seat to the beauty and ugly, light and dark, the just and unjust parts of humanity.  You are seeing us at our best and you are seeing us at our worst.  But as we read Jeremiah 29, I have to acknowledge a few things to you as your father…

I may not see my dreams come true in my lifetime
But I will die trying to set you up so that you can see them come true
We may never see our Michigan wolverines win a national championship in your lifetime (but I’ve seen it…I’ve tasted it…I’ll never forget 1989’s Glenn Rice team, or the 1997 Charles Woodson team)
Keep waiting…when they win…it will be worth it…and remember me!

I hope to see your kids grow up, and to see my great grandkids, but if I don’t…you seeing them grow up was worth it all.  But the truth about you being my son is this:

The greatest gift I gave you was NOT our love for Michigan sports
The greatest gift I gave you was NOT my latin heritage
The greatest gift I gave you was NOT your name (Carlos Ortiz III)
The greatest gift you mom gave you was NOT being white and the ability to get a good tan
The greatest gift we give you is NOT a debt free education to set you up financially. 
The greatest gift we give you is NOT family vacations and memories.
NO SON…the greatest gift we give you is our love for Jesus.  The one who took a broken kid like me and restored me back to the image of the father…The one who took your mom from a broken home with abuse and addiction and raised her up to lead her family to Christ.

Son we give you Jesus!  And above everything else…that is what we want our grandkids, and every generation behind them to know.  We are responsible to live like him, be an extension of justice like him, and to bring freedom to the captives, no matter what their chains look like. 

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