(Confessions of a Repentant Desert Dweller)
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." I Pt. 3:15
July 25, 1991
This letter is a sequel to my letter on the offense of transcending our ascension calling. In this letter, I'm writing specifically to my past "desert" companions who still have an open heart toward God to consider possibilities past where they are in God. I want to elaborate on the reasons I have come to these otherwise startling conclusions.
Over the years, you have shown a faithfulness to me, and we have developed a close relationship because of our mutual sufferings at the hands of "organized Christianity" in visible bodies. You deserve a fuller explanation than the one I had time to give in the first letter.
Following then is a point by point explanation of the truths God illumined to my heart over the last two years to lead me to the conclusions of my last letter.
I. "My Soul Followeth Hard After Thee-..." Ps. 63:8
You can't appreciate anything I teach or do in response to the Lord unless you understand it in context of this, my life verse. My final commitment has ever been only to the Lord, not to anything He has revealed to me about Himself, His ways, or the church. I have always known that I have had to be prepared to change my views as I keep growing into Him, no matter how persuaded I might be of the rightness of what I come to see at any point. The day I become past teachability and changeability is the day my walk with God dies.
God calls us to continual repentance. Repentance means change, specifically, change from one level of maturity to a higher level—on toward perfection. Repentance doesn't necessarily imply we are "wrong," only that we are incomplete. We have to be willing to face our incompleteness and grow out of it into something better.
But sometimes we are afraid to because, to confront our need for change implies we have to confess "wrongness;" yet we know we got where we are through the Spirit's leading. This is simply a subtle pride however that we must be willing to hurdle.
My desire is that everyone who has followed on so faithfully through his desert experience so far might be able to overcome this hurdle, sharing with me in this higher repentance. Again, my commitment is to the Lord, not to my teaching resulting from following Him.
II. The Lord’s Fulfilment of His Revelation Concerning the Church
"Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets." Amos 3:7
Perhaps this verse more than any other has worked a grace in me concerning my relationship to God's revelation through me. The passage teaches me that it is not incumbent on me to bring to fulfilment what God shows me is His will for the church.
If you receive a revelation from God, you feel a natural obligation to walk in harmony with it according to the best of your ability, whatever the cost. You also believe that by your walking in it. God will be able to bring it to pass in the earth through your life.
God showed me many things about the evils, inadequacies, and immaturities of the church, especially with respect to its relationship to human society. And these things are so. It is evil for the church to be dependent on church buildings, on human economy, on political laws, etc., etc. It's evil for the church to become stuck in one place all the time, unable to move so as to spread the gospel. It's also evil for the church to draw up doctrines that justify these evils.
Naturally, I felt obliged to walk in accord with what I had seen and then taught. I also believed that if somebody like myself would just be faithful to walk in this revelation, God could use him to break the back of these evils in the church. He would have somebody He could start over with if need be.
So I walked it out, and walked it out, and walked it out. I separated myself out from everything I had seen was wrong and waited by faith for God to move on my life and those like me who were walking out the same revelation.
But something happened. Or rather I should say, nothing happened. God did not come through to pour Himself out on our little group as I had imagined would happen if I just waited long enough. Instead, I came to the border of a nervous breakdown. I was like Jacob who had wrestled with God til he came to the end of himself. I had no more strength left to walk out my desert revelation.
While it was right for me to spend myself for the Lord's sake over the revelation He had imparted to me, He had to bring me to the place of realizing that, no matter how faithful I might be, God does not give revelation to His prophets with the expectation that it should be fulfilled because of their obedience to it.
Rather, as Amos says, God shows His prophets what He will do. The fulfilment does not depend on them! Their obedience or disobedience with respect to the revelation does nothing to change or effect God's ability to do what He Himself has revealed He will do.
In the case of my desert revelation, it means that, in His time and by His Spirit, God will correct the evils and perfect the immaturities He has revealed to me in the visible church. He will separate the church from society. He will remove the dependence on buildings, political activity, the media, etc. He doesn't need me to do it or a little group of people who try to live up to the law of what they have seen.
