A  Crisis of Hope

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Photo by Pol Sifter

“We appear to be suffering a great crisis of hope.” Those words, written by John Eldredge in his September 2017 newsletter, aptly sum up our nation today.

Despair has replaced hope in the lives of so many. Two-thirds of deaths caused by guns are suicides; many of these are older men who see no reason to continue living. The incidents of suicide overall are going through the roof. Addictions to drugs and alcohol are ever present problems in our nation that grow worse each passing day.

Even among Christians, we see an abandonment of hope. Many have tossed aside beliefs cherished for decades in favor of earthbound expectations that do little to relieve the apprehensions of life or the disillusionments of failed expectations. It’s no wonder that many believers experience many of the same problems as those in the world who possess no expectation beyond this life.

Those who look to the things of this world for satisfaction soon discover that life often thwarts their deepest desires. We do not have to look far to see their fury; it’s readily apparent everywhere on social media where angry venting often rules the day.

The Dangers of Anger

In an age of information overload, unless we hide in a cave all day we will all see things that irritate us or perhaps raise our blood pressure to unsafe levels. We read about injustice, listen as the media proclaims lies as truth, and watch as evil prevails where good should have triumphed. The apostle Paul recognized that at times we would feel such indignation when he wrote “be angry and do not sin.”

However, notice how Paul ends his instructions regarding anger in Ephesians 4:26-27, “. . . do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

The danger for all of us, regardless of what we believe, comes when we hold on to our anger and let it fester within us. Scripture says that when this happens, we give an opportunity for the devil to work his destruction in and through us.

In my book Shipwrecked Lives (planned for publication next year), I tell the tale of Absalom who allowed anger to destroy his life. He had good reason for his rage, but rather than deal with it in a healthy manner he allowed bitterness to take root and flourish inside him. In the end, 20,000 soldiers died as a result of his rebellion against his father, King David. Absalom, described as the most handsome man in all of Israel, died hanging from a tree as soldiers threw spears at him.

I realize that for all those reading this post, anger will not lead to death or murder as it did with Absalom. However, wrath can be destructive in our lives as well as the enemy of our souls skews our thinking, ruins relationships, and causes a host of health problems that stem from holding on to anger for lengthy periods of time.

The Path of Hope

There is a much better way than the path of anger, frustration, and despair. Hope!

Biblical hope is not positive thinking as some might think of it. You may be planning an outing this weekend with the hopes that you will see sunshine and clear skies. It may rain all day, or worse, despite your hopes for good weather. Our hope is so much more certain than this.

In his newsletter, John Eldredge describes biblical hope this way, “When I speak of hope I mean the confident expectation that goodness is coming. A rock-solid expectation, something we can build our lives on.”  Such hope never ever disappoints us; Christ’s unfailing promises guarantee it.

Amidst the frustrations of life, Jesus has set before us the wonderful path of hope. I love the words of Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” We know from the New Testament that the righteous are not the “do-gooders” around us but those who know Jesus as their Savior and walk by the light of the Gospel.

Regardless of the outcome of our lives here on earth, this hope will never let us down. If the Lord takes us home through death sooner than we would like, we will be in His presence and experience all the wonderful joys of heaven. If Jesus comes for us today or in the near future, we will instantly possess immortal bodies and be with the Lord forevermore.

No one, upon arriving in heaven, will wish that Jesus had delayed the rapture a little longer.

Disappointment and biblical hope are true antonyms; they never go together. No one, upon arriving in heaven, will wish that Jesus had delayed the rapture a little longer.

1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “. . . he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” The apostle, writing to believers suffering amidst great persecution, pointed them toward their heavenly “inheritance” that was secure and waiting for them. This is one of the wonderful purposes of the promises Jesus makes to us regarding eternity, they comfort us and bring light to our paths regardless of our circumstances.

