October 4, 2020 – “Younique: Invest in God’s Best” by Rev. Cody Sandahl

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First Reading = Luke 14:25-35

25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. 34“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Introduction

We are continuing our series using the experiences of the prophet Jeremiah to try to help us discover our own personal, unique, divine design. If you have been using any of the tools we’ve mentioned in the sermons or been going deeper with one of our groups, I bet you’ve gained a few insights on what kind of life God dreams for you during this phase of your life.

Now, if you rewind a few weeks (and I know all of you can remember all of my sermons for several weeks), perhaps you’ll remember that I said your divine design doesn’t have to be something as grand as Luke Skywalker destroying the Death Star. But let’s run with Luke Skywalker for a moment. Do you remember his first response when Obi Wan invites him to join him on the adventure? Luke refuses! He says he can give Obi Wan a ride to a nearby city, but that’s it. It’s all “too far away.” It’s only when his uncle and aunt are killed by the empire that he actually commits to his journey. His first instinct was to DO NOTHING!

And we are often prone to do the exact same thing: nothing. If you’ve gotten a clearer glimpse of the true you, if you’ve gotten a clearer understanding of God’s dreams for you during this phase of life, NOW WHAT?

In our text today, Jeremiah’s prophesies of doom were coming true right before the eyes of the people who had mocked and derided him for so many years. The Babylonians (called the Chaldeans in the text) have encircled Jerusalem and the city is out of food. The king asked Jeremiah what they should do since he had called this way ahead of time. And Jeremiah told him that God wouldn’t save them, so just surrender and get it over with. The king didn’t like that. So he locked Jeremiah up yet again. But in his confinement in the middle of a brutal siege right before the Babylonians would break into the city and destroy everything, the word of the Lord came again to Jeremiah. It’s a strange one. So strange, that even Jeremiah wasn’t sure it was from God until it came true. What was too weird for even Jeremiah to believe it? Let’s find out.

Jeremiah 32:1-15

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the LORD: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4 King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5 and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the LORD; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?” 6Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 9And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Change Investment or Environment?

Well have I got a deal for you?!? What would you say if I told you I could make you lose weight without dieting or exercising? Magic, you say? No no! All you need is Ayds!

Everyone wants Ayds, right? Don’t you want Ayds? Oh, I guess I should clarify. I’m talking about A-Y-D-S, the dieting candy that claimed to reduce your appetite. Even though some of you remember Ayds the dieting candy, I bet you were thinking of something else in your mind. AIDS the disease, right?

When AIDS the disease began to enter the public consciousness, Ayds the candy experienced a massive drop in sales. It’s kind of like how Corona beer hasn’t done well in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

But this is fascinating. The marketing team approached the executives and told them they needed to change the name of Ayds the candy. And here was the response: “We had the name first. Tell them to change the name of the disease.” I didn’t make that up! In fact, someone told me about that and I had to look it up to confirm it! “We had the name first. Tell them to change the name of the disease.”

Eventually as the sales continued to plummet they agreed to change the name to Diet Ayds. That didn’t help, unsurprisingly. The executive wanted the rest of the world to rename a disease so he didn’t have to change the name of their product.

Now, we might laugh at that example. We might slap our foreheads at that. Why didn’t they change something? Why didn’t they invest in a new name and new marketing and new branding? Why did they poke their heads in the sand and just hope that the world would change instead of investing in a new name?

We might laugh at them. But most of us have done the same thing in our faith. Have you ever prayed for God to change your circumstances? Have you ever prayed for God to change something in our city or state or country or world? Those are fine prayers. But here’s the catch. Did you do anything different in your life to be a part of what you prayed God would do? Did you change your own investment, or just pray for God to change the world around you?

There was a song a few years ago that started off like this. “I woke up this morning; Saw a world full of trouble now; I thought, “How’d we ever get so far down?” And “How’s it ever gonna turn around?” So, I turned my eyes to Heaven, I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?” Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of People living in poverty, Children sold into slavery. The thought disgusted me. So, I shook my fist at Heaven, I said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did.” Yeah. “I created you.”

If God dreams for you to invest in the faith of your children or grandchildren, please pray for God to make it happen. And then ask God to help you know how to change how you invest your own time to aid in the process.