Meanwhile, God is still working in His people of every stripe in every group, above anyone's conception of God's full final plan for His manifesting church— whether visible people interacting with society, or hidden desert people separating themselves out from society.
When, at the end of my rope, I was able to enter into the repentance and rest of this higher grace, it took a tremendous burden and heaviness off my life. I thought I was free before, free from man's oppressions in the visible church. But that freedom was bondage in comparison to the freedom from obligation I have now found from having to try to walk out my revelation.
It is this freedom from the limited vision of my personal ascension nature that has opened me to a higher place of grace in relating to others in the church, especially the visible church. God has removed the confrontational edge and intensity that characterized my personality and made it impossible for me to abide very long with people outside that nature.
There has been a release from judgment of others in my life according to the standard of my own calling and revelation. My vision is now able to cover a multitude of sins, and all in the confidence that God will illumine and God will do in the church what He has spoken He will do through this prophet's revelation.
The great binding stronghold that God had to overcome in me was fear of my own unfaithfulness to His revelation. Fear of unfaithfulness is always the stronghold we have to overcome any time God beckons us into a higher grace outside the legal confines of the standard (law) of God's revelation worked out in us to that point.
III. Failure to Discern the Body of Christ
"For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment." I Cor. 11:29-30
I already discussed one personal weakness that helped show me the insufficiency of my understanding concerning the true church. That was the perpetual dead end I came up against in my attempts to live up to my revelational understanding of what the church ought to be doing. My perpetual failure to be able to serve as a focus for bringing this revelation to pass showed me there had to be more somehow than what I had (as good and as advanced as was what I had.)
But there was another subtle problem that gnawed at me for which I had no answer. This had to do with people in the visible churches that couldn't relate to my vision but who I still knew had good hearts toward the Lord. What was God's plan for these people?
After all, one of the premises for my direction was ultimately to build free relationship.The only reason I separated from dead visible churches was because they stifled free relationship, telling people who they could and could not fellowship with. I wanted no part of that. I wanted to be free to develop relationship with whomever the Lord wanted to use to build His house.
At first, when I was separating from churches, I was concluding that anybody that could not hear my message simply wasn't hearing from God. So they deserved to stay and rot in their dead visible churches. But as time went by, my heart saw there were a lot of people in visible churches whose hearts were good, who loved God, and were doing their best to serve Him, even though they couldn't relate to my word.
What was I to do now? In separating out to find free fellowship, I was cutting myself off from some otherwise good people that I wanted fellowship with. Yet the systems they remained in were thoroughly dead and there was no way I could go back to them.
My only solution to this dilemma was to believe that, sooner or later, these good people would "see the light," wake up to the problems with the systems they were still part of, and would come out so we could all fellowship together in freedom and un-inhibition. So I waited, and waited, and waited. Meanwhile, I kept pursuing God with the people who could hear what God was saying to me.
Though I kept waiting and pursuing God, the good people I knew remained in visible bodies still were not coming out. Meanwhile, I encountered a more disturbing problem. Namely, I began seeing signs of the same deadnesses, inhibitions, and silent critical attitudes among the people who had separated out! These were the very problems for which cause I had left the big visible "denominational" churches!
Let me elaborate. It seemed that, no matter where I went in the desert to find fellowship, all fellowship seemed to be based on its agreement over the evils of visible bodies. In other words, desert fellowship was always founded on what it was against, not what it was for!
Such “fellowship” could never seem to be able to rise above the awarenesses of the evils of others and its suffered persecutions to carry forth a positive message of hope, peace, assurance, and confidence with God. This was not only true of the desert groups I had no influence on, but it was true of the very people I had influenced most and with whom I had developed greatest relationship!
So what was wrong? Why couldn't we bring forth life with uninhibited joy and love in the Spirit? Why were our meetings always so "heavy"? Why had we broken the great bondages of the visible church over our lives only to enter these more silent subtle bondages—bondages to our own personalities and the negative awarenesses already described, bondages to where everyone was afraid to step out in their gift lest they be viewed by the others as "taking over the meeting" or "operating in the flesh"?