I remember listening to an elected official speak on the radio as I was driving my car one day many years ago. I felt anger building inside me as he continued to speak (his words distressed me, to say the least). Finally, in frustration I switched to a Christian music station. The song playing at that moment was God is in Control by Twila Paris. As I relaxed and even felt a smile come across my face, I realized that this was no coincidence. The Lord knew I needed the relief that came from remembering His sovereignty.

God is wondrously in control of everything. That’s how we know our hope will never ever fail us or disappoint us. The glories of eternity, immortal bodies, and joy beyond what we can now imagine await us just on the other side. It’s a sure thing; as the Apostle Peter said, we cannot lose the “inheritance” Jesus is preparing for us.

When we feel indignation bubbling up inside us, it’s then we must remember where our ultimate hope lies. It does not rest in people or in a world careening toward the terrible years of the Great Tribulation. It does not rest in politicians who will fail us many more times than not. Our hope remains secure in Jesus who will satisfy us forever with the wonders of eternity.

Our hope remains secure in Jesus who will satisfy us forever with the wonders of eternity.

Doesn’t focusing on the biblical promises of eternity sound a whole lot better than holding tightly to our anger, which only wreaks havoc within us with bitter or vengeful thoughts?

Jesus offers us unfailing, “rock-solid,” ever-satisfying hope. He offers us the wonderful freedom of His love and a promise of eternity that will be joyful beyond what we can imagine. This glorious journey begins with Jesus’ appearing to take us home to His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:2-3).

Do not let anyone change the focus of your ultimate hope to temporal realities of this life that can never satisfy you. Why stay earthbound in your focus when Jesus is coming to complete your adoption into His family and redeem your bodies (Rom. 8:23)? As Jesus followers, we will live forever with Him in a place where sorrow, pain, death, and tears will no longer exist (Rev. 21:4).

 

Jesus Remains our Only Hope

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In the aftermath of the election, I believe the biggest mistake we can make as followers of Christ is to put our hope in President-elect Donald Trump or think the rapture is not close because of his election. I am glad he won, but we dare not put our trust in him.

Some conservatives are saying Trump has given us hope. I disagree. Our hope comes from the Lord and Him alone. That has not changed. Perhaps on a human level, we see a brighter future than what we envisioned a week ago, but that can rapidly change.

Here is what Psalm 118:8-9 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” I am truly grieving today for those on both sides of the past (and continuing for some) election battle whose hope was placed in a candidate rather than the Lord.

In spite of the results, Jesus remains our only hope.

People Still Need Jesus

Many, many people in our nation need the Savior. This has not changed. The battle lines are firmly drawn, but the battle is not about politics or even who won the election.  The election has intensified the divide and all the more clearly revealed why so many need the Savior.

I feel great sorrow for those who are putting their hope on the temporal things of this world

I feel sorrow for those who are putting their hope on the temporal things of this world. With each passing day I understand a little bit better what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

What Scripture says about the end times is unfolding before our eyes. I very much believe we are living in the last moments of human history. The election has not changed my belief that Jesus may show up very soon. What I see on the news further convinces me that nothing has changed in that regard.

Much can happen between now and January 20, 2017. We need to remain vigilant in our prayers both for the safety of our newly elected leaders and for the Holy Spirit to work mightily in the hearts of people who so very, very much need the healing and the hope that only Jesus can give.

Jesus’ Return is Still our Hope

In addition, my hope remains fixed on Jesus’ return for His church. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Despite what many of us regard as a victory, that does not change the focus of our hope.

It’s tempting to think that the rapture may not happen as soon as we thought because of what has happened. Those thoughts have crossed my mind a few times since Tuesday.

Jesus, however, said this about His return, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”[i] We must guard against thinking that somehow this turn of events in our nation has delayed Jesus’ return to take away His church. The election results did not surprise the Lord or cause Him to adjust any plans.

The events of last Tuesday call us to renewed anticipation of the rapture. If there ever was a time when we might think Jesus has delayed His return, might not this be the time? Scripture tells us Jesus will return in precisely such a time as when we think He might not appear.

