In late October of 2019, I had a vivid dream that stirred my spirit. It was a bit disturbing and unsettling.
In the dream, I was invited to do some sort of invocation before the men and women of Congress. I remember thinking, I don't know if I want to share what is in my heart.
It seemed that there had been a lot of conflict, fighting and animosity between them. And yet there were so many things that were unattended to—things like the opioid crisis, the situation at the border, rising costs in health care, tragic murders, persecution and even beheadings of Christians and other groups around the world, as well as other global crisis.
Nervously but with respect and humility, I addressed those before me and said, with deep conviction, "Some of you have a profession of faith in and some of you say you have a respect for the Ten Commandments. Yet some here are operating under the spirit of murder, and a spirit of covetousness, either by commission or omission."
I thought about "the woes" found in Matthew 23, particularly verses 23 and 24, so I asked, "Should you neglect the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy and faith? And then the Lord Jesus Himself said, 'Blind guides, you strain out a gnat and you swallow a camel.'"
Then I concluded: "I may never be invited back. But do you really care about your people? Or are you only concerned with your own power and influence?"
I began processing this dream with my family and staff, and recently shared it during a gathering of pastors. Many of them agreed it was such a reflection of what is happening now in our country and especially in the recent, tumultuous impeachment saga we found ourselves embroiled in only days after God gave me the dream. It was a landscape of bickering and infighting that reminded me of Josephus and what he wrote about the fall of Jerusalem to Rome.
Division, Then and Now
Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian who personally witnessed the tragic destruction of Jerusalem and the desecration of the temple. He wrote that the Jewish people had "turned their hands one against another." Families were divided, and communities were in conflict. The political and spiritual divisions and fighting in Israel caused instability and weakening and ultimately, in 66-70 A.D., Rome conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. The political divisiveness and the spiritual division from within gave way to attack from without.
The similarity to our situation today in the political realm, as well as in the church, is uncanny: A dividing and conquering from external pressures and outside influences is causing instability in the church—and our heart is waning.
It's so important for us to align ourselves with the Lord and set aside our various ideologies and differences so we can begin walking in authentic unity. Unity is not uniformity, but rather unity in our diversity. But our primary focus is to fix our eyes on Jesus, our highest common denominator, the author and finisher of our faith. How can we as the church be a blessing to others if we can't come to that place of humble posture in our own relationships, with God and with one another?
Regardless of our personal preferences, politicians of choice or political persuasions, I think we agree that we need the intervention of God in the church and throughout our nation if we're going to see the church of our nation be a blessing to the nations. It will take us coming together at the cross of Christ and becoming part of something bigger than ourselves.
Seditious Spirits, Within and Without
The sixth commandment says that we should not murder. And Jesus' own words in Matthew 5:21-22 give us His definition of murder: "'You have heard that it was said by the ancients, "You shall not murder," and "Whoever murders shall be in danger of the judgment." But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, "Raca," shall be in danger of the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, "You fool," shall be in danger of hell fire.'"
First John 3:15 says: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him."
Notice how Josephus observed and recorded the atmosphere that was prevalent prior to the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and desecration of the temple: He said the people "turned their hands against one another" and that families, towns and communities were in such sharp conflict that they were split apart.
He goes on to say there was such intense tension between families and people that civil unrest increased and society as a whole became unstable and lawless in many ways. "Seditions arose everywhere," he said.
The meaning of "sedition," from a biblical standpoint, is to undermine truth and to disregard God's constituted order and authority. In fact, when we no longer have a respect for order or the rule of law, biblical or otherwise, we see the beginning of anarchy or lawlessness. Second Thessalonians 2 says those who no longer have a love for truth are turned over to strong delusion. We need to be lovers of truth more than our personal preferences.
Jezebel was seditious and wanted to kill Elijah because she didn't want to hear the voice of truth. She hated the voice of truth that Elijah spoke on behalf of God. These seditious spirits, so to speak, from without try to undermine God's Word or God's prophetic voice.
But there are also seditious spirits from within. David's son Absalom had a seditious spirit, but it was operating from within. It is one thing to be attacked from without—the voice of truth, the Word of God, our faith, our beliefs and our biblical ideologies. But it's another thing when it comes from within. Absalom was right in his own father's kingdom, undermining God's constituted authority.
