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It almost seems sacrilegious to consider something as radical as "reinventing" the future. Perhaps, though, the thought is not as radical as we might first assume. We are in a constant state of growth and transformation, or at least we ought to be. The Scriptures tell us that "the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). The implication is simple: the more light, the clearer the picture; the less light, the less able we are to articulate our vision. The Bible also tells us that "where there is no vision, the people perish"(Proverbs 29:18 KJV). This literally means that the people are "unrestrained" (NAS) or that they "cast off restraint" (NKJV). Light and vision go together. The eye is built to adapt to the darkness so that it can make out shapes and forms. In this way, the body and the brain maneuver safely through the darkness. Clearly, however, when the eye is in the presence of light, the lens adjusts and brings all things into very exact focus. For those who are in the kingdom, light is both illumination and insight. When God illuminates His truth to us, we receive insight, which leads to vision, which in turn releases creativity. As a result, we can call things forth out of the unseen into the seen, as long as we have accepted as reality what God has revealed to us. (See Hebrews 11:1.) When we communicate our God-given vision (see Habakkuk 2:2) by calling what seemingly is not as though it were actually so (see Romans 4:17), we are expressing our faith in God and His ability to bring forth the vision into the material realm. (See Hebrews 11:3.) Our expressed faith pleases God, who rewards us (see Hebrews 11:6) by fulfilling the vision. Without faith, we cannot even hope (see James 1:6-8) to make any inroads into the blessings of the Lord, which make rich and have no sorrow added (Proverbs 10:22). We are colaborers together with Christ; and, as a result, we can accomplish more together than we could apart. (See Ecclesiastes 4:12 and Deuteronomy 32:30.) Second Corinthians 6:1 states that we are "workers together with Him." If we look at the phrase "workers together" in the Greek, we see that it is the word from which we derive the English word synergy. Synergy very simply means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The cooperative effort of two or more parties releases greater energy and momentum as a result of their coming together for a common destiny. Our sense of vision and intention is essential to maintaining forward momentum. If we lose our ability to see where we are going and to keep focused in that direction, we may no longer intend to have what we were after. There is no question that vision has power. In actual fact, vision is power! As we move into the next millennium, if we hope to have any impact on the masses of humanity who are all in the throes of great transition, we, the church, must take a quantum leap forward into the global marketplace. Yes, the marketplace! As leaders, we must rethink our view of the future and, by the power of God’s Spirit, develop a clear, compelling vision of a possible future for our lives, our churches, our cities, our nation, and our world. If we relegate the future to the rulers of this age who are already passing away (1 Corinthians 2:6 NAS), we forfeit our right to stake any claim on our intended harvest, and by default we give ground back to the illegitimate rulers of chaos and disorder. Spiritual toxic waste is being dumped into the minds of the next generation, as well as the present generation, and it will take the power of God to release a cleansing flood of His glory to wash it out. Yet, God’s glory and power are always released in the context of a clear and compelling vision of the future. That vision must be thought through and then clearly articulated so that the one who is running toward the future (see Habakkuk 2:2) can read and understand the signposts on the way, and thereby know where he is going so he can arrive. Joel A. Barker, a trendsetting "futurist," made this statement: Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. Small-minded people have never stirred the souls of the teeming masses. The energizing power to stir the soul is wrapped up in the power of a clearly articulated and compelling vision, which has, within it, the substantive force to pull you into the future. A shared vision, clearly seen and understood and voiced often, will unleash the momentum of God, loose the power of His Spirit, release the untapped potential in people, empower individuals to both be and become what they were born to be and become, and radically alter our interpretation of the past and our anticipation of the future. On the isle of Patmos, at what seemed like an ending for the aged and beloved John, the risen Christ gave him a clear and explicit explanation of the nature of his presence there in exile. Oftentimes, we must be removed from our current reality for a season in order to get a better picture of what potentially could be or should be taking place. We can either be voluntarily exiled, or we can find ourselves burned out due to our loss of vision and having to be renewed and restored by the presence of Life Himself. In Revelation 1:19, John was instructed to do some writing in regard to his seeing. In essence, the Spirit was revealing not just the purpose of the book of Revelation, but, in actual fact, a principle of life as it relates to vision. The Lord declared the following: Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. (Revelation 1:19, emphasis added) The things that John had seen