In almost every epistle of the New Testament, the apostles directed the hope of believers to Jesus and His imminent appearing to take us home.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:3 Paul said this about the coming of the Day of the Lord (or what we refer to as the Great Tribulation), “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Our world leaders today continually echo this assurance of peace exactly as the apostle said would happen before Jesus’ return for His church.

In almost every epistle of the New Testament, the apostles directed the hope of believers to Jesus and His imminent appearing to take us home. While it was not called the rapture at the time, this hope in the imminent return of Christ carried over into the early centuries of the church. Nothing has changed since that time to divert our hope to anything else but Jesus. Nothing.

We Still Need to Pray

I believe we need to continue praying and fasting for our nation; we cannot remain on our reckless path without dire consequences. The Bible contains both a message of love for the world and one of warning if people continue to reject its message.

I am not saying this because I am eager for God to judge the world. Heavens no. We pray earnestly because we know what is coming and want as many people to find eternal life as possible.

Is this not why Jesus has waited so very long to return? He does not want anyone to perish but for all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He died on the cross because He so dearly loves all of us; this is why we both pray and warn others of what is to come before it is too late.

Yes, I took a strong stand in the election and I am relieved Trump won. However, a Hillary victory would not have diminished my hope. I realize my passion during the election could have easily been mistaken to assume my hope was in Trump or that I thought he was an ideal candidate. Such was most definitely not the case.

My passion remains for people who need the Lord; much still needs to happen to turn America back to the Lord.

We must continue to pray often for our country.

I feel uneasy about what might happen next in our nation. The election is over, but half of our nation remains committed to a vastly different vision for our nation. We must continue to pray often for our country.

The door to change is now open enough to allow a sliver of light to seep through; it can quickly close just as quickly.

I am not taking victory laps as a result of the election, quite the opposite. Any joy I might have had in Trump’s victory has been greatly tempered and that shock has brought me back to the realization of how very much people need Jesus, His healing touch, the living hope found only in Him.

[i] Matthew 24:44

Habakkuk in the Morning

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I need the message of Habakkuk this morning!

As I look at the evil and injustice flourishing in our nation, discouragement looms at my doorstep.  Habakkuk helps me close the door to such feelings of despair.

The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet’s complaint of violence and injustice in Judah:

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,

    and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

    and you will not save?

3 Why do you make me see iniquity,

    and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    strife and contention arise.

4 So the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

    so justice goes forth perverted.

Does this not describe our nation today? Is this not our world!?

My heart grieves as I think of all the violence all about us, of the despicable practices of abortion clinics, of the growing violence toward police, and of the almost daily terrorist attacks that claim the lives of so many innocent lives throughout the world.

I’m horrified by the actions of Planned Parenthood as well as by both political parties that not only refuse to take action against the selling of baby parts, but continually vote to continue taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Just this week, Hillary celebrated the anniversary of Planned Parenthood. We live in evil times!

BTW, Hillary believes Christianity must be changed to accept abortion and if elected she will have a Supreme Court that will fully back her in this matter.

We see “iniquity” prospering throughout our nation as never before. Twenty years ago I never could have imagined that our Supreme Court would someday rule in favor of same sex marriage or that a candidate of a major party would fervently support this along with a host of other sins so clearly forbidden in Scripture.

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation?

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation? The rich and powerful are not called to account for their evil and yet bakers who stand by their biblical convictions face obscene fines.

Truly, justice is “perverted” in our nation as the “wicked surround the righteous.”  The institutions that we as nation rely on to bring the wicked to justice are now stained with political corruptness.

I see a nation one election away from surrendering to an oppressive and socialistic world order that will, as President Obama clearly stated recently at the United Nations, “take away some of our rights and freedoms” for the “common good.” The recently uncovered e-mails reveal that Hillary is totally on board with this evil agenda to subject America to this satanic and demonic world government.

