Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Keys of Life and Death Are Not Held by Science

The United States is officially in a panic mode via a pandemic.

Pandemic means "pertaining to all people." The word "dem(os)" means people. "Pan" means "all."

The COVID-19 crisis is a real problem for all people.

People are dying.

The COVID-19 death rate is over 2%. Death comes to men more than women, the obese more than the thin, the older more than the younger, and those with pre-existing health conditions more than the healthy among us.

Americans are freaked out.

Don't be.

Realize that a pandemic typically leads to a God-demic.

It is possible to see God at work, even in a pandemic.

When we feel out of control in an unpredictable situation without a solution to change our situation, fear and anxiety abound.

But God is in control. God is unchangeable. God is never taken by surprise.

One of the advantages of knowing Christ - while at the same time being a student of history - is that both things - history and Christianity - bring a sense of calm to any current situation.

The world has been here before.

In ancient times, mankind never presumed the power of life and death.

In modern times, we wrongly think we have the power of life and death.

But Jesus said...
"I hold the keys of death and the grave' (Revelation 1:18)
The reason we're in a panic is that we wrongly believe we hold the keys to life and death.

We do not. 

Mankind has never been the One in authority over life and the grave.

Jesus Christ holds those keys.

And a pandemic leads people to a God-demic.

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is being built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Some Baptists More Roman Catholic than Baptist?

Pope Francis
On March 20, 2020, during the midst of a global pandemic, Roman Catholic Pope Francis issued the following proclamation.
"People who cannot get to confession because of the coronavirus lockdown or another serious reason can go to God directly (without confessing to a priest), be specific about their sins, request pardon and experience God’s loving forgiveness,"
It is amazing how a global epidemic has a way of exposing doctrinal errors.

Official Roman Catholic dogma teaches that "ordained priests" are the intermediaries between God and man.

From the beginning, Roman Catholicism has taught that God’s forgiveness only occurs through the sacrament of reconciliation (confession to a priest).

Listen to the Roman Catholic explanation of the doctrine of confession (emphasis mine):
This power to forgive sin which Jesus conferred upon his Apostles was not, of course, to die with them; no more so than the power to change bread and wine into his Body and Blood, which he conferred upon his Apostles at the Last Supper.
It is evident then that the power to forgive sins is a part of the power of the priesthood, to be passed on in the sacrament of Holy Orders from generation to generation.
It is the power which every priest exercises when he raises his hand over the contrite sinner and says, “I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” These are called “the words of absolution.
Good for the Pope to set aside official Roman Catholic doctrine and truthfully tell the people that they have the right to go to God directly.

 9 Marks, Mark Dever, and Reformed Baptists

Mark Dever
Mark Dever is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC.

Mark is the founder of 9 Marks,  close friends of Tom Ascol (Founders Ministries), Al Mohler (Southern Seminary), CJ Mahaney, and a host of other Reformed Baptists in the Southern Baptist Convention.

I like Mark. He's personable and smart.

But the movements he's either founded (9 Marks) or supported (Founders) are more Roman Catholic in some ways than Catholics themselves.

Let me illustrate.

During this Covid-19 crisis, Mark Dever sent a letter to his church stating that "temporally cease all our public gatherings." So far, so good. That's smart.

But then Mark goes on to say that there will be no on-line worship services, nor will there be any on-line ministry by Capitol Hill Baptist Church during the Covid-19 crisis because...
"A video of a sermon is not a substitute for a covenanted congregation assembling together and all the various means of God's grace in that. I think it would be healthier to respect God's strange providence in a period of abstinence from meeting together." (Mark Dever, March 13, 2020)
Allow me to translate.
"God's grace is only imparted as you gather in a covenant congregation to receive instruction from those men set aside ("ordained") for your oversight. It's better to abstain from going online for your spiritual encouragment than to risk minimizing the spiritual authority that God has placed over you (i.e. "pastors/priests").

