Leaving the church, it’s wilderness time.
How are you doing? I’m doing just fine!
But that isn’t true; I’m just being polite;
Life feels quite bleak, more darkness than light.
Leaving the pews, religion cast out.
Wilderness walking, but then comes the doubt.
Depression took hold with weakness & tears;
An enemy ready to fan all my fears!
My mind grasps at straws; I think, “I’ll go back”.
Whispers at midnight, say “You’re on the wrong track!”
I can hardly hang on; life’s right on the brink,
My eyes now off Jesus, I’m starting to sink!
I’ve a mortgage to pay & offspring with troubles,
Problems surround me, bursting the bubbles!
I feel that just maybe I need some people,
So, I turn back to Egypt, the place with a steeple!
Once more I am plastic, I am sat in a pew.
I’m constrained & restrained & nothing is new!
I’ve been here before, I’m feeling the stress,
It’s always the same, I have to confess!
We all look so perfect, in our Sunday best;
We listen like puppets, not truth telling lest,
The man in the pulpit, the one pulling the strings,
Doesn’t like what we say, the conflict it brings.
I’m muzzled, I’m silenced, this price is too great!
I’ve got to get out, get out of this state.
My mind is made up & I dash for the door,
The strings of this puppet fall to the floor!
Now alone once again, just with the Lord.
I’ll listen to Him, with my spiritual sword.
He wanted to test the depths of my heart,
Would I love and obey Him, as I did at the start?
When there’s no one around, no one to take heed,
When I’m alone in the world, still feeling a need;
A need for attention & fellowship sweet,
Yet still alone, I must sit at His feet.
He sees all the tears & desires un-met,
He knows how I struggle & says, “Do not fret,
I’m with you always, to the end of the age,
Take up your cross daily”; now let’s turn the page.
Turn to the Lord only, listen to His voice.
Pray in my closet, He will make me rejoice.
I can stand in the power of His awesome might,
Then the enemy flees when engaged in this fight.
This battle’s eternal, I must fight to the death;
The death of the flesh ends with my last breath.
I must never give up & never give in,
Keep holding to Jesus, as I strive against sin.
Through this wilderness time the Lord will provide.
He’s always been waiting to draw close to my side.
His plans, they are perfect, He’ll harm me never;
I’m safe in His love, I can trust Him forever.
What a year I have had! I feel stronger now & am praising the Lord for leading me to new websites & blogs that are helping me progress in my faith. As you can perceive from the above poem, that I have just written, I went back to “church-going” for about eight months during this last year, but am now out again. It has been a bit of a yo-yo departure from churchianity for me over a number of years, but I am led to believe that this is true of many believers who hear the Lord’s call to leave, when they have been “attendees” for many years. It is not an easy thing to do & going back sometimes seems like a good idea. I think it has just confirmed more definitely for me that presently I now need to stay away from organised, institutional churches entirely.
I have just read the book of Hosea, and I noticed the following passage.
Hosea 2:13-16 & 19-20
“I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense.
She decked herself with her earrings and jewellery, and went after her lovers;
But Me she forgot,” says the Lord.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, I will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
“And it shall be, in that day,” says the Lord,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master…’
“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.”
This says to me that the Lord wanted me (& all His followers) to stop longing for/lusting for/setting our hearts upon ANYTHING else in this world that comes before Him (and that has included “church-going” & my “I need fellowship” desires). Hosea’s unfaithful wife was going after other men, in the example, but the Lord was using their lives to demonstrate that the people who ought to have been faithful to the Lord, were in fact longing for other types of spiritual experiences – the Baals. Yet this passage has the wonderful message, “I will allure her, I will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.”
So too, I believe, the Lord is alluring and drawing His chosen people out of the institutional churches, many of which are being unfaithful to Him. This passage has the wonderful comfort that the Lord is doing this, even to an unfaithful church, and that it is due to His lovingkindness, mercy and faithfulness that He woos & pursues us in this manner.
The phrase, “She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt,” is proving true to me. I have been able to sing praises to the Lord with the joy of the Lord, just on my own at home. When my thoughts waiver, and I begin to think back with longing to congregational singing and company, the Lord graciously and mercifully leads me to just the right website information to keep me moving forward instead of going back yet again.
I am remembering last year, just prior to starting this blog that the Lord caused me to notice a flock or murmuration of starlings over the sea & how I prayed that the Lord’s true body would all hear His voice to work in unison of the Spirit just as these birds incredibly flew in wonderful, awesome formations. (See home page here for reference to this). I am learning that little by little, one by one, the body of Christ is hearing His voice, even though we are scattered throughout the world. There is no institutional organisation doing this, there are maybe so few of us involved that only the Lord can see the wonderful patterns of us together, a body, hearing & obeying His voice, led only by His Holy Spirit, flying freely in formation, pleasing in His sight.
So for those of you out there who are newish to this wilderness time I would also like to share the following article that resonated with me. Hope it blesses you likewise.
NO FELLOWSHIP? NO PROBLEM!
By Chip Brogden
You will never truly appreciate or benefit from fellowship until you have learned how to live without it.
There already is a fellowship of saints. It is a spiritual fellowship, and it is based on Christ having the preeminence – not the fellowship having preeminence. All this yearning for fellowship and being with others is the result of being hung-over from the religious system. You’re trying to fill a void that religion used to fill.
The purpose of solitude in the spiritual desert is to get you to see that Jesus is Enough. You’re not going to die from lack of fellowship, but if you don’t learn that Jesus is Enough then spiritually speaking you’re dead already. He’s the One you need to be focused on – not starting a fellowship, not finding a home group, not making something happen with other people.
