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About this series
Hope of Nations
Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post Christian World
In the midst of these trying and challenging times, is there hope for America? In this new series called “Hope of Nations” our guest teacher John Dickerson, pairs his understanding of God’s Word with his skills as a reporter, to paint a picture of America’s potential spiritual future. Don't miss what we can learn from our past, and how we can protect our Christian values.More from this series
Let’s start by just talking about our normal, real lives. I don’t know if any of you have a recurring dream that’s kind of like a nightmare where you show up and you are unprepared. So, for my wife Mel, because she used to be in theatre, it’s being on stage for a play and not knowing her lines.
For me, I used to have this dream, thankfully I don’t have it anymore. But when I first became a pastor and had left journalism, I had this recurring nightmare where I, all of a sudden I woke up late on Sunday, I rush, and I get to the church and everyone is looking at me, and I look down, and I’ve got nothing. No Bible, no – and I don’t know what to say. Which, if you know me, is funny. The thought of me not having anything to say is not very realistic. But in my dream, it always felt really real.
Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? Can you relate to that feeling? That kind of panic or that sense of “I don’t have what I need”? Maybe you have shown up to a birthday party at some point in your life and you got there, and you realized, “I don’t have a gift.” Or maybe you have shown up at the airport and realized, “I don’t have my ID.” It’s this feeling of you’re in a situation and all of a sudden you realize, “I don’t have what I need.”
Well, today, we are talking about that feeling, not just in our dreams or at birthday parties, but when that feeling meets us in really more serious situations.
And the question we are asking is this: How can I know my needs will be met when the future is uncertain? How can I know my needs will be met when the future is uncertain? How can you know when you look out into the future and you wonder, financially, you get that feeling of, Ah, I don’t have enough. Or you look at where your kids are headed or you get a report from the doctor and physically, you realize, I don’t have what I need for the future. And that feeling of kind of panic and lack of provision crashes down on you.
For some of you, maybe it’s some of these things we have been talking about in this series of you look at the changing of world religions around the world or changes that are happening within the culture that we call home and you think, I don’t know, how will I be able to live in that kind of world and be strong?
Well, the feeling that we’re talking about is a feeling that God knows we have. And He’s very compassionate toward us when we do have it. Not only is He compassionate, but it’s actually a feeling He spoke directly about in His Word. And He gives us a solution to this very common human dilemma or problem.
And I want to give you Jesus’ answer to this question. It’s found in Matthew chapter 6, verse 11. And this is actually in the middle of a little prayer where Jesus is saying, “Here’s how you pray every day.” Jesus says this little phrase. He says that every day, you can go to God and you can say, “God, today, give me my daily bread. That is what I need for today.”
It’s really interesting, in this short prayer, Jesus uses the idea that God is our Father and we can approach Him like a good dad.
You know, when I woke up this morning, there were two children in bed between my wife and me. Two! And I have times, I’m kind of a private individual where I think, What are these people doing in my bed? But because they are my kids, they have all the confidence in the world. They know that I love them. And they know that if they are having a bad dream or whatever, that I want to meet their needs.
And the idea is that every day you can go to God as a Father, knowing He wants to meet your needs. He wants to keep you safe. He wants to help you. And so this word “give” is almost like a command, but it’s like a command from a child to a parent, knowing, “You’re in charge, but I know you want to meet my needs.”
And you can live life knowing that you have a Father who wants to meet your needs. And what’s interesting is Jesus says, “Give us today our daily bread.” Now, maybe you’ve heard of Wonder Bread or wheat bread or rye bread. What in the world is daily bread?
Well, daily bread, Jesus’ audience would have known exactly what this term meant, and I’ll explain it to you here. But the idea is that daily bread is having enough for today. So, it’s going to God and saying, God, here’s what I need today. It’s not saying, Here’s what I need tomorrow or thirty years from now. That’s where we tend to panic, right? What’s going to happen tomorrow? What’s going to happen five years from now, ten years from now, thirty years from now?
Or sometimes we dredge up things from the past, but Jesus says, “Go to the Father every day and just say, Dad, Father, here’s what I need today, and then have the faith to trust that He is already in tomorrow providing for you again tomorrow.
Now, Jesus’ initial audience, they would have known that this term “daily bread” came from a true story about their ancestors, the Jewish people. When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God sent them a prophet leader, Moses, who led them out of their slavery.