Mark Dever's friend, Tom Ascol, put this view of sacramental grace even more succinctly.

I never dreamed I'd see the day when some Baptists are more Roman Catholic than they are Baptist.

Baptists have historically believed and taught that every individual Christian is a priest unto God. We need no intermediary between God and us or His grace and our lives.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Pope Francis set aside the false doctrine that a soul needs an intermediary to go to God.

But a few Baptists have doubled down on their unbiblical doctrine of pastoral authority and the need for pastoral piety over languishing laity before God's grace can invade our space.

Silly us.

Southern Baptist pastors often confuse our state-certified 501-C3 non-profits (plural) with Christ's church (singular)

Christ's Church has no buildings, no budgets, and no boundaries, local or global.

Baptists need to get back to being baptistic. Every believer is a priest.

The video below has an enlightening discussion on the subject of the government and "the church." Are some Baptists more Roman Catholic than Baptist in their views of the church? Maybe. There's nothing like a global pandemic to expose docrinal errors.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Happy 80th Birthday Wish to Harold H. Holden

H. Holden
We held hands and prayed.

Oklahoma's greatest Western sculptor was dying.

It was 2010. With one hand, I took hold of the artist's hand. With my other hand, I took hold of his wife's hand. Before I prayed, I looked at them intently.

Frederic Remington once revealed the secret of his art by saying, "the more I looked, the more the panorama unfolded."

The artist from Oklahoma who most resembles Remington is a man named Harold Holden. His family and friends call him "H."

I remember that day when we held hands and prayed because, as I looked at H. and his wife Edna Mae,  the panorama of God's beauty unfolded before me.

We were in H's studio in Kremlin, just north of Enid.

"H" and Edna Mae had asked me to invoke God's grace on behalf of H.

H. had a fatal lung disease. They were considering closing his studio at his doctor's suggestion and getting his "affairs in order."

But the three of us weren't convinced that God was through with H - yet.

So I prayed.

H. and Edna Mae have faith a deep in God. It's not the syrupy, slap-stick faith that you often see in religious institutions.

It's the deep, abiding faith that is "shut-up" in a person's private closet or personal dwelling.

It's real.

Just a few weeks after we prayed, on July 2, 2010, H. received a lifesaving single lung transplant at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Center in Oklahoma City.

It's been 10 years since that day of panoramic beauty. H. will turn 80-years-old this Saturday, March 28, 2020.

Edna Mae was planning a huge party for Oklahoma's most celebrated Western artist and sculptor. But the Covid-19 global pandemic has altered her plans.

So she's asking people to write H. a note, letting him know how much he's been an encouragement to Oklahomans.

You may not know H. personally, but you know him through his art...


Wade and H - with "Thank You Lord" mold behind (studio)

Every time you enter the west auditorium doors at Emmanuel Enid, and every time you visit the gardens outside the Emergency Room of the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Center at Integris Hospital in Oklahoma City, you will see the six-foot bronze statue made by H. Holden called “Thank You, Lord.” The "Thank you Lord" statue is a self-portrait that H. created.

H. made this statue after his lung transplant as a visual demonstration of his gratefulness to God for His goodness. Every time I see "Thank you Lord," I am reminded that the English name for "God" is nothing but a derivative and contraction of the English word "Good." 

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

Thank You, Lord, at Emmanuel Enid (West Entrance)

Will Rogers International Airport

Every time you park your car and walk into the terminal of Will Rogers International Airport, you will see H. Holden's life-size statue of Will Rogers. 

H. Holden's Will Rogers Statue at Will Rogers International Airport, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Enid Event Center and BOOMER

Every time you park your car and walk into the Enid Event Center, you'll see H's lifesize statue of BOOMER, representing those cowboys who rode their horses to "stake a claim" of 160 acres of land in Oklahoma during the 1889 and 1893 Land Runs.

H. Holden's BOOMER in front of the Enid Event Center

BOOMER also grace the United States Postal Office 1993 stamp (very collectible). 