It seemed that no matter where I went, or who I was with, and no matter what I tried to do to instill a positive forward-looking message in our meetings, our desert meetings only became deader, and deader, and deader. And I certainly knew that this was not the church "life" I had given up so much to obtain!
Between my knowledge of the good people who still remained in dead visible bodies, and my watching of the deterioration of life in the "free" fellowship of the desert, I knew that the answer to the evils of the visible "harlot" churches did not lie with us, at least not the whole answer. In any case, I came to know for certain that desert revelation was not in itself sufficient to produce the life it claimed to seek for. It only ever came to so much more dead teaching once it hardened.
The truth is that, like the visible bodies they claim to abhor, desert people also fail to discern the true body of Christ! How do I know this? Because Paul says this is what causes bodies to become weak, sickly, and sleepy. If desert people truly discerned the Lord's true church, their meetings would be alive, robust with clear, decisive ministry of every kind, and uninhibited in their expressions of love and joy.
One of the clearest manifestations of a live body is its freedom in praise and worship, Yet even in my desert ministry, I had to always labor to overcome silent oppositions of spirit to full praise and worship! And the truth is, there are visible churches that put desert people to shame in the liveliness of their meetings despite their latent "pollutions"(over which desert people are correct. But instead of recognizing the Spirit of Life within the visible church context, desert people choose to side with their own pharisaical "correctness" and, like those they abhor, dismiss these manifestations of life as fleshliness!!)
Put it all together, and it's obvious. There had to be something more in God's people than what I had been given the revelation for. And I desperately needed it. Once again in my life, I needed to be prepared to judge myself.
IV. Discerning the Joshua Generation
God calls us to obey first. Then comes the understanding. That's how it was for me concerning coming into [the church here]. It went against my desert training (which I didn't throw out.) But now I begin to understand yet more about the true body of Christ. And I'm getting answers to the questions described above which were left unanswered out in the desert.
During Israel's sojourn to Canaan, God had to overthrow an entire disobedient generation. This is a type of the large visible denominational churches of our day rooted in their identity with human society (ie, Egypt.) Then, you had two faithful officers who scouted out the land of promise, Joshua and Caleb. These are a type of the faithful desert saints who break ranks with the visible disobedient churches to seek the Lord in Spirit and in truth.
Please notice, however. God did not take Joshua and Caleb into the land by themselves, nor did He start over a new race of faithful people with them. Instead, God raised up a new generation of Israel out of the first disobedient generation, and He used Joshua and Caleb to lead them in! The "new generation" speaks of God's raising up a new generation of faithful children from within the ranks of the older dead visible churches.
Even now God is stirring up a company of true people from the midst of dead churches, denominational churches, and even recent-truth churches that were founded on fleshly motives. These include both new converts to the faith as well as longstanding members who have been kept of God in a pure heart amidst the corruption, but who had no ears to hear the prophet's call to leave the dead church.
These people are transforming the faces of the once dead churches. Old people that won't change are being sloughed off. Same body, different generation! (This is obviously the answer I sought to the good people I recognized in otherwise dead churches.)
Today's Joshuas and Calebs of the desert have been prepared to serve in discipling leadership of this new generation of visible church people—if they will humble themselves to recognize second generation life in these bodies and return to them according to the Lord’s direction.
When I first left visible churches, I thought God would start over with people like me who had remained faithful to His truth and had paid the price of "death" (ie, separation) and persecution from the bodies. But I was mistaken. And so is every current desert warrior who harbors the illusion that God will start over a "pure race" with them.
Question: What is it that differentiated the ability of the desert people to hear God to separate from the bad bodies and the inability of otherwise good people to hear that word who rather were persuaded of God to stay?
Answer: different ascension calling! Prophetic disciples hear God one way, pastoral body people hear God on a different frequency. But they both hear God in preparation for future unity when it is time for the Joshua generation to enter God's inheritance. That's what my first letter is all about.
V. Following the Cloud, Not Racing It
This is another Old Testament type that will help you understand this fuller understanding I have been humbled to see. In our desert circles we've heard a lot about following the cloud of God in the church. We've especially heard the dire warnings about being left behind when the cloud moves. When the Spirit goes forward in the church but people want to stay where they are in their religious thinking, then the cloud moves on without them. This is how we've seen the visible churches.
