Conversations with God Intentional Contact

Sermon Summary
This message, in the series Conversations with God, talks about God’s intentional contact with humankind. The main points are taken from a conversation Jeremiah the Hebrew prophet had with God. God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him some amazing things which show that God had intentionally made contact with him. The first is that God knew Jeremiah before he was even formed in the womb. This can only be interpreted to show that God knew what He was doing when he chose Jeremiah. The second is that Jeremiah was set apart by God to do some special things in life. In other words, God had great plans for Jeremiah. The third thing Jeremiah hears is that God had appointed him as a prophet to the nations. In other words, God’s plans for Jeremiah were not just about Jeremiah, but about the difference he would make in the lives of others.

Community Group Discussion Guide (Thanks to Dr. Phil Epling for contributing questions!)

1)Have you ever struggled with feelings of insecurity, doubt and even unworthiness, when it comes to your relationship with God? We must remember no one deserves to have a relationship with God, but God wants to have a relationship with each of us! And just like Jeremiah, who was known before he was formed, God also knows you! As you look back over your life, what evidence do you see that God knew you before you knew Him? (In other words, Somebody had Their Hand on your life)

2)Jeremiah was set apart. As you look back over your life, describe the ways God has set you apart and gifted you to do what He has called you to do!
Rom 12:4  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
Rom 12:5  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Rom 12:6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
Rom 12:7  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
Rom 12:8  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Rom 12:9  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

3)Jeremiah was appointed. What are WE appointed to be? What are YOU appointed to be?
2 Cor 5:20  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Cor 5:21  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

4)Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet because he saw the failure of his people and the coming consequences on the nation of Israel. Rather than give up on the people, Jeremiah remembered that he was called by God not only to tear down and uproot by speaking against the evil, but he was also to plant and build up by speaking words of encouragement. Read the following words God spoke through Jeremiah and discuss how these words could be used today to encourage others.
Jer 29:11  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.
Jer 29:12  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
Jer 29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Full Sermon Notes
Conversations with God Intentional Contact

"The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning; It's time to sing your song again. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes!"

Ever wish that could be your story, your testimony? You get up singing and no matter what happens during the day, good or bad, you're still singing at the end of the day! You might say, "I've just never had that kind of connection with God. I've never had that kind of relationship with Him." Don't think you're all alone. You're not. Don't think somethings wrong with you, or that you could never have that kind of relationship with God. We're going to pray, and then listen to the words of a young man who has some honest questions about his relationship with God!  

"Good morning Lord! Thank You for the privilege of talking with you. It's not always an easy thing for us to understand how to connect with You, and what contact with You actually looks like! But we want to learn how to have meaningful conversations with You! Conversations that are not just a one way street! Help us to leave today with a better understanding of the intentional contact You desire to have with each one of us! Hide me behind the cross and let Your Holy Spirit  speak Your message through me and I'll give You all the glory! In Jesus name I pray and believe!! Amen.

Can you relate with Todd? Remember this, God loves honesty! He want's you to be real about your doubts, your questions, and your fears! Most of us want a personal relationship with God that is meaningful and that we know is real!! We don't want to live a life of pretense. Who wants to be fake and false? Not me. That's no way to live. However, there are people, who think or feel that conversations with God are a one way street, and they're good with that! Why? Because as long as God's not talking to them, they can just mosey on along with their plans, their agenda, their day! They've done their religious duty and they've asked God for His blessings. There is a bit of freedom in that. If God's not talking to you then you don't have any real responsibility in the relationship. So, unlike Todd, there's a lot of people, even church people, who really don't want to hear God speak to them. Why? Again, if they can say “God doesn't speak to me,” then they are totally free from the responsibility of doing what God would ask of them. Pretty convenient! You know, I have often wondered why God doesn't typically speak to people in an audible voice. Then no one would have an excuse! Not that He couldn't or hasn't in Biblical times spoken in an audible voice. Of course, at some point, God had to speak to someone in an audible voice, or a dream, or a vision, in order to give us The Bible, His Word, His principles, His laws, His divine guidance, but typically that's not the way He works. Why?

Well, could it be that God want's us to seek His voice? Could it be He want's us to desire to hear from Him and to search for His wisdom as a hidden treasure? Now that He has given us His written revelation we are to read it, hear it and search it to find God's voice! Solomon put it this way in Proverbs 2:1-15...