The U.S. Postal Service 1993 Stamp "Boomer" in Commemoration of the 1893 Land Run

The United States Federal Marshall Museum

Entering Fort Smith, Arkansas, driving over the bridge spanning the Arkansas River, you will see H. Holden's life-size statue of Bass Reeves. The United States Marshals Service National Museum is in Fort Smith, and the story of Bass Reeves is motion-picture worthy. It is H. Holden that made the art that commemorates the greatest U.S. Federal Marshal in history.

Bass Reeves Monument, Fort Smith, Arkansas, the National Museum of Federal Marshal's (H. Holden Statue)
This is a bronze that H. finished after his lung transplant. It was my privilege to be there at the dedication and to meet the grandson of Bass Reeves, now a U.S. Federal judge. 

Federal Judge Paul Brady, Wade Burleson, H. Holden at the dedication of the Reeves' Statue (Fort Smith, Arkansas (2012)

Remember the TEN

Every time you walk into Gallahger Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma, you'll see H's work in the lobby with the moving statue Remember the Ten.

T. Boone Pickens commissioned H for a bronze to commemorate the 10 people from Oklahoma State University's basketball team who died in a plane crash on January 27, 2001

Remember the Ten, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma

The Cherokee Strip Crucible, Representing the Pioneer Families

Every time you drive by the Smithsonian certified Cherokee Strip Heritage Museum on Highway 412 in Enid, Oklahoma, you will see another bronze that has been sculpted by H. Holden. It represents all the pioneer families that settled the Cherokee Outlet in the Land Run of 1893. 

The Cherokee Strip Crucible, Representing the Pioneer Families of the 1893 Land Run

The Vision Seeker, Enid High School

H. Holden's second Native American monument is called The Vision Seeker. The statue depicts a Native American Plains Indian in full headdress, sitting cross-legged while looking into the distance as he ponders a vision. The original Vision Seeker is located in Altus, Oklahoma and was commissioned by National Bank of Commerce. The original was unveiled in May of 1996. The second casting sits outside of Enid High School and was placed at the north entrance in 1998.

The Vision Seeker at Enid High School

H. Holden has many more works of art, both public and private. His commissions include:

National Bank of Commerce
United States Postal Service
Oklahoma Arts Council
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma State University
American Quarter Horse Association
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Ranching Heritage Center
Ward Petroleum Company
Johnston Grain Company
Archer-Daniels Midland Company
City of Owasso
Air Force Association
Keystone Resort – Keystone Colorado
Hughes Drilling Company
Oklahoma Centennial Commission
City of OKC – Will Rogers World Airport
Oklahoma History Center
University of Central Oklahoma
Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma Baptist University
Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association

H.'s great grandfather, Geoge E. Failing, invented the "bottle cap" that still sits on top of every glass beverage bottle. Every time I pop the top off a beverage or drive by a work of art made with the hands of H. Holden, I thank the Lord for His grace to H. and Edna Mae.

The H. Holden Art Studio is located in downtown Enid, Oklahoma, at 128 N. Independence. It's worth a trip to purchase some art from a man that is likely to be more known after the Lord calls him home than he is today. 

Tim Holden, H's son, is an exemplary artist himself, and Emmanuel Enid has supported Tim over the years as he shares the gospel of Jesus Christ through art to tribes that have no written language. 

H. - you've done well these 80 years. 

Happy Birthday to you!

And though we will not be able to celebrate with a large group of people because of this Covid-19 crisis, I'm inviting all those who've appreciated your art to wish you a Happy Birthday too!

80 is a blessed number.

It represents "superabundance" - and we pray this 80th year for you will be abounding in God's continued mercies and grace for you and your family.

Happy Birthday, friend! 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Don't Confuse a 501-C3 Non-Profit with His Church

For years I've been trying to explain to people that Christ's Church isn't a religious institution.

An institution of religion is established by religious leaders for religious rituals.

