Spiritual Travelogue: Why Leave That?

A spiritual travelogue defines my blogs (past and present) best. They have been much like a journal of my personal spiritual experiences, encounters, and thoughts, and there are some to whom I’m connected who have witnessed it all — to some degree.

A friend once intimated that she was terrified to share anything with me lest it end up on social media. I understand; that is often, I hear, the plight of the writer’s circle of acquaintances. Even so, I’ve often wondered how such silences or omissions benefit us:

I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.

Acts 20:20

It is true that I may get it wrong; I may get you wrong. But then:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

Matthew 5:11

How then, does dishonesty or aversion serve the Body of Christ?

Nevertheless, I have learned to be grateful for some silences, for the writer’s fears are not unlike the writer’s friends’ own. I have flayed my heart, time and time again, over and over, in putrid immaturity and in flashes of light: Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17) AND Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23). These words to the same disciple; bless him…

I too fear what you’ll say when I’m not in my right mind:

For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

I never know who reads my words, who hears them, who distorts them, who dismisses them, who mocks them, who ever sees them. Even my husband will confess that he does not read all (or most) of my posts. Indeed, he has missed entire blogs. So, I make no assumptions about audience here, which is why I continue to say that I am an equal-opportunity offender.

I am not writing to please any one group. That is not my goal.

The Travelogue Continues…

We come as Your children…” (Sons & Daughters, Vineyard music)

From Non-Denominational, to Charismatic, to Anglican, to Baptist, to Presbyterian, to Lutheran on most days — how does that happen? How does that happen to a preacher’s kid like me?

I used to wonder too; now I know.

“I love Your presence…” (I Love Your Presence, Vineyard music)

Indeed, I do.

It’s like this, His presence: You know the difference between knowing that someone’s heart is for you, their spirit with you, in figurative terms, versus when they are sitting next to you on the sofa, able to embrace you with warms arms?

It’s like that, friend. There is a difference, and I will never begrudge anyone desiring that difference when it comes to Jesus’ presence, His very own Spirit, in their life.

Who doesn’t want to feel Jesus’ presence — His Spirit — with them? Only someone who doesn’t know…

Watching The Chosen (run, don’t walk, if you haven’t seen the series yet) has put into keen technicolor (probably an outdated term; I’m old) just how desperate people can be when trying to touch the Healer. Should we begrudge that desire? No, friends; no…

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 5:32

I desire to be marked by that very difference in my own home and life, though I too battle the rocks and thorns of my own heart and mind daily.

So, Why Leave Those Churches?

So, if I even fractionally recognize and validate what is tangible and desirable in those evangelical (the current umbrella label for many of my past church experiences) circles, why leave?

Why, indeed.

You know what’s interesting about Jesus’ presence? — Not everyone who encountered the Son of God was changed. It’s hard to wrap your mind around, isn’t it? How could they not be changed? How could they walk away from the very presence of God-made-flesh and not walk away differently?

That’s it in a nutshell.

Once too many times I saw people laugh, cry, and tremble through a service, only to continue living unaffected; I got up one too many times from the floor only to go home still annoyed with my husband, loathed of myself, frustrated with life; once too many times I spent time with the same people the morning after the ‘amazing’ service, only to find that they were yet consumed with mortal thoughts, still backbiting, still envying, still boastful…

You can only watch people go home unchanged by the presence of God so many times before you start to doubt something or someone.

But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his place of baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit, then, in keeping with repentance.”

Matthew 3:7-8

Of course, is this phenomenon bound to any denomination? Certainly not. It happens everywhere…

The issue is that I found no more and no less fruit among these others in Christ than I had witnessed in the evangelical/charismatic camps.

And, honestly, I discovered far more humility among some of them.

Take that for what’s it worth.

So… But… How… ?

Can that really be the Spirit of the Living God people are experiencing if they are leaving unchanged?

Hmm… I ask myself this same question.

But I believe the answer is yes.

Why?

Because “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Some spiritual principles just are; I mean, if you seek, you will find… No?

And hasn’t our God always loved to be found by those seeking? Did He turn any away who sought?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:14

Despite their well-documented flaws, there remains a childlikeness in their seeking. These expect (at their best) their Father to enter the room and they expect to sit at His feet, and they long to feel that these things have happened at every meeting. And, for all of the hullabaloo, there is often something sacred and precious found in that waiting…

I once did as they did, though I realize now that I have never belonged to any of these — not to the Evangelicals, not to the Anglicans, not to the Baptists.

I identify only as my Father’s child, and there is great blessing and freedom in that.

Isn’t that the freedom to which we are all called? — To the freedom of crying “Abba, Father!” to a great and holy God?

AND, THEN AGAIN —

Can that really be the Spirit of the Living God people are experiencing if they are leaving unchanged?

I ask myself this all the time…

And I believe the answer is sometimes no.

If we always leave unchanged, have we truly sought to encounter the Father and to be changed by His very countenance upon us, or have we merely sought the encounter itself?

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

Just because we encounter a supernatural world, does not mean we have encountered THE Living God. Familiar spirits abound.

And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them:

am the Lord who sanctifies you.

Leviticus 20:6-8

Though God spoke of a particular false diety (Molech) in this passage, a “spirit” is a “spirit” is a “spirit” — is it not?

We want the Holy Spirit, the “same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead”, not just any old spirit.

And so I caution you.

If “testing the spirits” means testing the fruits, then Houston, We Have A Problem... because those found in the Spirit of Christ should “bear the fruits of repentance” — No?

Yes.

What are the “fruits of repentance” if not to get up and walk differently?

I am concerned when I see so many unchanged at heart and mind by the supposed OR real presence of God; both are concerning in their own strangeness — aren’t they?

Nevertheless

We return to one of my favorite disciples:

Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

John 21:21-22

And…

Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”

But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Mark 9:38-41

It is one thing to call out definite heresy; it is another, I think, to try to separate the wheat from the tares: We cannot know the damage we cause when we claim to know the hearts of all in certain denominations and orthopraxies…

I believe that some receive the gift of discernment, that there are times we can indeed know the heart of a man or woman in part, but we cannot pride ourselves upon such knowledge nor was the gift intended for measuring sheep by sheep: The gift of discernment is given to protect the sheep from wolves.

Is that our heart in using the gift?

I wonder sometimes… It seems many have strayed into pride here.

Increasingly, I see the divisions with little difference than we might examine the disciples’ own differences in faith: “You follow Me”.

Never mind God’s will for John, Peter.

Never mind God’s will for Mr. Fame & Claim, Rose: You follow Me.

There is only one Door to the Father, but it is true that a lot of variables — that is, sinful and strange individuals — walk through that door differently…

Some limping.

Some knowing.

Some trembling.

Some seeking.

Some hoping.

Some doubting.

Some blind.

Some rejoicing.

But all believing — if they are to go through that Door.

Even still, all these ages later, we struggle with identifying groups, camps, peoples by their visible externals. And even so, God yet looks upon our hearts — praise Him!

Who am I that you should fear?

And who are you that I should fear?

Fear God alone, beloved… that has always been the heart of my message to you and the heart of my own spiritual remembrances.

Shalom.

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