In all my days though, I don't think I've ever heard a message about running ahead of the cloud. Nevertheless, I've come to see that, in pioneering new paths for the church, people with prophetic-desert natures can get so far ahead of the church in their generation that their services become meaningless. I've been in meetings and listened to tapes where the revelation was so "deep" that it had no relevance. More importantly, I have seen that this has been the basic weakness of my own ministry: running ahead of the cloud.
It is not as though the things I've seen about the church are wrong. But there is a timing of God to move the church as an entire generational body into the truth I have seen as a "fore-scout." The fact is simply that the overall church is not as ready as fast as her pioneers are to enter into what the pioneers have seen.
If the pioneers hope to be of any help to the church, they must be willing to come back and serve as bridgebuilders between where the church is and where they have seen it must go. But if the pioneers just keep moving out, further and further under the mistaken notion that God will take them alone into the promised land, then they will fry out in the front desert as much as the rebellious slow-bodies fry in the back desert where they've been left behind.
Through apostolic revelation, I've advocated a church free from human economy, free to move about the world, free to press immediately into sonship without acknowledging labels of church offices, a church marked with an identity totally outside that of the world, within one context, ie, the context of perfected understanding. All this is right. This is God's ultimate goal.
But in context of present reality, these goals are unattainable to even the people who believe in them, never mind the ones who don't! There is a timing involved— a readiness through maturing growth to which God must bring an entire generation of the Church. He doesn't just bring the prophets and apostles there. He uses the prophets and apostles to blaze the way and return so an entire generation can come there with them.
One of the jokes my friends like to make about my singleness concerns the way I travel, especially when I drive on a long trip. They know that when I drive, I really move. I've perfected the art of passing cars to a finesse, and I stop only for gas! The joke of course is that when they ask me how long it takes to get somewhere, they know they can't believe me because as families, they have to go much slower and take into account all kinds of factors that I don't. [Ed note: this letter was written before I was married and started a family of my own!]
This is a perfect picture of the relationship of prophetic-apostolic natured saints to the whole church. They're efficient, no-nonsense people who move fast and far in the spirit of revelation. But they have no kids! They're not "married." The pastoral church with her kids can't keep up! This is a lesson I am learning more and more as God "weds" me to a new-generation body of people.
VI. Understanding Spiritual Generations
Another weakness I've discovered in myself and in desert people follows up on my last comments. To use another analogy about travel, desert people are the kind of people who board an airplane and then say, "I'm on board now. Let's take off!" But the plane doesn't take off, so they get impatient. But the reason the plane doesn't take off is because not everyone is on board who is supposed to be.
In other words, desert people have a tendency to measure God's readiness to do something by their own readiness. Their own readiness at every point becomes the standard by which they judge the unreadiness of others. They have little concept of God's working to bring in an entire people besides themselves. They are aware only of their own ready willingness.
Yet they forget that they themselves were once at the same places of growth and experience that others now are who are not ready for their latest revelation of the path. The inability to break out of this limited perspective leaves desert people subject to a subtle pride they can't escape, even if they don't want it.
Again, this is another problem I had no answer for as a desert disciple. I had to look back over my own life. I surveyed all the places I had been according to my level of growth. I remember when I was a fundamentalist. Yet in those days, I served God with all my heart. I knew nothing better at that time though I desired more.
Later, I learned more clearly the evils of fundamentalism: the legalism and bondage to rules of men. But because I learned that later in time, does that mean I come under "retroactive condemnation" for having been there in the beginning? Was I wrong for having been in fundamentalism earlier because I learned of its evils later?
The answer is "No!" During the years I was in fundamentalism, it was where God had appointed me in His sovereignty. It's where I was supposed to be. It's where God worked in me according to His will according to my ability to hear Him. I didn't choose to be born-again into the fundamentalist version of the church. I had no choice. Am I therefore guilty upon arrival into God's family for all the evils of that family? Of course not!