When Americans "go to church," we wrongly think that the building we enter is "the church."

We also wrongly say that we are "attending church."
But you can't attend His Church if you are His Church.
What every follower of Jesus is doing on Sunday is attending a local non-profit religious institution that conducts religious and social services.

You are Christ's Church.

That's why any pastor who tells you he is God's representative on earth, with spiritual authority over you, is practicing fraudulent authority and has confused the 501-C3 non-profit he leads with Christ Church.

Christ alone has spiritual authority over His people, and every Christian is called to minister to others according to the gifts He has given each of us.
Christ's Church has no building, needs no budget, and possesses no boundaries, local or global.  
But we've grown comfortable with a social custom in the United States of calling the religious rituals we attend on Sunday "church." The buildings and the leaders of those religious non-profits (including me) are actually part of 501-C3 religious non-profits that are registered with the secretary of state. Your local "church" is vested with "tax-exempt" status by the state and falls under the state guidelines under which it is registered.

Therefore, the state can rightfully order the closure of all 501-C3 non-profits, remove its tax-exempt status, and otherwise jail non-compliant leaders of any non-profit that refuses to abide by state law. Not one person who draws a salary from a religious non-profit should complain.

Any religious institution that has received tax-free money signed up for that benefit with the state.

The Babylon Bee
Photo: The Babylon Bee

An anonymous insider of religious institutions has been "poking fun" of American churches for a long time. He's called The Babylon Bee.

This week he wrote an article entitled "Nations Churches Provide Fog Machines for Families Worshiping at Home."

I laughed out loud when I saw the picture.

I knew what The Bee was doing. He was poking fun at churches who use "fog machines," by pointing out when the church buildings are closed, Christ's people will have to read Scripture, sing songs, and pray in their homes without the aid of fog machines.

Well, of course!

But I think the Babylon Bee has made the same mistake everyone else makes.

The Babylon Bee is confusing the 501-C3 non-profits with Christ's Church. 

Emmanuel Enid (Oklahoma) is the 501-C3 non-profit that I lead. Members of Christ's Church support the non-profit called Emmanuel Enid and the staff of this non-profit seeks to empower members of Christ's Church to minister.

The non-profit called Emmanuel Enid uses a fog machine. In fact, Emmanuel Enid uses two of them. In a moment I'll tell you why, but be patient with me.

I've taught the people who attend corporate gatherings at Emmanuel Enid to never confuse what we do as a non-profit with Christ's Church.

Christ's people -  men and women - are to minister to others as Christ gifts us. Christ alone is our authority.

Emmanuel Enid is a non-profit that exists to helps Christ's Church to fulfill our call of ministering to others.

Our non-profit staff does work that is difficult for others in Christ's Church to do because members of Christ's Church hold other full-time jobs. However, our non-profit expects its staff to not only do the work of ministry, but they are to train and empower all members of Christ's Church to be ministers, Every Christian is a minister and a shepherd, and there's a world out there full of lost sheep. 

Any separation of Christ's Church into "clergy" and "laypeople" is following the unbiblical practice of confusing Christ's Church with the religious institution (non-profit) that clergymen lead.

This past week, those who draw a paycheck (staff) from our local non-profit (Emmanuel Enid) have been working from before dawn until very late at night, preparing Christ's Church in Enid to move out into the streets, following CDC guidelines of separation and contact, delivering food, medicine, and personal hygiene products to the elderly.

We'll not have a choir this Sunday. We'll not have Children's Church on Sunday. We'll not have any Youth Events. We'll not have any Small Groups in the building this Sunday either.

But we will broadcast some great worship and teaching to your home and ask you to join in! We will also give extensive updates on what Emmanuel Enid is doing during this global pandemic and how you are needed to help us reach out to our community.

We've established a phone bank hotline that anyone can call beginning Monday (580) 548-1678 with requests for assistance for themselves or a loved one. A host of volunteers with EMT badges (Emergency Management Team) will be going out of our buildings to assist people who live in our city.