The message of the prophet, however, calls me to a higher perspective far away from the feelings of despair that lurk nearby.

The Lord Sees

The Lord saw all the evil in Judah during the time of Habakkuk; He sees everything today.

His response to the wickedness of Judah was already on the way, even before the prophet voiced his complaint (1:5-11). God was raising up the Babylonians who in about twenty years from the time of Habakkuk would begin their conquest of Jerusalem.

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

It’s so easy to think the Lord does not see the vile things done today in our abortion clinics or the lewd display of evil around us. We think He would surely have done something by now if He truly saw the violence and injustice that daily surround us. How could He possibly let this continue so long?

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

In Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 we find this warning, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

Far too often we mistake God’s patience for His lack of interest or unwillingness to deal with sin. As Solomon points out, such a perspective ends in tragedy for those who believe the Lord does not see or care about their wicked lifestyle.

It’s a Matter of Faith

Habakkuk convicts me of my unbelief. Yes, I know all the warnings of Scripture concerning His judgment of nations and of wickedness, but at times my thoughts do not reflect a belief He will actually judge evil or punish the wicked in this life.

Habakkuk begins his book questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The prophet Habakkuk provides us with two amazing statements regarding faith.

The Apostle Paul later quoted his words in 2:4, “. . . but the righteous shall live by faith.” In midst of the calamity about to descend upon Judah, the Lord says that those who know Him will “live by faith!”

As the book ends, we see the prophet proclaiming that regardless of any calamity he might see, he would still “rejoice in the Lord” (see 3:17-18). Habakkuk starts out questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The message of Habakkuk assures us God will not let evil continue unchecked. At just the right time, the Lord will show up and deal with any society that rejects Him and openly flaunts its rebellion toward Him.

We see this clearly in Psalm 37. The Lord not only sees the evil about us, but laughs at the wicked because He knows what’s ahead for them. I know this message is true, but do I live by faith believing God will someday soon intervene in our world?

The test of faith often comes as a result of God’s patience; He often waits a very long time so people have as much opportunity as possible to repent and avoid His wrath.

It’s a Matter of Waiting

As the Lord responded to Habakkuk regarding how he would deal with the Babylonians for their sins, He said this in 2:3, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

There’s that pesky word “wait.” Is this not where our faith so often falters?

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

We see horrific violence in the world and daily hear “rumors of war” like no other time in the history of humanity. Every week I read a story about how World War III is about to start and I wonder how much longer the Lord can delay His appearing to take away His church. And yet . . . we wait!

I remember a particular thunderstorm from my grade school years in Rockford, Illinois. In the midst of the wind and rain, everything grew perfectly calm for several seconds. Then suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning and loud crashing thunder interrupted the tranquil moment. Although the lightning struck harmlessly on our property, it set our neighbor’s home on fire.

I sense we are in the calm before the storm. Despite all the threats of violence and rumors of war throughout the world, our nation seems eerily peaceful on the surface.

I Thessalonians 5:3 speaks of a time when “people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’” ahead of the “sudden destruction” that will mark the beginning of the day of the Lord or the Great Tribulation.

The leaders of the world today often proclaim “peace and security” not realizing they are fulfilling prophecy. I believe the “sudden destruction” of 1 Thessalonians looms over the world at this very moment.

How long will this last? We cannot know. God is patiently waiting for as many as possible to repent and find eternal life in Him. However, I believe the rapture and subsequent Great Tribulation are rapidly approaching.  How much longer will the Lord wait?

Yes, I need the reminders from Habakkuk this morning as I recover from my angst of the past couple days when everything seemed so murky.

Habakkuk reminds me of God’s sovereignty; nothing escapes His notice and or diverts Him from His purposes. His Word will not fail!

The Lord will not let evil go unchecked. At precisely the right time the Lord will show up, much, much to the dismay of those who now reject the Lord and so openly flaunt their rebellion toward Him.