We see this scenario of an internal seditious spirit and a spirit of murder and hate played out daily in the media and in our political arenas. Sometimes it seems like our leaders are so focused on their own personal agendas that they lose perspective of why and who they are called to serve. We must all be careful not to let the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life cloud our thinking. What we need is a right spirit, clean heart and sharp, stable, sound mind.
Discernment: God's Gift to Solomon
In my dream, I was acutely aware of our need for the gift of discernment and the wisdom of God given to Solomon. When two women came to Solomon, both claiming to be a certain baby's mother, God gave him wisdom and discernment to know which of the women truly loved and wanted what was best for the child. He could hear beyond their words to understand the heart (1 Kings 3). As the church, we need a new level of that same kind of wisdom and discernment.
Years ago, a pastor friend from the underground church in Vietnam shared how, at one time, he was praying for God to give him all nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. This was not a selfish prayer of someone seeking spiritual power, but the humble prayer of one who sought to serve the Lord with every ounce of his being and to be a leader with wisdom. Through this process of prayer, God reminded my friend that one often neglected gift is the gift of discernment, and He began revealing the importance of this gift.
We're coming into a season where we must hear and obey the voice of the Father in greater measure. We need prophetic clarity and wisdom. There are many competing voices in our culture, and even in churches, declaring their version of truth. Many sound convincing. But as the body of Christ, we must look to the head, who is Christ, and ask for His discernment so we can discern real truth.
Only through the Holy Spirit-given gift of discernment will we identify, like Solomon, who really cares about the baby. Who really cares about our community and our nation? Who are those who want to cut us apart, and who are those crying out not to cut the baby in half?
We need the wisdom of God so we can discern beyond what we hear from external influences. With all the politicking, political jockeying and people trying to attain a position of influence, we need to be the plumb line of healing and hope, righteousness and justice, lest we set ourselves up to fall.
In the political climate we live in and in this political year, we need to keep our feet on the ground and our hearts before the Lord. We need to discern the seditious spirits from without and within. We must resist the murderous spirit that promotes a disrespect for truth and authority, and opens a Pandora's Box of anarchy and lawlessness. It's imperative that we, as Christians, surrender our personal preferences, even our personal political ideologies, and ask God to give us the ideologies of God's kingdom, not man's.
Unified in His Presence
While many in the world and the media focus on the political and international dramas surrounding the elections, the coronavirus and other situations, we, as Christians, must keep our eyes fixed and focused on the Lord.
Dr. Edwin Louis Cole used to say wisdom is in the strategy and glory is in the victory. Too often we disregard the God-given gift of discernment in favor of our personal preferences and opinions. We are not grounded in biblical truth so we cannot discern what God is saying.
God wants us to move beyond the place of our personal preferences into a place of understanding His heart, having His heart and being a tangible expression of His heart to the world around us. He wants people who truly come into His presence to know Him and to make Him known, because it's in His presence where He does a work in us that only He can do. In His presence, we are equalized and brought into unity of heart, mind and spirit.
We are not living in a coincidental moment. God is moving in a way only He can move. We may not even understand what He is doing, but we must recognize that His ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:9). Those who respond to His move out of personal preferences will not do well. But those who seek godly wisdom and pursue the gift of discernment will, like the sons of Issachar, understand the signs of the times and what we should do (see 1 Chr. 12:32). God wants us, His church, to have a higher expectation in Him with a deeper level of consecration.
The Scripture says in Colossians 1: "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (v. 9); "He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in all things He may have the preeminence" (v. 18).
Ephesians 3:10 tell us that the "the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly place."
We need the wisdom that God gave Solomon, especially in the environment in which we live today, to know what is right and what is wrong. We need the courage, in this Nineveh moment, to speak the truth in love, instead of being reluctant, like Jonah. And from the pulpit to political office, from preachers to politicians, and to all of us in between, we need a revival of character.
Would you pray with me for the gift of discernment, that the world may know that Jesus Christ is Lord of His church?
We need an awakening so we can reach the soul of our communities, our nation and our generation. We need the wisdom of God, like Solomon, because we need the gift of discernment. And we need the atmosphere of His presence if we're going to see the transformation for which we have all been praying.
Doug Stringer is founder and president of Somebody Cares America and Somebody Cares International, a global network bringing hope and healing to communities through prayer initiatives, compassion outreaches and cooperative efforts. He is the author of numerous books, including In Search of a Father's Blessing and Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success.
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