I've received at least half a dozen emails from our members, and they've informed me that they are already walking their neighborhoods, checking on people.

Christ's Church is His Church at all times, whether or not anybody can enter a non-profit building.

Fog Machines

Why would a religious non-profit like Emmanuel Enid use fog machines?

A good question with an easy answer.

For nearly 20 years we have broadcast our corporate gatherings to the homebound, the physically disabled, and others who watch from home. Some who watch us regularly have been burned by religious institutions and are recovering from their wounds at home.

We use fog machines because they enhance the lighting of digital broadcasts.

Fog machines give a much better visual presentation on digital receptors, including televisions, I-Phones, computer monitors, I-Pads, and tablets.

We only use "fog machines" for one of our three services (REFUGE) because the other two corporate worship services are attended by predominately senior citizens, and they don't like "the smoke in the room." It looks like a dozen Winston Churchills are puffing on cigars doing the worship service.

So we accommodate our senior adults and only use the two fog machines during our 11:15 REFUGE service. Which service do you think we typically broadcast via digital medium?

That's right, the one with fog.  There's a Kingdom reason for using fog machines. The electronic broadcast is sharper, clearer, and significantly more enhanced with fog and lights. It's a more professional broadcast.

I understand some followers of Jesus don't understand why fog machines may be necessary. But like the old saying goes, "Never criticize the way another man walks until you've walked a mile in his shoes."

The following two "snips" were taken the same Sunday, February 23, 2020, from two separate LIVE broadcast services at Emmanuel Enid, one with fog, the other without. Which one do you think we archived and used electronically for future broadcasts on television and independent websites?

Service without fog

Broadcast Service with Fog

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The state of Oklahoma has closed the religious 501-C3 non-profit called Emmanuel Enid for corporate worship gatherings until further notice.

Our non-profit staff will enter the building this Sunday to operate cameras, sound equipment, switchers, lights, and our worship leaders and I will give some encouraging words from songs and Scripture, as well as updates on how we will be ministering to the city of Enid in the coming weeks. My encouragement from Scripture is entitled "Personal Blessings from a Global Pandemic."

Emmanuel Enid has never confused our non-profit with Christ's Church.

Christ's Church - you, His people - don't need a fog machine in your living rooms.

But this non-profit will use two of them as we empower Christ's Church to minister to others through this global pandemic.

If you would like to join us online, we will be broadcasting two different worship services, one at 9:00 am on Sunday (Bridge) and one at 11:15 am on Sunday (Refuge). You may watch on Emmanuel's YouTube channel, Emmanuel's Facebook page, or at Emmanuel Enid LIVE.

Since nobody will be in the room except the production staff,  Winston Churchill will be smoking his cigars in both.

Monday, March 23, 2020.

We also will be broadcasting LIVE from our HUB at 10:00 am Monday as we send out our Emergency Management Teams to assist senior adults and others throughout our community. If you'd like to volunteer for one of our EMT teams as a volunteer or be available to work our phone bank (open at 8:30 am Monday and open every day), please email us at:
Hope to see you on the computer screen from your living room tomorrow morning at 9:00 or 11:15 am!

It's a great time to be alive and to be Christ's Church in a world in need of Light.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Covid-19, Jeremiah 29:11, and These Hard Times

There is a promise from God in Jeremiah 29:11 that is often quoted by Christians but almost always misinterpreted.

Like any conversation you have with others, it's not enough to know what someone says, we must strive to understand what that person means.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks to the Hebrew people on behalf of God. The Lord speaks to His people, declaring:
"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).
We misunderstand what God means if we pluck this verse out of its context. 

For example, if I claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise that God is about to change my circumstances for the better, then I have wrongly understood what God means.