If God dreams for you to develop or reclaim a more Christ-like character trait – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, self control, whatever – please pray for God to cultivate that trait in your heart. And then ask God to help you know how to change how you invest your own time to aid in the process.

It is totally fine to pray that God would change the environment around you or change something within you. But that has to be partnered with a willingness to change your own investment in the process.

I’m from Austin, and do you know what happens when it snows in Austin? There’s a quarter inch of snow! It’s the Snowpocalypse! Here in Littleton my kids have gone to school after eight inches of snow fell. What’s the difference? Investment! Austin has zero infrastructure for snow. Littleton does. If it’s starting to metaphorically snow a lot more in your life, might I suggest investing in some metaphorical snow plows and road salt? How can you change your investment if you want to change your environment?

Today Reveals Your Belief About Tomorrow

Do you remember a few weeks ago when we got that random snow? Did you shut off your sprinklers for the winter, or did you keep them on? Did you abandon your plants and flowers, or did you try to save them? Did you pack up all of your shorts and short-sleeved shirts, or did you keep them handy? I’m guessing that you saw that storm as a random blip, not a sign that winter was coming in August and was sticking around for good. Am I right?

You believed that snow storm was a blip rather than an indicator of how the next several weeks would be. And because of that belief about the future, you probably didn’t give up hope on your shorts or your plants or your grass just yet.

Will Mancini said, “How we behave today is the best indicator of what we believe about tomorrow.” If you left your sprinklers on, if you kept your warm weather clothes handy, if you tried to save your plants, your behavior showed what you thought about our weather in the near future. Are you with me?

If we’re going to understand the utterly shocking actions from Jeremiah in our text today, we have to understand what Will Mancini said. “How we behave today is the best indicator of what we believe about tomorrow.” So let’s see what Jeremiah did today and what it said about tomorrow.

But first, I’ve got another deal for you! I know you didn’t like my offer of Ayds, but I have something even better to offer you. I have this land, you see, and I need to unload it fast and cheap! This land can be had for just pennies on the dollar! It’s in a beautiful mountain town far from the hustle and bustle and distractions of modern society. And did I mention it’s real cheap! Are you interested? One, small, really negligible caveat: it’s in Taliban-held territory in Afghanistan. Still interested? No? Please? Come back!

That’s the kind of land Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel offered him in our text today. Jeremiah’s family came from Anathoth. That was the land given to their tribe and clan and house by the Living God! Land wasn’t just land to the Israelites. It was part of their identity as the Chosen People. So Hanamel tracked Jeremiah down in prison and told him about the family land that had recently come available for purchase…due to a death in the family. But, it should be mentioned, they were in the middle of a deathly siege. And one of the main encampments of the Babylonians was located in…you guessed it…Anathoth!

Hanamel was offering Jeremiah the chance to purchase land that was occupied by a foreign army intent on killing everyone inside the city where Jeremiah was imprisoned. Can you say hard pass on that offer?

In our text today, Jeremiah wasn’t even sure if God had really told him to purchase this crazy plot of land until Hanamel showed up with the exact same words God had foretold. He followed God’s directions, purchased the land, and this is how Jeremiah explains it:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

Jeremiah’s behavior today – buying a plot of land currently being used by a foreign army as it destroyed Jerusalem – revealed his belief about tomorrow. This battle would be lost. But one day – some day – maybe a long time from now – houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. Talk about changing your investment! Wow! He could have just prayed that God would give people extra hope to emotionally survive this defeat. But instead he changed his investment. He bought a field to give people hope. So…umm…now are you ready to buy that mountain land in Afghanistan from me to be like Jeremiah? Please?

What can you do today to show what you believe is possible tomorrow due to God’s dreams for you during this phase of life? What can you do today to reveal what you believe is possible tomorrow with God?

Tools

We’ve tried to give you tools to move ideas into your actual life each week, so here are some ways to think about changing your investment to participate in what God is doing.

