I am convinced. The present day church is in need of another counter-cultural movement birthed in the desert places.
We are standing at the threshold of another reformation and again there are structural doors that cry out for truth born in love to be nailed to them.
Have you ever heard the phrase “desert season” or “spiritual wilderness”? What comes to mind? People half dead, delirious from dehydration being somehow punished for their sins? Unfortunately, that is the picture I see painted many times in sermons or messages.
Biblically, deserts were not places of lack and misery. Quite the opposite! The wilderness is a place where we can come to know the wilds of God’s love for us in a way no other place could teach us. Deserts are places of raw intimacy with Jesus where our comfort-zones are shattered and our props and pretense are stripped away, where reformers are born and nations are shaped.
The desert is the place where God becomes our everything and the platforms of men only find meaning inside of Him. I have walked long with the desert fathers of old, the early church leaders and the Celtic saints. Their writings gave me my first language for understanding my own journey with Jesus.
The desert fathers and mothers were radical lovers of Jesus who escaped the Constantinean reforms of 313 AD that imposed a political empire on the church that still informs the way we do things millennia later. Instead, the desert fathers built a community that was a counter-cultural stance against the power structures taking over the fabric of their faith.
They embraced an ebb and flow of solitude and togetherness which brought them closer to the Father and to one another. Yes some of them took asceticism to the extreme and I am certainly not advocating that. But for most, it was not about self abasement; it was about finding sanity and freedom from a politicized church system run a muck. And in turn their desert journeys inspired other generations, especially the Celtic Christians a few centuries later.
There is a story about the meeting of two desert monks. A younger monk sought out an older monk and recited all of his spiritual disciplines. He came with the question in his heart, “What else can I do?” The older monk lifted his hands towards heaven and his fingers become like lamps of fire. He replied, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
Desert journeys are truly about that. About becoming all flame.
Desert seasons are not miserable seasons of God withdrawing or being absent. Far from it. They are seasons of Him presencing, presenting Himself differently in order to draw us deeper into more of Who He is. Deserts are places of burning bushes and miracles of provision. They are the places we are wooed and spoken tenderly to, given back our vineyards, where we lay our head upon the rock and wake to meet angels. Deserts are where the valley of dejection becomes a door of Hope. They are the places we come up out of leaning on Him Who is the Lover of our souls.
Yes there are times God seems a bit far, His hand a bit slow for our liking. But He really isn’t. Ever far or slow.
Over the last few months I’ve touched on some trends and teachings I’ve encountered which I find concerning. I’ve been prayerfully considering where I sense Jesus leading in it all, not wanting to react but only to respond to Him.
We want the love that discerns His best in all things, right? I’m not saying I have it all figured out and I may well disagree with myself in years to come so you certainly are free to disagree with me. But there is a fire in my bones to share with you some of the things on my heart in the coming weeks and months.
I haven’t been all that sure what to call this series. Then it hit me. It is a cry from the desert places to return to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus. #desertcryseries
So sweet friend, may you run to the desert knowing burning bushes of commissioning, deep wells of compassion and holy encounters where you are named and you meet God face to face are waiting for you there. It is from this place reformers are being shaped to prepare the way once again for the Lord.
I’ll leave you with a prayer scribbled in the corner of one of my Africa journals.