Examine the context of this promise by asking several questions: 
When  was God's promise given? To whom was God speaking? What occurred to cause God to make this promise? 
When I ask and answer these questions of context, I'll discover that God is actually telling His people in Jeremiah 29:11 (and me) that He may NOT change my circumstances, but He says:
Though I may not take away your problems, I will give you the grace to bloom and prosper where I plant you.
I can personally thrive even during these crazy, chaotic, hard times.

That's the meaning of God's promise in Jeremiah 29:11.

"Bloom where you are planted" (Jeremiah 29:5) is an ancient biblical phrase that has its roots in the context God's promise to prosper His people in Jeremiah 29:11.

Let me show you.

Jeremiah was a prophet to God's people during a very difficult time. In 612 B.C. a wicked and brutal empire took control of the world. The Babylonians (sometimes called the Chaldeans in the Bible) defeated the ancient Assyrians and the Egyptians and took the stage as world conquerors.

Shortly after conquering the Assyrians, the evil Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,  launched the first of his three attacks against Jerusalem and God's people (609/608 B.C. then 597 B.C. and finally 586 B.C.)

Each successive attack during this 21-year time period was more brutal than the previous one, ending in 586 B.C. with the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the desolation of the entire city of Jerusalem.

It was during Nebuchadnezzar's first aggressive move against Jerusalem (609/608 B.C.) that Daniel, his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), and other Jewish leaders were taken captive. A decade later (597 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar came back to Jerusalem to get more Jewish artisans and craftsmen to help the Babylonian Empire build better roads, erect stronger walls, and create greater weapons. Nebuchadnezzar didn't take all the Jews into captivity.

More Jews remained in Jerusalem after 597 B.C. than were taken to Babylon as prisoners. One of those who remained in Jerusalem after 597 B.C. was the prophet, Jeremiah. The prophet began placing a yoke around his neck proclaiming to God's people that the Babylonian captivity would last "until the seventy years for Babylon have expired(Jeremiah 29:10 NAS).

In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar made his third and final advance on Jerusalem and destroyed the city and took the majority of God's people back to Babylon as captives. This is what the Bible calls "The Babylonian Exile."

Jeremiah the prophet kept telling God's people that their problems would continue until seven decades had passed. 

The seventy years of problems God's people had with the Babylonians began in 609  B.C. and would only come to an end in October 539 B.C. when the Persian King Cyrus invaded Babylon and conquered the Babylonians and freed the Jews.

Think about that for a moment. For 70 years the Jews would be subjugated by the wicked kings of Babylon.

That's a long time for God's people to be held in Babylonian captivity.

The United States war in Iraq has lasted for nearly 20 years. Can you imagine having your husband, son or other loved one in Iraq without having the ability to see him or hear from him for decades?

Or reverse the role. How would you like to be a young Jewish artisan or servant in the Babylonian Empire like Daniel and his friends, only to hear in a letter from Jeremiah that your captivity will only end after Babylon's 70-year world reign comes to an end?

More than a few Jews didn't like hearing Jeremiah's proclamations of long captivity (Jeremiah 25:1-14).

One such Jew was a priest and false prophet named Hananiah. He mocked Jeremiah's prophecy (see Jeremiah 28), ripped the wooden yoke off Jeremiah's neck, and told the people that "God told me the captivity would last just two more years" (Jeremiah 28:3).

The Jews in Jerusalem began believing the false promise that God would change their circumstances soon.

It was at this time that God had Jeremiah send "a letter" to the captives in Babylon. That letter is what we know as Jeremiah 29. God knew that the false hope of a quick release from their bad circumstances would make its way to His people held captive in Babylon. So God speaks to His people through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:4-10 and declares:
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce (i.e. "bloom where you are planted").' 
Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. 
 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,' declares the Lord. For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place (Jerusalem)."
God is telling His people that - contrary to the testimony of the Jewish false prophets - the captivity will NOT be short, but their problems as prisoners of war in Babylon will go on for a full 70 years. Go ahead and bloom where you are planted. Have prosperity in the midst of your problems.

