Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)
Prayer of Confession
Sending God, thank you for not allowing your church to get stuck in Jerusalem, limited to one location or bound to one era. Instead, your church fits and functions in any and every context, spread across the world and yet joined in heart and will, united in one and the same Spirit. Thank you that I am part of this amazing community of faith. Amen. (a prayer based on the Belgic Confession, Q27)
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: “Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with. The letter of James shows one of the church’s early pastors skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “Twice in Judges (17:6 and 21:25) there is the telling refrain: “At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.” But we readers know that there was a king in Israel: God was king. And so, while the lack of an earthly king accounts for the moral and political anarchy, the presence of the sovereign God, however obscurely realized, means that the reality of the kingdom is never in doubt.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Read: Jeremiah 29:4-7
Every time I walk into a Hobby Lobby I am reminded of how easy it is to treat God’s Word like Trail Mix, picking and choosing the words we’d like to adorn the walls of our house. It’s a good practice, actually. Keeping God’s words in front of our eyes. Reminding us of the One to whom we belong.
And yet, and yet, there is always one sign that I wish they would put in it’s full context. “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). They are words of comfort to be sure but they are set in the middle of a story where God’s people are in exile. Far from their true home they wondered how they were supposed to live in the midst of a people and country that did not love the LORD their God with all their heart, soul, and mind.
Some prophets were saying: “Just keep to yourselves. Don’t get involved with and seek the welfare of your pagan neighbors.” But notice what God said: “I’m the One who sent you into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…” They were not there by accident. True, their sin had caused God to send them into exile. But is not God sovereign even over our sin? God had a purpose for them in Babylon. So he told them to build houses there in Babylon. Live in them. Plant gardens. Get married. Watch your kids get married. Multiply the way I created you to multiply. The way you did in Egypt. But don’t just keep to yourselves. Be a distinct, Yahweh-worshipping community, yes, “But, seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf…”
That’s what we are doing this week with Neighbor Day.We are seeking the welfare of the city where God has sent us. We do it not primarily as citizens of this country but as exiles living in Babylon who long for our true and better country, and seek to give Babylon a glimpse of the world that is coming, and has already broken in from the future in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the world we all want. One where we no longer need to hope that things will get better because the world has been set right. One where nations no longer war and neighbors live in peace with one another. One where our disordered hearts and lives find renewal and rest in being exactly who god made us to be.
Reflect: Historically Christians have thought of themselves as exiles no matter what country they live in. How might God want to use this passage in Jeremiah to shape the way you think about being an “exilic neighbor”?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)