Proverbs 2:1-1 “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.”

And guess what happens when you pick up your Bible to read just a little bit? What happens when The Holy Spirit begins to stir your thoughts with something you heard in a sermon, or read in a devotional book, or received through the advice of a Godly person in your life? God starts talking to your heart, and His voice, while not audible may startle you and may cause you to engage God in a little deeper conversation. "Hold on God, what are you trying to say here? Let me get this right. You want me to do what?" And while it may be a surprise to you, rest assured, when God makes contact with a person, it is intentional. It is on purpose and for a purpose. Jeremiah discovered this in his relationship with God. But like the young man in our video, Jeremiah had some issues. James Leo Green in his commentary on Jeremiah put it this way...

“As a person, Jeremiah was shy and sensitive, honest and human, somewhat impatient and impulsive, given to times of elation and dejection, courageous and confident, yet torn by a sense of inadequacy and an inner conflict between natural inclinations and a sense of divine vocation.”

Like the young man in our video, Jeremiah had been raised in a very religious family. His father was Hilkiah, a priest from Anathoth, a small town about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. This tells us a good bit about Jeremiah, but we discover through his writings just how important his upbringing had been. Being raised in a priestly family you know he had heard stories about the prophets. Moses, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah were some of his favorites. So it stands to reason Jeremiah would have been very familiar with the advice of Solomon we just read. He was raised in a small town that was more rural than it was city, so God used the things he had seen growing up as illustrations and pictures to communicate with Jeremiah and the people to which Jeremiah spoke. And being in such close proximity to Jerusalem, and the temple of God, Jeremiah had grown up with first hand experience of all the religious activities of the Jewish faith. In our text for today Jeremiah says the word of The Lord came to him. In fact we read the phrase "The word of The Lord came…"  forty nine times in the book of Jeremiah. Was it an audible voice or was Jeremiah reading from the scrolls of God's Word? Was it a vision or a dream?

I don't know, but Jeremiah was definitely in conversation with God and it was not a one time occurrence. Regardless of how the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the important thing is what God said to him and Jeremiah's response. Let's take a listen to some of his conversations with God. We'll start with Jeremiah's call in Jeremiah 1:1-ff.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to  everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Boy was God intentional in His contact with Jeremiah! He stated three things very clearly to Jeremiah. "I knew you, I set you apart, I appointed you!" Let's start with the first thing God told Jeremiah...

 I Know You!

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...”

If you ever get to feeling like Todd in the video, remember this, before God formed you He knew you. In other words, before you were even conceived, God knew you. That makes you as important and special as anybody else on this planet. There's no world leader, famous athlete, model, musician, actor, actress, successful business person, or spiritual leader who is more important to God than you are! "But preacher, I've got issues! I don't think God can love me!" Wait, did you just say your issues are too big for God? 'Cause they're not!! And when you have a conversation with God one of the first things He's going to let you know is how much you mean to Him and how much He loves and cares for you! Issues and all! It could be that God used words King David had written several hundred years earlier to speak to Jeremiah's heart about his importance...

Psalm 139:13-16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

If you've been here for this series of sermons you might see a pattern here. God knows you! You may not know him or even acknowledge He exist, but that doesn't keep Him from knowing and loving you! I had a young man tell me he didn't believe in God, and I told him, "Well, God believes in You!" But here's a Biblical truth that is so important we must not miss it. God knows who you are and loves you, but in order for you to get to know Him you have to choose to know Him. He has ordained it to be that way. He gives each of us the ability to know Him, and how He wants you to know Him, but He will not force His love on you. God's intentions towards you are clearly stated in Scripture, but it is also clearly stated that you must intentionally seek contact with God if you desire it.

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

And these words in Isaiah 55:6...

Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

And I know you've heard these famous words God would later speak through Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in Babylon…

Jeremiah 29:11-14 “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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 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.”

And one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Acts 2:20...

Acts 2:20 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

So God told Jeremiah, "I know you, and have known you for a long, long time!" But God also told him something else...

 I Set You Apart!