It is only after God tells His people to rest where they are (Babylon), and to pray for their wicked masters, and to be at peace in the environment that God has placed them in, that God gives His people the Jeremiah 29:11 promise:
"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
I'd like to ask you a question. Which prophecy inspires more hope? Is it Hananiah's false prophecy of captivity for less than two years? Or is it Jeremiah's prophecy to "bloom where you are planted" and experience a long captivity of 70 years?

False prophecies about quick changes in circumstances are much more compelling. We want God to take away our problems. But God always has a greater purpose, and His promise is that He will prosper us through our problems. 

Babylon would last as an empire for 70 years. Jeremiah knew this, for God told him (see both Jeremiah 25:1-14 and Jeremiah 29:10). That means when Jeremiah sent his letter to the Jews in Babylon in 597 B.C. the Jews still had an additional fifty-eight years of captivity left. 58 more years of captivity versus 2 more years of captivity.

Hananiah's false prophecy of problems going away quickly sounds better and makes everyone feel better. But God's promise for prosperity in Jeremiah 29:11 is about prospering in the midst of your problems because you know God has a greater purpose, and your problems are part of that purpose.

You exist for God's purposes, not your personal pleasures. And though God's purposes for our lives are always best and good for His greater purpose, they are not all the time comfortable and pleasurable for personal pleasure. Don't waste your sorrows. God is good, and He's told us to bloom where He's planted us, for His glory and for our good.

The common trap laid for us by our enemy is the one where we measure our personal prosperity by how quickly God changes our environment for the better. It would be wise for all of us to stop assessing God's favor in this manner.

God's purposes are much broader than our individual lives. That doesn't mean God doesn't care about me or you, for He does. He gave each of us His only Son.

To "bloom where you are planted," is to trust that God knows the bigger picture and is at work on a grander scale, fulfilling a greater purpose that we can't even understand right now.

So any measurement of my personal prosperity or God's favor for me must always be independent of my current circumstances. God is at work even when I can't see it.

And what God is doing is much grander, much more glorious.

One of the men who heeded Jeremiah's words to "bloom where you are planted" was the prophet, Daniel. We know that Daniel often read Jeremiah's letters while he was in Babylonian captivity (see Daniel 9:2).

Daniel listened and obeyed God's instructions in Jeremiah 29:11. He bloomed where God planted him. He prospered in the midst of problems.

Daniel built a house. He planted a garden for his produce. He prayed for the wicked kings of Babylon. He lived in peace. He was present at the king's palace during October 539 B.C. -- exactly 70 years after Babylon had become a world empire - when the hand of God wrote on the wall "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin."

That very night in October 539 B.C. God's justice was executed against the Babylonians and the Babylonian Empire came to an end.

God had led His servant Cyrus, King of Persia, to divert the Euphrates River and the Persian army crawled under the great walls of Babylon on a dry river bed and took the city as their own. God's purpose for Babylon was over.

Daniel never left Persia to go back to Jerusalem, even though Cyrus allowed the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple and their city.

Daniel's tomb is in Susa (Iran), the ancient capital of Persia (modern Iran). Because the Persians loved Daniel's ability to "foresee the future," they deemed him the greatest "magi" of all.

The Persians revered Daniel, kept his scrolls in Persia and studied them at their universities. The magi in the east came to understand through reading Daniel's scroll (the book of Daniel), that a great King - a King above all Kings - would be born among the Jews.

Five hundred years after Daniel's death, magi from the ancient Babylonian and Persian Empire lands (i.g. "magi from the east") came to Jerusalem and asked Herod:
"Where is He who is born King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2
The magi eventually sought Jesus because Daniel bloomed where he was planted.

I propose that if you find yourself in a difficult situation that God seems in no hurry to change, and if you learn like the ancient Jews to "bloom where you are planted," there will come a day when those around you will come looking for your King.

That's your greater purpose.

Note: This article is an excerpt from Wade's book Radically New.