In part 2 of our 3-part video series, Heather is on the whiteboard! We cover the topics of Kingdom increase (it’s always happening) and hope (it’s greater than character). And we also share a powerful acronym for HOPE that God gave me a few years ago that has proven to be incredibly helpful in maintaining a Kingdom mindset.
Back in April, I was asked for the first time to give a message at MountainSong Church – the church Heather and I moved to Montana to be a part of. I had briefly shared a few times at MountainSong, but never had I given a full message. A communion reflection, a post-worship transition time, a closing reflection and prayer, a testimony or two… those were about it. Needless to say, I was honored and excited about the opportunity.
I knew God wanted me to discuss three of the major works of Christ – His death, resurrection and ascension – and what it looks like to realize the power of each of those works in our lives. What I didn’t know was the incredible well of living water He was going to break open in the hearts of Heather and I as a result and the profound impact it was going to have on our future!
What started as an Easter- and Pentecost-season message on Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, ended as a call-to-arms of sorts to carry unwavering HOPE into and throughout each and every situation we encounter. As Christ’s ambassadors and as ones presently seated with Him in heavenly places, we can boldly live out and exert the hope of our salvation in all of our experiences. This is our inheritance as His sons and daughters!
So, let me share with you a few of the main points and then leave you with a parting reflection.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
— Psalm 27:13
Just this past week, I’ve finally started finding my way out of weeks of pessimistic—and nearly obsessive—observation and analysis of current events around our country and world. Things have been looking, and frankly still continue to look, pretty bleak. I still feel the US economy is as fragile as a house of cards. There are a concerning abundance of serious world events (the oil spill, situations in Israel and Iran, the EU debt crisis, Russian aggression, Iceland’s volcanoes…), any one of which could be the head domino that triggers a series of events leading to wide-scale war, famine and the collapse of economies and currencies. (Consider the following graphic as an example of the abundance of sober analysis).
But I’m coming to the conviction that dwelling in those ditches of despair is not the appropriate place for a Kingdom citizen. While there certainly is the place for what Mike Bickle refers to as “anointed observation” of what is unfolding in the world, which requires knowledge of sign events and trends that are predicted in Scripture, one must not allow this observing to transpire into hypnosis. And that’s what was starting to happen to me.
Having a level of calling to the arena of watchman and “anointed observer,” I feel I might be particularly vulnerable to cycles of hypnosis-inducing information overload and loss of hope while I learn to walk the line of observation while avoiding intoxication. I have an Issachar-type prophetic gifting that helps me sense the timing of coming events. And when I get these senses, I usually do my best to prepare for them and gather as much information about them as I can. So, sensing that things are emphatically not smooth sailing these next few years, I’ve pulled up my iGoogle home page each morning nearly expecting to read about the next stock market crash, the triggering event of World War III or a major currency failure. Let me tell you, it’s not a particularly fun way to live; it’s kind of burdensome, especially when handled wrong as I’ve been doing.
The Seed of Hope
But God is good and as I’ve shifted my gaze back upon the Lord these past few days, His peace and joy have been able to shift the balance of my perspective back where it belongs: in hope. Hope isn’t naïveté. It isn’t ignorance. It isn’t blind faith. Biblical hope is “favorable and confident expectation” and “happy anticipation of good” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary). No matter what circumstances suggest, Biblical hope is possible because of the ground upon which our hope rests: Christ himself.
The Holy Spirit said through Paul in Romans 5 that hope is birthed when tribulations produce perseverance and perseverance produces character and character produces hope. Therefore, the soil of the world stage right now is actually quite ideal for producing hope within those committed to persevering into Christlikeness amidst the tribulations. And the Holy Spirit promises that this “hope does not disappoint”!
This seed of hope that God buries in the midst of tribulations is why Jeremiah could prophesy to the Jewish captives in Babylon that the Lord had thoughts of peace and not of evil and that He would give them a hope and future. They would call upon Him and He would answer; they would seek Him and they would find Him (Jer. 29: 11). Thus, it made sense for them to “build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (5-7).
I’m not proposing prophesying peace and safety when there is no peace and safety. God was clear through Jeremiah that it would be 70 years before they would see the fruit of the hope-seed. There were many itching ears that wanted to believe it would be shorter and there were plenty of prophets who would tell them what they wanted to hear. And God would deal with them (21-32).
So, God was clear with proper expectations: they would remain in captivity, but in that place of captivity they ought to still operate in hope. Not false hope based on a false prophesy of a short trial, but true hope based on the true Word of the Lord that when their long trial was over, they would return to prosperity.
Daniel: A Model Life
What’s provoking to consider is that one Jewish who man committed to living out the exhortation of Jeremiah to fully engage in the Babylonian culture in which the Jews were enslaved—to increase there and not diminish and to seek its peace—played an absolutely vital role in seeing the captivity end. His name is Daniel and he is THE prophetic model life for the times we’re entering into.
Daniel was swept away into a deeply dark, pagan land of Babylon and forced for three years to prepare for service in the king’s court. Yet, while excelling in all the ways of the Chaldeans, including the pagan practices of magic and astrology, he maintained integrity in His commitment to the one true God. Like Jesus, Daniel grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.
Daniel went on to serve in top governmental leadership roles for several Babylonian and Persian kings, spending the final 80-some years of his life in the foreign land. He helped end the Jewish captivity at the God-appointed 70-year mark by discerning God’s word of rebuke to the Jews and repenting on their behalf (Daniel 9). Carrying this insight of the appointed end of the captivity, Daniel was able to operate as an embedded intercessor for King Cyrus until the word of the Lord broke in and stirred up the king, whom Daniel advised, to establish the outrageously generous decree that allowed the Jews to return and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1).
A Superior Perspective
So, this all brings me around to the verse I lead with: David’s psalm of triumph and overcoming amidst undesirable circumstances. Had the Lord not been with him—had he not the hope of salvation and deliverance, David would have lost heart. He would have embraced hopelessness. But he didn’t. David was able to maintain proper perspective because when God said “Seek My face” the Lord’s face David sought. Thus David’s head was “lifted up above [his] enemies all around.” He was able to see with a different, and far superior, perspective.
There are plenty of reasons to have concern about the future of our country. For the most part, America is prideful, unrepentant and is being led by an opportunistic oligarchy. We are not residents of a righteous land, generally speaking. Evil is rampant and we need to be rebuked and heed correction quick and in a hurry. But. Buuut!
What if we maintain hope in a God that can call those things that do not exist in being? Righteousness could reign! What if we daily declared that He who began a good work in this country would bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus? We could finish our assignment! What if we were convinced that we would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? We could witness revival and renewal. What if we believe that all things work together for good for those who love God? We could flourish in even the most evil, caustic environment! Why should we ever loose hope?
The purpose of Christianity is not to preach and prophesy doom and gloom until God rains judgment down upon the earth and its evil inhabitants. It’s to re-present Christ Jesus, the hope of glory, to a lost and dying world. It is to see His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.