A Cry From the Desert

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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.  They were places where people came to know the wilds of God’s love for them in a way no other place could teach them.   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 focus 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. Deserts were places to find 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.

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 Jesus to make Himself known.

I’ll leave you with a prayer scribbled in the corner of one of my Africa journals.

 

What Maturity In Christ Looks Like

nature-768458 copyMy heart has been burning for a while now.  These words threaten to spill in a fiery tumble onto your screen.  My heart, seared with Paul’s message to the Corinthian church.

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  2 Co 11:3

Dear beautiful western church, it isn’t about the size of our buildings or our meetings.  The size of our ministry platform has NOTHING to do with the size of our reward in heaven nor does it necessarily reflect the scope of our obedience here on earth.  If our meetings grow because they are benignly catering to popular culture, we are missing Jesus.

Maturity in Christ is not measured by the edginess of our spiritual encounters or the complexity of our spiritual systems.  Maturity is not mastering some new heavenly protocol of engagement.

In our western world, the complex is often heralded as the purview of the mature and wise.  But Jesus never, ever made the simple complex.  That is what the pharisees did.  They “complexified” {yes I just invented a new word} what God gave and then became experts in the field of their own religious intricacies. Jesus warned us about that.  Watch out for that kind of leaven {Mt 16:12}.

Maturity is not measured by the scope of our influence, the number of prayers miraculously answered or by how many ministry training events and mission trips we have completed.  It isn’t determined by our Facebook following or social media reach.

Maturity is found in the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus.  Period.

I’m burning on the inside because I’ve been watching deception and distraction take out people I care about.  It isn’t OK with me.

Maturity is not found in embracing esoteric “elohim energy” or “agape frequency” or programs of mystical fasting.  Last I checked, Jesus said to taste and see that He was good and He is throwing a wedding feast.

I’m watching others get pulled away by focusing on nephilim agendas, aliens and transdimensional “prophetic” experiences so much that their theology is becoming closer to a Star Trek episode.  Basically genuinely hungry hearts are getting offered a dressed-up hipster version of gnosticism as new revelation, a quest for secret hidden knowledge and power. But it is in JESUS all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found {Col 2:3}.  Inside of Him.  Inside of His heart.  Not anywhere else.

Gut honest.  I wrote a book about the biblical supernatural lifestyle available to us in Jesus.  I still believe in everything I wrote (as it was rooted in Jesus}, but I don’t even like to use the word supernatural anymore.  It has too much potential mixture in it.  I think I want to start calling our journey the “super-normal” Christian life.  Where God’s normal becomes our natural.  It is the Christ-centered life where He is our aim, our goal, our focus, our delight, our joy, our everything.

Maturity is when we no longer have to be spoon fed and hope that the next event will sustain us through… to the next event.  Following our five favorite ministry speakers from event to event cannot be the core of our journey with Jesus. I fed my kids in Africa when they were little.  But as they grew they learned how to feed themselves.  Feeding a 6 month old every meal by hand was right and healthy.  Spoon feeding a 16 year old is a sign something is seriously wrong.

Beloved, we must, must cultivate our own personal history with God.  No one can do that for us. He must be the center.  Him.  If anything or anyone else has taken center stage in our hearts, it’s idolatry.

I know I may have stepped on some of your toes in this tumbling discourse.  You are absolutely free to disagree with me. You are free to be mad at me and think I just don’t get it or am beneath your spiritual plane. No worries at all.  But may I ask you this?

Where is the living, breathing person of King Jesus in the midst of your spiritual pursuits?  Is HE the center of your gaze, the focus of your fascination, the deepest hunger of your heart, the greatest goal of your desire?

If He isn’t, there’s no condemnation here from me.  None at all.  Just an invitation.

Maybe it is time to ask Him to refocus our hearts, to spend some time out in creation with Him away from latest spiritual fads and trendy doctrines to listen in stillness. Perhaps it is time to let the daisies and the grass of the field which Jesus clothes in splendor remind us of maturity, simplicity, humility and abandoned devotion.  To let His love’s gaze strip all the complexity away until it is just us and Jesus again, spun round and round in His arms until all we can see is Him.

Dear Jesus, it is You and You alone Whom I endlessly crave.  Selah.