But their journey out of slavery and to a rich land that God called the Promised Land, led through a desert. And for forty years, they had to travel through a desert.
Could you imagine forty years? And as God’s people start moving through this desert, real people, real families, no Porta Potties, and no food! And they start to get hungry and they start to complain and so, God speaks to Moses and He says, “I’m going to start to provide food for the people. I’m going to actually rain down this kind of supernatural bread that’s going to come from the heavens. It’s called manna. But here’s the thing, Moses, tell the people every day it’ll be there when you wake up and only take enough for today. Only take enough for today. If you get a whole wheelbarrow and take a bunch back to your tent, it will spoil overnight. Only take enough for today.”
And here’s the thing: God was giving them a faith exercise. Because what God was teaching them was: You don’t have to stockpile for tomorrow, because I am already in tomorrow providing for you again. So instead of putting your faith in your stockpile, put your faith in Your Father who is in tomorrow.
So, when Jesus says, “Every day, say, ‘Father, Dad, give me my daily bread,’” this is what He means. God, give me enough for today, because I know that tomorrow You are already in tomorrow and You’ll give me enough again.
The idea Jesus makes in using daily bread is this idea that just like the Israelites journeyed for forty years through the desert, we who have placed our faith in Christ, we are also journeying through an uncomfortable world that is not our home as we make our way to the Promised Land.
So, you could put it this way: the world, this world that we live in right now, equals a desert. Now, not always. There are beautiful moments, there are sunsets and sunrises and wedding days and anniversaries. There are beautiful moments, but we know from Scripture this world is broken by sin and it’s not our ultimate home and so, we are journeying through this world to a promised land, which we sometimes call heaven, or Jesus called it the kingdom of God.
It’s a place where we will have glorified bodies that never get sick or never get acne or anything else. A place where there will be no crime, a place where there will be no injustice, there will be no murder or war or divorce. All of the consequences of sin that exist in the desert in this world will be gone when we get to the promised land of heaven.
And what Jesus is teaching through the Lord’s Prayer is these two very simple ideas. One, God will provide what I need today and you can know this when you have that feeling that I described in my dream of showing up and not having enough, or maybe you’re feeling in real life in a really big way around your finances or around your health or around the future. God will give you what you need today.
And secondly, God is taking you, it’s a journey through a desert, but He’s taking you somewhere far better. Does this make sense? Does this make sense? This is important for us, because what we’re talking about today as we continue in Hope of Nations is the ways that this world we are in may change.
And some of those ways may be uncomfortable for us in the future. We can’t predict the future, but God has allowed us to be born at a time where we know more about world events than Christians did in the time of the Bible. A lot of these Christians, they didn’t even know what the Atlantic Ocean was or the Pacific Ocean. They didn’t know what people on the other side of the world believed.
Today, we can look and we can see there are seven billion people in the world. Here’s what they all believe. Here’s where things are headed in the realm of ideas.
So, as we consider that, here’s the most important thing for us to know. Earth’s tragedies are temporary; Christ’s victory is eternal. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In life, we will have some tragedies, whether it’s an oncologist telling us we have cancer or whether it’s another financial recession like we saw in 2008. We don’t know what the troubles will be but we know there will be some dry, hard days in the desert as we make our way to the promised land.
And so, our hope is twofold. One, we know God will always sustain us. He will give us what we need today. But secondly, we know this world is not our home. Christ’s victory ensures that we will spend eternity in a good kingdom, a rich kingdom, a Garden of Eden-type setting where all of our needs are met.
So, those are my two things that I hope you know today that I want you to leave here with is to know that in this world, you will be sustained, and that Christ is taking you to a better world.
Now, in this series, we have been talking about those times in world history when the world shakes. Times like September 11th when the terrorists flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon and thousands of Americans died. Times like the day that JFK was assassinated, and the world shook. Times like the financial recession of 2008 when the world shook.
And what we are seeing is that as these trends play out, that we are looking at, they look almost academic, because I’ve got them on charts and they are graphs and they are kind of nerdy. But they are real belief systems that real people around the world hold to and act out and eventually, they will bump into our little lives.
Eventually, the kind of cocoon of insulated suburban American life, we are really pretty insulated from a lot of the trouble that other people out in the world feel. Eventually, as the world keeps changing, our little bubble might get burst in some ways.