represent the things that are past. The past can either hinder us or help us, depending upon how we interpret it. The intention of God is that the past should energize us. We cannot develop a clear and compelling vision of the future if we have failed to comprehend that in God, who is eternal, our future is in our past. God’s endings are always in His beginnings. In your journey thus far in life, while there may be things you would rather not repeat, there are interwoven into the very fiber of your life, and the fabric of your experience, threads of your possible future that have been sewn into the circumstances through which you have passed. Past circumstances provide glimpses into your possible tomorrows. For example, the Tree of Life is not only seen in seed form in the book of Genesis, but in full breadth and power in the book of Revelation. (See Genesis 2:9 and Revelation 22:2.) The reason that God reveals the future through the past is simple: God is eternal; therefore, He not only transcends time and space, but He also created time and space for the purpose of manifesting His eternal plan to us. In time and space, therefore, the Eternal God enters the now of our faith (see Hebrews 11:1), and thus His endings are always in His beginnings. God releases power based on His own compelling vision of the future, which preexisted in the eternal ages past. He has left His imprint on us, His creatures; and if we will be careful to review our history, we might even revise our interpretation of it when we realize that the "things which [we] have seen" bear the marks of the "things which are" and the promise of "the things which will take place after this" (Revelation 1:19). The Spirit intends to energize us with the memory of His activity in our past, and thus help position us in the present, so that in the midst of conflict and decision, and perhaps even chaos, we will not lose sight of what we have come to understand. Rather, with prophetic insight and determination we will be enabled to boldly declare by creative expression the things that will take place in the future. In the early days of my Christian walk, all I heard about the future was that "Jesus is coming back any minute." That was when I was a teenager. I am now in my middle years, and the minutes have turned to days and months and years, yet we still have not made the needed impact on the nations or our cities or our neighborhoods, because of our foolish speculations about the end of the world. If we really believe the words of Jesus, then is it possible that some of what we interpreted through the lens of "He is coming any minute" might instead have a larger frame of reference, namely, a future that is as bright and glorious as the promises of God? If we leave the future to the powers of this age, there will be no glory in our tomorrows.
Let us carefully consider this text: However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13, emphasis added)
God does not want us to speculate about what might take place at the end of the age; He wants to pour His dreams and wishes through yielded vessels, who can in turn express and model His dreams to a harvest in need of hope for the future. Indeed, the church still has a future, and it is more than just waiting for Jesus to wrap things up! We are created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26), and we generally agree with this concept on the surface. But, the image of God has more to do with what is unseen than what is seen. Take, for instance, a key. A key is made in the image of a lock. When the key is placed into the lock, the teeth of the key fit the tumblers inside the lock’s casing (all of which is hidden to the eye), and they become one in a very real sense. All that is visible of the image is the portion of the key outside the casing, which you turn to open the lock on the door to gain access to another place or dimension. We were created to be physical reflections of God in the natural, so that we might manifest His creative intention in the earth. As a result, we are enabled to transform circumstances and situations and build a habitation for His presence and power! Although close caregivers taught you your native language from the time you were born, they did not have to instill in you the intention to speak, because your urge to verbalize had been innately designed into your being. You were born with the intention to speak because you were made in the image of God. Words are merely the structure and the housing for concepts, which, when formed in the mind, are then articulated with the lips and propelled by the breath in order to shape the future. You are called to be a colaborer with Christ, the Logos, who upholds all things by His creative speech, which is "the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). God’s vision, clearly articulated and spoken in His Son, is what upholds the future! As colaborers with Him, you and I are called to create the future alongside Him. We hear Him whisper His wishes to us and then speak them into existence. If the outpouring of the Spirit means anything, it is tied to dreams that take on the power of vision, which is then articulated by faith as a prophetic directive for the future. (See Joel 2:28.) Would Peter have run with the vision (see Habakkuk 2:2) on the Day of Pentecost if Joel had not clearly articulated it centuries before? Can your constituency, whether it be family, friends, or the fellowship you serve, run with something unless you create the atmosphere and the picture of it by shaping your words to match your dreams (or, more accurately, God’s dreams in you)?