The first tool is inspired by the Psalms. There are different kinds of psalms for different phases of life. Some psalms are about just surviving. Others are about reviving. And others are about thriving. So the first tool is to think about the major areas in your life – maybe that’s family, personal fulfillment, work, faith, God’s dreams and your dreams. Think about the major areas or themes of your life and think about where they are right now within that psalm framework.

For example, is your family surviving right now? Are you looking for some semblance of hope while you are standing in the darkness? Or is your family reviving right now? Are you looking toward the hope you’ve found walking closer and closer to that light at the end of the tunnel? Or is your family thriving right now? Are you celebrating your hope while you’re standing in the light? Think about the different areas or themes in your life, and are they surviving, reviving, or thriving right now? If it’s surviving, how can you cultivate the hope of the Lord even in that darkness? If it’s reviving, how can you invest in keeping the renewal process going strong? If it’s thriving, you might invest your time elsewhere or you might want to invest in celebrating what’s working. After all, businesses say that what gets celebrated gets repeated!

So that’s the first tool – ranking the major areas in your life by whether they’re surviving, reviving, or thriving, and asking how you can invest in Godly hope from that point.

The second tool to consider is to consider your resources. Is there a resource you can leverage to increase some other needed resource?

What kind of spiritual capital do you have? Wisdom, power, and authority.

What kind of relational capital do you have? Friends, family, or followers.

What kind of physical capital do you have? Time, health, and energy.

What kind of intellectual capital do you have? Knowledge, intelligence, creative capacity.

What kind of financial capital do you have? Cash, assets, investments.

Once you know where you are blessed and where you are lacking, how can you leverage what God has given you to invest in God’s dreams for you during this phase of life? For example, you might need financial capital to afford to get trained in something or to afford to go see someone. Or you might need to leverage your friends to find and grow in wisdom.

That’s the second tool – considering your various resources and how you can leverage them in pursuit of God’s dreams for you during this phase of life.

The third tool is a bit different. My family was just in Michigan to see my wife’s family. That’s a long drive, and we had to stop in Omaha overnight. When we pulled in, we were low on gas. But we were tired, so we decided to just wait until morning to get gas. The next morning, we pulled out and started back on our merry way. Until the car started showing a warning message. We forgot to fill the tank! Luckily we were in a populated area instead of that stretch of Colorado where there isn’t a gas station to be seen for miles!

The third tool is to consider where you need replenishment. What fills your tank? Sometimes you have to fill your tank before you can use your tank. Time to be refilled usually doesn’t come easily in our society. It doesn’t seem productive or useful, so it’s often the first thing to go. If you’re feeling totally burned out right now, and that’s kinda going around during 2020, you might need to intentionally invest in some life rhythms that refill your tank. You might need alone time. Or you might need friend time. You might need time to be creative. Or you might need time to do nothing! If you don’t know what fills your tank, try things out and see if you feel more energetic or refreshed or at peace than before you did it.

Summary

Sisters and brothers, we can certainly pray for God to change our environment or change things within us. But we should also be willing to invest our own time and resources in making that change happen. When we change our behavior today, we cultivate the hope that God’s tomorrow will happen.

You might want to consider what areas of your life are surviving, reviving, or thriving. You might want to consider your various resources and how you can leverage them for God’s dreams. Or you might want to intentionally invest in replenishment.

Let’s break it down even simpler. Instead of just surviving for another day, I encourage you to choose at least ONE way you are going to invest in the future that God dreams for you, or for this church, or for this community.

I have a lot of things I need to figure out. So I know that I need to invest in time to quietly converse with the Holy Spirit in discernment. I don’t have the time to do that. But I need to make that time if I actually want to figure these things out. So that’s what I’m going to do this week – I’m going to make the time for quiet conversation and discernment with the Holy Spirit. With so many things unclear, I need to listen to the Creator who has a much better perspective than mine.

What can you do to invest in the future that God dreams for you, or for this church, or for this community?

It’s interesting to think about Mancini’s quote: “How we behave today is the best indicator of what we believe about tomorrow.” It’s interesting because God has been investing in you for your entire life! God has invested in you every day because of what he believes about your tomorrow. Let that sink in.

God, your Chief Investor, believes something about your tomorrow. God, your Chief Investor, sees you as a valuable investment. What can you do to prove him right? Amen.