Here’s some ways that I have seen changes around the world affect normal people like us – I knew a family in Prescott, Arizona when I served as a pastor there. They had a daughter named Kayla Mueller. Kayla went over to Syria as a follower of Christ to do humanitarian work and she was in Syria and she got kidnapped by the Islamic State.
They ended up holding Kayla for ransom, they ended up killing her eventually. Something her family thought – how could that happen to a suburban American? Well, the world out there, things are happening, things are changing.
I have friends who were vacationing in Nice, France on the day when a terrorist in France got into a moving truck and drove into a crowd and mowed over about a hundred people and eighty-some of them died. They were just like you! They were on vacation and there they were and all of a sudden there was the world shaking around them.
You might remember the time in Dallas, Texas when a sniper set out against the police department and in one day, killed a number of police officers. One of those police officers was a guy who worked on the security team as a volunteer at a church almost just like our church in Dallas, Texas. People like us.
People who are afraid to drive in certain areas because of the color of their skin and it’s just a reality that they face in the world they live in today.
What do we do when the world shakes? Well, if we understand that God will give us our daily bread and He’s taking us somewhere better, we can feel the emotion of it, and the injustice of it without being overwhelmed by it. We can acknowledge the pain of it, but we can have a faith that is unshaken within it.
You see, Jesus said in this world you will have trouble, and so when these things happen, it doesn’t shake our faith, it actually affirms our faith that our greatest hope is for Christ to return. And this is the really mature, if you will, Christian hope is knowing, not just praying that my circumstances will get better. That’s a good place to start.
But the really muscular Christian faith is this belief that Christ is going to return and He is going to set everything right. As you read through the New Testament from the gospels all the way to the end, this is the recurring theme: Christ will return. He will set things right.
And sometimes because we have been born into a time when we are the wealthiest, most comfortable, most free Christians in all of history, we can accidentally place our hope in just our circumstances always being good.
Well, the big idea of this series is very simply this: Christ is going to return; He’s going to make everything better. Christ will return and make everything better.
I want to tell you a story about my daughter, Evie. Evie, many of you know, we adopted and she lived about the first three years of her life at an orphanage. And in the orphanage, they did not brush her teeth or take care of her teeth at all. And so, we have been taking Evie to the dentist and he said, “There’s about eight teeth that they need to do major, major work on.
And so, Evie doesn’t like them poking around in there and so, the doctor suggested that we actually need to have Evie have an anesthesiologist, take her to a hospital and have them put her, put her to sleep for surgery, and then she’ll wake up and the surgery will be done. So, Mel and I have been thinking through: How do we explain this to a four-year-old? How do we explain pretty much the doctor is going to give you some medicine, you’ll fall asleep, you’re going to wake up and have eight new teeth, and then your mouth will be a little sore and you’ll get a bunch of ice cream. That’s pretty much the kid version of it, right?
Now, as grown-ups, we know there’s a lot more to it, there are needles, there are other devices and tools that we don’t want to think about that will lead to a better place, and it’ll go through a hard time and it will get better in the end. And really, with a childlike faith, all she needs to know is the doctors will give me medicine that makes me fall asleep. I’ll wake up and be a little sore and then I get ice cream. And here’s the thing about the Christian faith.
In this series we are looking at world events and things that may happen. Really, all you need to know is Jesus is going to return, keep believing in Him, everything will be okay, and eventually you’re going to wake up in a place where there is unlimited ice cream, okay? That’s really all you need to know. Okay?
That’s all you need to know. So, but bear with me because here’s one of my heart for you as a shepherd. I want you to have a childlike faith.
But I also want to be part of a movement where we have a growing faith. And where we can grow and Scripture uses this metaphor of that you start with the milk of God’s Word. Just like a newborn can’t eat steak because they don’t have teeth yet.
But then as you grow in your faith, eventually you’re more and more able to read God’s Word for yourself.
And eventually, Scripture talks about the meat of God’s Word, the thicker things of God’s Word. And you kind of have to slowly grow in those. And here’s my heart for you: My desire for you is that the next time some world calamity happens, that we are a Church that is not shaken by that, but a Church that says, “Oh yeah, I remember when John was freaking me out with all that stuff and he said, ‘Place your faith in Christ.
Be prepared, and you can have an unshaken faith when the world shakes around you.