Our righteousness or guilt isn't established by where we are in God or with His people, but by whether we are where we are supposed to be according to our season of development into Him. Once our heart is illumined to the inadequacy of our present state in God, then we become responsible for our obedience to move on. But not before!
Of all people, desert saints should know this better than anyone. After all, the reason they left visible churches is because they were constantly being judged by others for where they were "supposed to be" according to other men's level of understanding. Yet desert saints (including myself) have gone on in the freedom of their new higher revelation only to judge the rest of the human church by their latest understanding. They give no thought to why others may be where they are. They lack the same understanding of spiritual generations.
Stop and think! New converts are being born into the church, and saints are dying every day and going to glory. If you could see it from heaven, you would see a mass entrance of new spirits born into men and a mass exodus of souls out of the earth— every hour of every day. It would look like one big loop from heaven to earth and back to heaven.
What does this mean? It means that, from heaven's view, the face of the church in earth is not the same two hours in a row. The actual church is in perpetual flux and transition. Meanwhile, those that are on the earth are all at different levels of maturity, and all are proceeding at different rates of speed. And each soul is accountable to God for why he is where he is when he is according to his first starting point established by God.
If this is so, it means that our judgment of the visible church is baseless. What is the visible church? Who is it? People join and quit churches every day! Really, even the distinction between the visible and invisible church is baseless. When does one become part of the "visible" church? How "visible" does a church have to be to measure its visibility or invisibility? After all, any saint on earth has a visible human body.
Do you see the point? When you try to actually define what you're talking about, it's humanly impossible to see the church as God sees it. Therefore, whatever judgments we start harboring about any group of saints ultimately reduces down to judgment according to the standard of where we are in God. Now I seriously ask you. Can that possibly be valid for judging anything final about the church?
Personally, as a repentant desert person, I have to say, "No. It is not a valid standard."
It is not that God does not have prophetic judgments to issue against various groups. But all I can say is, given the cosmic picture I've painted of the ever-changing church, there's no way you can hold onto any judgment indefinitely in determining your relationship to other saints or ascertaining God's final mind toward any group, or defining the possibility of what God can or can't do in revealing His fuller ever developing purposes for His People of any stripe.
Our problem as desert people is that we've inadvertently judged the church by our humanly-filtered "still photos" of prophetic revelation as much as "visible" people have judged us by theirs. The only difference is that our standard has been "more advanced."
We have all failed to recognize the reality of spiritual generation. Ultimately, no static revelation can be used to judge the living souls of the church. Revelation of any kind only provides momentary "snapshots" which can never tell the whole on-going story as God sees it, or define God's final options in dealing with His people.
The concluding point of this involved section is this: It was my coming to see this natural limitation and insufficiency of what I called desert revelation that God used to lead me to this next higher understanding, ie, the understanding about our ascension natures. All of us must overcome the very nature by which we hear God's voice concerning the church. Desert people have only one piece of the puzzle.
VII. Of Sonship and Ascension Gift Labels
One of the most admirable teachings of desert doctrine is that concerning our pressing on into the image of Christ alone, the Son of God. Our goal is complete maturity as sons, evidenced by our being identified alone in Him. Consequently, every effort has been made to remove artificial religious labels that wrongly divide God's people. Beyond the title "brother", desert people don't believe in using any label whatsoever, including labels that describe the differences in our natures according to ascension gift nature (apostle, prophet, etc...)
Again, however, the same weakness appears that has appeared throughout my desert wanderings: running ahead of the cloud. In this case, it's the problem of trying to live in a perfection that is not ready to be manifest.
There is no question our goal is complete, mature sonship (Eph. 4:13.) But in our zeal to live in that purity, can we bypass recognition of the several functions (with their labels) God gave for the entering into that sonship (Eph. 4:11)?
You see, taken as a whole, this Ephesians passage teaches that we cannot enter sonship without passing through the full benefit of these five ministries. Otherwise they would be unnecessary. Paul would have just said, "Let's all press on in our own natures to become sons."
Desert people don't recognize the limitation of their own nature, as opposed to other ascension natures. Therefore they see no need of receiving the ministry of other natures, nor make any distinction. Therefore they feel they can simply dispense with any such distinctions in ministry, hence dispense with all labels that would distinguish them. They feel they are sufficient within their own personal natures to press into mature sonship.