And already I can hear the “yeah buts”. “Yeah, but God made us to be social beings. Yeah, but God knows we need encouragement from other believers. Yeah, but the Bible says forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is. Yeah, but we’re all supposed to be part of the Body of Christ. Yeah, but there’s just something about gathering together with like-minded believers. Yeah, but you just don’t understand what it’s like.” Yeah, but I do understand – I’ve been through that part of the desert before, and what I’m trying to tell you is God wishes to know if you love Him or if you love fellowship with others. God wishes to know if you are in love with Him or if you are in love with things about Him. God wishes to know if you seek Him or seek a meeting about Him.
There are times and seasons where He calls you to be alone and apart with Him. I’m not saying it will always be like that, but what if it is? What if He calls you to walk alone with Him for the rest of your life? Is Jesus enough for you?
I asked that question of a group of Christians once: Is Jesus enough for you? Because most Christians do not believe this. They want Jesus, but they also want fellowship with others. Really, do you know what Christians want? Not fellowship with others. That sounds so spiritual. Really what they want is acceptance from other Christians. You go deep down and that’s what they want. They want to feel accepted by other Christians. Well, all I can tell you is that you’re setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. Eventually there will come a time when you will have to decide between the truth that God has revealed to you and the acceptance of other Christians. Now it hurts when you are not accepted by other Christians. It hurts when other Christians misunderstand you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely when you have spoken the truth to them in love.
But the bottom line is your spiritual life and walk with God does not depend upon the acceptance of other Christians. You might think it does, and it sure makes things easier, but it is not a condition of following Christ – making sure other Christians understand and accept you. The deeper you go into God the more unacceptable you will be to other Christians. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is Himself, “Despised and rejected, a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Jesus would not be, and is not, accepted by most Christians, and do you know that does not change Him and His relationship with His Father? He is Lord whether you accept Him or not, my friend. And if you are His disciple then He accepts you whether the rest of the Christian population accepts you or not.
What I have found is that whenever I ignore the season God has me in, and I try to create fellowship, or seek fellowship, outside of the time and place appointed by My Father, it always ends in disaster. It creates problems, it becomes a disappointment, or it turns into a distraction from what He wants for my life.
And that is never more true than the period of time when you are fresh out of the religious system. You’ve been under a religious spirit for so many years, and don’t think you can just wake up one day, stop going to church, and be set free from that religious mindset. You think you need fellowship, you think you need meetings, you think you need other people in your life, you think you need all these things, and you are in error. That’s the religious habit talking. It’s just like a drug.
“Oh brother Chip, I’m so lonely, I’ve been going to church every Sunday for twenty years and now we just sit home on Sunday and we feel so empty inside!” Well praise God, if that’s where God has you right now then thank God for it. Stop looking for other people to fill a void that only Christ can fill. You’ve been covering up that void with a lot of religious junk and He’s stripping all that away. He’s trying to build something in you, so let Him do it according to the times and seasons that He has appointed. Don’t rush through that process. Get comfortable with just you and God. My goodness, you don’t even know what it’s like to walk with God and just be hidden in Him because your whole life you’ve been following Him in a crowd, worshipping Him in a crowd, praying to Him in a crowd, learning about Him in a crowd.
Enoch walked with God, and he didn’t have anyone else to fellowship with.
Noah walked with God and he didn’t have anyone but his family.
Abraham walked with God and he didn’t have a house church to go to.
Moses spent forty years in the desert and it didn’t hurt him a bit, he came out better than he went in.
Jesus walked with God and every single one of His friends and disciples denied Him and fled when He needed them the most.
You give people too much credit for your spiritual well-being and don’t give God enough credit. I’d rather be alone with God than have a crowd of people without Him.
Now that doesn’t diminish anything the Bible says about the Body of Christ. But you’ve got to learn how to get connected to the Head before you try to get connected to the Body. Body Life is only as good as the Body’s relationship to the Head. The Body has no life in itself apart from the Head. If you read what the Bible says about the Body of Christ, you notice it doesn’t say that we are supposed to seek out our place in the Body or try to insert ourselves into place. It says He sets us in the Body of Christ according to His will. His will, not ours. You try to set yourself in place and you’ll get it wrong.
The Bible does not say “hold fast to the Body” or “hold fast to the members of the Body”, it says “hold fast to the Head.” The Bible does not say, “Seek ye first the fellowship of others”, but “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things – including fellowship – will be added to you.” You learn to do that and the rest will take care of itself, in the time and manner that God sees fit.
Take your hands off that whole issue of fellowship and cast that concern onto the Lord. Go to Him and say, “Lord, here I am in a desert place, it’s dry, and it’s lonely, and it looks like there’s no fellowship. But You are My Rock, My Fortress, My Hiding Place, You lead me and direct my steps. You be My Fellowship. If you see fit to bring me into relationship and fellowship with others, fine; but if not, then I trust that You are more than Enough to meet my spiritual, emotional, and social needs. I can live without fellowship Lord, but I cannot live without You!”
Now folks, I have been in that place so many times I don’t even have to pray about it anymore. I’ve just learned to trust God in this area, and I know He is sufficient. It’s settled in me. It’s not even a thing I pray about anymore. I want it to become settled in your heart as well. Let the desert do its work.
This website can be accessed from here
May the Lord bless you as you seek to live for Him in the wilderness and beyond.
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