Changing Our Focus

Jeremiah 29:4-7 NLT

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: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 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.”

“Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.”  What an interesting concept.  Here God is telling the people of Israel that their welfare is directly tied to the welfare of the city they have been exiled to. 

I have grown up in the Evangelical movement for 40 years now.  I have seen a lot of good and a lot of not so good.  I have seen hundreds of men and women who have given up the comfort of America to go and serve the very least.  I have seen people give up time and money to help strangers, and so much more.

But maybe the biggest negative I have witnessed is the continued mega-phone attack against the very place, and people God has sent us.  The term for this became known as the cultural wars. 

In this so called “Cultural war” we have blasted anything that did not fit into our own culture as sinful.  We have berated those we saw as different and not fitting in.  And we have beaten our very own with words fit for some medieval torture chamber, for giving into the current culture. 

In other words, we have been destroying the people and locations we have been called with our words.  Very little blessing had been taken place.  We created Christian book stores, and Christian coffee shops, because somehow a book store or a coffee shop without the word Christian in it is just pagan.   

We have come to be known by what we are against rather, than what we are for. 

I think of Jesus words, in John 10:10 “… but I have come to give you life and life abundantly.”  In those words, we clearly see what Jesus was for.  He defined himself with the word Gospel, which means good news.  Jesus was known for what he was for.  He was for Life, Joy, Beauty, he was for the Good news. 

In being defined for what we are against we have built walls that separate us from the very people who Jesus sent us to.  We have made it clear to them that, they must change before we can associate, and serve them. 

This is what was taking place in Babylon, when the children of Israel were exiled there.  They stood on the shores and cursed their new city.  God sent a prophet to call them back to their destiny, to be a people of Good news.  And to remind them that their welfare is directly related to the welfare of their new city.  

Now do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting we just accept all aspects of the current culture, nor am I asking you to embrace sin.  Rather I am asking you to switch your focus.  Stop looking for the devil under every rock, and start looking for what God is already doing in your city. 

I am calling us to be known for what we are for – Life, Joy, and Beauty – The Good news of the Kingdom of God. 

There was a time before the great war where churches were known for the Hospitals that they built, the community services they offered their community, and the charity to the less fortunate.  The Church in America had an outlook of Life. 

Of course, World War 1 changed all of that.  The deaths and pure evil of war changed the hearts and minds of the Church.  No longer were we looking for the Life but we began to only see death.  Our focus had changed from one that saw the Good News to one that only saw the evil in culture. 

It is understandable for that focus switch to take place after WWI.  Yet, the Scriptures call us back to a focus of Life, Joy and Beauty.  We are called to find where God is working and then to partner with Him.  We are called to look for the Kingdom in our city, in the lives of the people of our city and then partner with God. 

It is time for a change in our focus.  Seek Life, spread Joy, and Look for Beauty.  God is winning but He needs you to see His work and to partner.  Your city needs you, your neighbors need you, look for the good.