Processing . . .
Processing, processing . . . I think that’s what the body of Christ is busy doing in the midst of all the chaos of these past few weeks. But there are so, so many voices saying so, so many different things; it’s making heads spin. And reinforcing the already barbed wires in our walls of self-protection, causing even more division. Which voice is true? Which one should we believe?
I heard the saying decades ago, “Chew up the meat and spit out the bones”. It was referring to things we hear. That doesn’t always apply when we're talking the natural. Certain vertebrates’ bones are edible and good for you. Some are not. Take salmon bones for instance. Or any fishbone for that matter. If swallowed, they may cause some problems going down. But let’s say you have a real hankerin’ for some nummy salmon cakes. So, if you’re not a connoisseur of fresh fish, you open up a can of Chicken of the Sea . . . and voila! There, hidden in the tubular-shaped folds of its pink and gray contents, is some poor little fish’s spine. Nasty. But they say those particular bones, because they’ve undergone change in the canning process, are actually good for you. Rich in calcium. Then there’s Bone Broth (or stock). This delectable base used in soups and stews is made by simmering animal bones for hours upon hours. Quite healthy they say. Very beneficial. Packed with nutrients. You get my point.
So, aside from these nifty little gems regarding nutrition, what does this have to do with the body of Christ processing what is transpiring in America? How do we know which message we hear is meat, and which is bones needing to be spit out? Can we safely ingest both? Or could a spiritual bone get stuck in our spirit’s windpipe and steal the breath of God from us? Jeepers! We need to take Pilate’s question very seriously. "What is truth?" (John 18:38).
The Lord told Jeremiah to separate the precious from the vile (Jeremiah 15:19 AMPL). In other words, Jeremiah was to separate God’s precious Truth from his own distrust, despair, and sense of failure, and from the other voices speaking contrary to Truth. We’re to prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God . . . (1 John 4:1–5). Sounds to me like that involves some spewing of bones.
We need to get alone with God, dig deeper into His Word, and ask Him some serious questions about what is transpiring in America. Someone said, “Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord”. Sounds like sound advice to me. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.
I’ve found that each question I ask the Lord leads to an answer, which generates another question and answer, which generates another and then another. And in the process, God is drawing me deeper into His heart. Which I believe is what He’s ultimately after in all of us. Jesus often cut to the heart of matters by answering questions with questions. Why would He do differently today? Wait and listen, everyone who is thirsty! Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing] (Isaiah 55:1). Matthew Henry’s Commentary says so well, “Where God gives grace, He gives a thirst for salvation and where He gives a thirst for it, He will give it.”
One of the definitions of Processing is ‘subjecting something to a series of actions in order to achieve a particular result’ (Collin’s Dictionary). Wouldn’t that be just like the Lord to use all these events in America to set the stage for the revival we’ve been asking for?
Has God answered all my questions? No. But the answers I have received are quieting my anxious soul, and returning me to a place of trusting the Lord in these difficult and confusing times. I share a few of these questions I've asked Him in hopes that they might help you in your own conversation with God:
· Who was Jesus trusting to bring about change? The Roman administration? or His Father? Who am I trusting? Am I expecting certain people or administrations to fix all that is wrong with our country? Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will trust in and boast of the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1–2). Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).
· Do the voices of reason I’m hearing right now have their roots in earthly wisdom? or wisdom from God (James 3:13–18)?
· Are there occasions when a Christian should buck civil authority? Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13–14 tells us that God places authorities in power to punish evil and commend good. When that authority starts calling evil good and good evil, things get dicey. It places Christians in some dangerous predicaments (Exodus 1:15–2:3; Daniel 3; Daniel 6; Acts 5).
Jesus knew the strain of being subjected to Jewish authority (the church with its compromised faith), and oppressive Roman imperial rule. One day, when asked (as an entrapment), "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" Jesus said to them, "Pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s" (Mark 12:12–17). He was drawing a line of demarcation between two kingdoms—a physical, Roman Empire (with all its gods and goddesses) that ruled the natural . . . and His Father’s Kingdom. How do I apply what Jesus said to our predicament today? How did He deal with the clash between the two kingdoms? It makes for an interesting study—(Jesus’ earthly ministry ending with the church charging Him with blasphemy and the (mob-driven) political charge of treason against Roman rule (Mark 14:55–64; Mark 15:1–4; John 18:33–37; Luke 23:1–5). All were preplanned and orchestrated by God for our salvation (Acts 2:23).
Which brings me to a side note regarding the Bible character, Barabbas. The morning after the peaceful-turned-violent protest in Washington, I woke up with the word Barabbas on my mind. Can’t say he's one I’ve studied in the past, but there he was, front and center. Such a strange time to think of him. I considered it an invite from the Lord to investigate further.
Not much is said about Barabbas. The governor, Pilate, gave the crowd the choice between freeing Jesus, the Son of God, or Barabbas, meaning ‘son of the father’. (As if they didn't have enough gods floating around, it just so happened that coins with Caesar’s image and inscription on them claimed Caesar was deity as well. No wonder there was a clash between natural and spiritual kingdoms!)
Anyway, the crowd chose Barabbas over Jesus (Matthew 27:16–22). Barabbas is recorded in all four gospels as a well-known revolutionary, a rabble-rouser who incited a riot and committed murder (Luke 23:19; Mark 15:7). He was a robber (John 18:40), and a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16). An enemy of Rome. All in all, an unsavory character. But I had to ask myself, “Was Barabbas always that way? Was he always one bent toward lawlessness?” Or could he, like other frustrated, law-abiding citizens oppressed under Roman authority, have reached a place where “Enough is enough!”, and rallied together? Could their pure motives have soured over time when not heeded, and a mob mentality taken over? After all, Roman rule was unjust, oppressive. Definitely food for thought. I found these articles on the web helpful. I pass them along to you:
1) Civil Disobedience, Rebellion, and the Limited Role of Government, Romans 13:1–7 (knowingscripture.com).
2) Jesus and Politics (bibleodyssey.org)
3) The Roman Empire During the Time of Jesus (Background of Luke’s Gospel) (theologycurator.com)
· What is the basis for (the motive behind) my actions? I do a periodic heart-check. Am I loving and blessing my enemies (Luke 6:27; Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:20; 1 Peter 3:9)? Or am I, like Jesus’ disciples, wanting to call down fire from heaven upon those who refuse His leadership? Truth be told, there are times I may have flirted with the idea. But Jesus reminded them and me, “You know not what spirit you are of (Luke 9:53–55).” Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart. Purify me . . . create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit (willing to obey you) spirit (Psalm 51:6–12).
· Am I asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me into all Truth (John 16:13)? Thank You, Jesus, that You didn’t leave us down here to figure things out by ourselves!
· Am I asking for Holy Spirit discernment (as my friend, Nancy, so wonderfully reminded me)? We will never figure out what’s really going on in these last days by relying on our own understanding, because the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). Without spiritual discernment between truth and error, we’ll be tossed to-and-fro by the opinions of others and by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14–15). But be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).
Obviously, I am still processing, processing all this. And possibly overwhelming you in the process. I’m a little overwhelmed myself. There’s just so much to think and pray about! But the Lord promises we will find Him if we search for Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13). He will also perfect that which concerns us (Psalm 138:8). I daresay we can trust Him to get us to where we’re going.