Jeremiah 1:4-5 “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”

Talk about intentional contact! God had intentionally set Jeremiah apart, made him special, and gave him a special gift mix to be able to accomplish what God had set him apart to do! As we've already mentioned, God used all the background things in Jeremiah's life as tools to help him accomplish his God-given task. Jeremiah was truly set apart from others. He was a true prophet. He was a prophet who actually had a real and personal relationship with God and he was a prophet who had a real and personal burden for the people! Jeremiah recognized who God was because of His personal relationship with God and the conversations he had with God. Now here's something to think about. God had plans for others besides Jeremiah, but they had made choices to go their own way and not pursue a personal relationship or conversation with God. Why? It's like we said at the beginning of the message. Some don't want to talk to God because they don't want to hear what He has to say! In fact, here's what the people were saying about Jeremiah and other Godly prophets...

Jeremiah 5:12-13 “They have lied about the LORD; they said, “He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.”

But even this didn't dissuade Jeremiah from speaking the truth, and listen to how God used his lowly rural background to get a message across to the people. This old boy had some common sense that comes from the farm. Listen to Jeremiah 10:1ff...

Jeremiah 10:1-5 “Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”
Jeremiah 10:10 “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.”

Jeremiah was set apart to speak truth to a people who were so lost and blind. Now, you might wonder how this has any application to your life today! Let me ask you this: Do you think people in America have any idols? Do we worship things other than God? Do we have any false gods? Any folks out there in this world who are spiritually lost and blind? Now what I'm about to say to you, please understand I'm not trying to be judgmental and only God knows a person's heart. But I believe God has set me apart to speak truth, so I need to say this. And I hope some of you in this room will realize God has set you apart to speak truth to your family and circle of influence! And we do this by the words we speak and the lives we live!

Okay, here goes. I really like old trucks and cars. Most of you know I have an old 1948 Chevy pickup I pulled out of the woods about 28 years ago. When my son was about 2 years old. He just turned 30 this week. How did that happen? Friday night we went to Cruzin' The Coast. It was a lot of fun and we saw some beautiful old cars and trucks, and we saw some crazy old cars and trucks. Homemade contraptions I don't even know what they were. I was talking to one man there who showed me a picture of his pride and joy vehicle on his phone. He then looked me in the eyes and from the bottom of his heart he said, "This is my heart, this is my heart! After I pay my bills, and I buy a few things for my wife, this is were all my money goes!" Now please remember, I'm not judging his heart. But I was thinking I wish he could find the same passion for God. Nothing wrong with hot rods and fixing up an old vehicle. I hope to someday go to Cruzin' the Coast in my old truck, but I pray the love of my heart will always be my Lord first, my wife and family next, and then the ministry God has graciously called me to do next. Why? Because God has set me apart first and foremost to restore the lives of lost men and women and when I have a little free time, to restore an old truck!

And what did God then tell Jeremiah?

 I Appointed You!

Jeremiah 1:5 “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

In fact, the meaning of Jeremiah's name even had special importance.

Jeremiah - “The Lord shoots, The Lord hurls!”

God was going to shoot or hurl Jeremiah onto the national stage as a prophet to the nation of Judah and Israel, but also as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah was going to bring to the people some of the most difficult and yet at the same time some of the most meaningful words from God!

Jeremiah 7:22-26 “ ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.’

And because the people didn't listen, devastation came upon their lives. And how do you think Jeremiah felt when that happened? "Ah ha! I told you so! You should have listened to me you bunch of rascals!"
No, that's not at all how Jeremiah felt! Listen to Jeremiah 8:21ff...

Jeremiah 8:21-26 “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”

Again, you might ask me how this applies to your life in this world today? God wants to have a personal relationship with people today every bit as much as He did back in Jeremiah's day. God has a message for people today that He very much wants to be their God if they will be His people. He knows you, and has set you apart and appointed you to share His love with a world that desperately needs His love! The question is this: what will be your response? What was Jeremiah's initial response?

Jeremiah 1:6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to  
everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

I'm so glad Jeremiah obeyed! God used him to tear down some things that needed to be torn down, and to weed out some things that needed to be weeded out. And then God used Jeremiah to build up and to plant a new hope in the hearts of God's people. I sure hope you realize that there may be some evil kingdoms in your life or family that  need to be uprooted and torn down so Christ can build and plant things in your life that will help you, grow you, strengthen you and better you! After all, that's God's intention every time He has contact with you! Let's Pray!