We can become passively inert and fall far short of God’s dream for our generation if, indeed, we fatalistically leave everything to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of sovereignty. Just leaving things to God is an excuse and an indictment against our ignorance.
God sovereignly works through you and me! God could not feed the widow of Zarephath without Elijah speaking a word about her future. (See 1 Kings 17:14.) God could not have raised Lazarus from the dead if Jesus had not been there to shape that dream with words articulated from human lips. (See John 11:41-43.) Today’s church is in a state of transition and fluctuation. She has endured seasons of affliction and reproach and has felt bereft of her future at times. Like the widow of Zarephath, instead of discerning the arrival of new beginnings, she often anticipates a dire outcome based on the circumstances of famine, out of which she is called to bring forth life. Elijah represented the restorative power of vision. That woman’s future (her son) depended on the strength of Elijah’s vision that was given to him by the Holy Spirit because Elijah acted on the vision and utilized God’s power to raise her son from the dead. (See 1 Kings 17:17-23.) The hearts of the fathers must be turned again to the future, the sons (Malachi 4:6). The fathers’ ability to see the future will be restored by sharing their dreams with their sons. If old men dream dreams, young men ought to see visions. (See Joel 2:28.) What Joel was saying in the verse just cited was that mature men and women of the Spirit, who can discern the presence of the future and the hope for tomorrow, will evoke a passion in their sons and daughters and transfer that anointing and vision to their generation. By the flow of that passion, the youthful progeny will be empowered to run toward the future and by faith bring it to pass. Then, in the generation following them, there will be the kind of prophetic momentum that propels the things of which dreams are made to be progressively passed on, without missing any dates with destiny. Jesse Stoner said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it!" Our challenge, like the widow’s, is to welcome the presence of the stranger, the spirit and voice of newness and hope, and not to be ruled by the present circumstances. For the widow, the things which were (Revelation 1:19) were tied to a husband who had been wealthy but who apparently had died before his time. She had had a provider at one time. This was locked in her memory. She no longer had a provider, and circumstances had been such that there was not enough bread to get through another day, because there had been no water to ripen the now dusty and decayed grain fields that once yielded golden corn for the taking. The arrival of newness, however, is also the arrival of a word of transformation. The one bearing the vision will take the place of the provider who has ceased to be. The current reality for the widow need not frustrate her. Likewise, the current state of affairs and circumstances we face as leaders of the next generation need not discourage us. There is often a great gap and even a polarity between where we are, where we have been, and what we envision for our future. We must grasp the power of the kingdom of God, which always requires creative tension to do its work (for faith always requires and exists in a context of unfulfilled longings and desires). If we fail to do so, we will not embrace the discrepancy, the uneasy place in limbo between where we were and where we long to be, as the place where God often provides the greatest leverage to get us into the future. Instead of giving up on our seemingly dead hopes and being frustrated over the discrepancy, we must embrace it as the place of our opportunity to explore new vistas of creativity. If we can embrace the current reality as a gift designed to help redefine our past and reshape our hope for the future, we can, like the widow, live on the handful of grain until the rains come. Furthermore, we can raise our dead hopes from the grave, just as the widow’s son was raised. We need only to cast aside our frustration about the present, which is the obstacle (the stone) that prevents our hopes from rising to newness. (See John 11:39-44.) If the church is to have any relevance and significant impact in the age of transition in which we live, we must learn to discern the presence of the future before it arrives. Then we need to embrace transition as a necessary part of the process and renew our belief in the dreams that lie dormant inside us, giving them a fresh hearing within the context of faith.