In other words, all we need to know is the basics, but it doesn’t hurt to know a little more. It’s actually a good and healthy thing to grow a little more. So, I want to answer this question today: where will this lead? So far in this series we have looked at what is happening in the world, why is it happening? And today we are asking and answering the question: Where will all of these things lead?
We have seen the rise of Western civilization as it pursued truth and then the rejection of truth. We have seen globally that the economies are going to shift and within the United States, beliefs are changing dramatically.
Where will these things lead? And what I’m going to do is just very quickly give you my opinion, not God’s Word, but my opinion as a researcher, again, believing that God allowed us to be born at a time where we have this data and information.
I’ll get through my opinion really fast, because then we’ll get to a much more important opinion, what does God say? God actually speaks directly about where all these things will lead. So, let me give you my opinion really quickly. And I’m just going to mention three things. They are not on your outline.
The first is that I believe we will continue to see social division within the United States. You see it on social media, you see it in downtown cities, you see it in the occasional riots. There’s a major social division that is happening in the United States. And when you look at the data, it breaks down largely along generational lines. And also, a little bit geographically.
Most of the people who live on the coasts believe significantly different than people who live in the heartland, or the Midwest. Most of the people who live in really urban areas believe a little differently than people who live in rural areas.
And most of the people who are older than forty-five view the world very differently than people who are younger than forty-five. The change is so dramatic among younger Americans, my age, Millennials, and younger, and we are going to start to see these things that have been discussions around Thanksgiving dinner tables, we are going to start to see them reshape who gets elected into office and what the laws are and what the policies are.
I’m not necessarily saying it’s good or bad, but I’m saying that we will see, we will continue to see, and in my assessment as a researcher, dramatic social change. I don’t want to use the word “revolution” per se, but there’s going to be a major, major shift within the United States.
So, we will continue to see that. Most likely, it’s not just going to go away. Again, we know no matter what happens, we’re okay. We’ve got our daily bread; we know where we’re going, okay?
But let me tell you two other things in just summary of all the research I have done is the reshuffling of the global order.
We could call this the post-World War II order. In other words, after World War II, because the United States and England, the UK, won, they set up essentially, a new world order. And all the manufacturing and industry, all the industrial powerhouses around the world had been destroyed in the war except for the U.S. and the UK.
So, they owned manufacturing, they owned the economies. And they took these two defeated nations under their arms and said, “We will rehabilitate you.” And for really most of our lifetimes, these four nations: Germany, Japan, the U.S., and the UK have more or less led a world order that lived out, not necessarily a theologically Christian view of the world, but a lot of Christian principles in society.
Because the U.S. and the UK in the 1940s when World War II ended were both ninety percent or more Christians – the individuals within the societies.
So, as this started to reshape literally the planet, when countries like Sudan or Saudi Arabia would say, “We want to sell you our oil,” the Western world could say, “Well, then you have to outlaw slavery.” And so much of the world changed. There is a lot of societal global norms because of this that we take for granted.
This is according to according to accountants at Pricewaterhousecoopers, so bear with me. If you’re an accountant, that excites you. For the rest of us, we will just get through this, okay?
But here’s the thing, according to their projections of how economies are changing right now at today’s rate of change, you project that out thirty years. So, by the time my kids are my age, China will have overtaken the U.S. to be the number one economy, India will have overtaken the U.S. to be the number two economy. The U.S. will be in third place and then Indonesia will be in fourth place.
Now, we talked about ideologies. Bear with me. An ideology is a lens, a set of ideas through which you see reality. And when a whole group of people or a nation adopts an ideology, they march together in the same direction. And each of these other three, other than the U.S., of the top four emerging economies, have what I call a rigid or muscular ideology.
China is Communist, India is Hindu, Indonesia is Muslim. In all of those nations today, there are Christians who are jailed because of their faith. In all of those nations right now, this year, there are Christian churches that have been burned down or torn down by bulldozers and cranes, because Christianity, these are not nations that are friendly to Christianity.
Well, here’s the thing. The world we live in, all we have ever known is this world where the dollar is the leading currency, where we have stability because we are the number one player economically and as a military force in the world.
That’s going to change. We don’t know what the implications are going to be, per se, but we know that that’s a major reshuffling. Eventually, that will affect some of our jobs. Eventually that may affect our economy. Eventually, we don’t know exactly how that will affect us. But if we can understand where things are going and say, “Okay, right now, my faith is in Christ. He will provide for me my daily bread and He is going to lead me through to a promised land.”