Frankly, after what I've shared with you here about the "weakness, sickliness, and sleepiness" of our desert meetings, I hope you could concur with me in the honest observation, that desert people are not complete in their nature toward pressing into sonship, and that therefore they need the help of other ascension ministries they do not recognize. Personally, I've never seen the full functioning of the fivefold ministry within the confines of desert ministry (especially the evangelist. Almost no new people come into the faith through desert ministry!!)
The irony here is that desert people actually deny need for the very ministries given to lead them to the goal of sonship they profess. Yet by their denial of need for these other ministries, they only come unto a very limited image of the Son (the hard prophetic image.)
Why do they deny this need? Because they overreact to the abuses of men who presumptuously hold titles like "apostle, prophet," etc. In overreaction, they've dumped the ministries altogether with their titles.
But again I say, overreaction to abuses is never the way to determine truth. Always standing against "abuse" and so dismissing your need to become subject to true ministry of the same name is not what truth is about. In this, desert people are subject to the opposite pride of those they oppose for their boasting.
(Some are so enamoured of their peculiarity that they've separated themselves from the original foundation of the church: "We don't follow the apostles. We only follow Christ!" [see Eph. 2:20 with I Cor. 1:12d])
Then what is the balanced truth here? It's what I wrote about in my first letter: Coming into unity and mutual submission to the other ascension natures.
The abuse of ascension gifts doesn't mean we deny them. Rather, we restore them. If we truly want to reach sonship, we must humble ourselves under the fivefold ministry with its distinctives. This includes its labels.
Again, it's abuse of labels that is wrong, not labels that describe true distinction of function in the body. If we say this is wrong, then in the name of perfection we need to eliminate the labels "male and female" in our fellowship ("In Christ, there is no male or female.")
Personally, I have never denied the legitimacy of fivefold ministry labels, even though I shied away from them because of the abuses (and still tend to). But now, because I've seen the limitation of my own ascension gift nature, and recognize the true flow of the Spirit's power through this restoration movement of prophets and apostles as well as Joshua generation pastors, I have no problem with the identification of various ministers according to their ascension gift function.
The difference is recognizing the Spirit’s flow in these ministers. Someday later, when my own ascension flow becomes better defined, more empowered, and recognized, I fully expect to be called a prophet and apostle and teacher. When that time comes, I will not buck it, even though I won't take any glory in it either.
The House of God is a Living House. As a house, it is still structured. Because it's Living doesn't mean it's unstructured. Again, as desert people we have reacted to abuse in the extreme. Since we saw abuse of structure, we concluded that nothing Living can possibly be structured. Therefore our meetings have been held in fear of stepping out to release our gifts or set meetings in order lest we "kill" the meeting. Yet the meetings were dead anyway! No structure. Still no life.
So it’s not whether there's structure or not. It's whether the structure is empowered of God or not. I maintain before you that God is now empowering His new structure for His end-time House. And I am submitting to the Life-Flow of it. We are Living Stones, each fulfilling a Structured Function in the Spirit. It is one thing to buck dead structure as desert prophets rightly do. It is another thing to buck Spirit-empowered structure. I will not, even if other desert people continue to.
VIII. Faulty Concept of Relationship: Failure to Discern Spirit-Empowered Structure
"You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house." I Pt. 2:5
"You are— built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by the Spirit." Eph. 2:19-22
This is a follow-up on what I just said about structure in meetings. As a desert wanderer, I saw a basic overall weakness in my ability to have enduring, meaningful relationships. Because of the evil of humanly controlled structured relationships I saw in the churches, I failed to discern the truth of Spirit-empowered structure in relationship.
In the churches, I had seen the evil of cutting off others from fellowship because they thought differently than the leadership. I saw the evil of cliques. I also saw the evil of controlled relationships through the "shepherding movement" with its emphasis on "covering" and "covenant," etc. Then there was the evil of rejecting a man's ministry because he wasn't part of "our" denomination.
So I went the other way. I began to open myself to anybody who called himself a Christian. I shied away from all emphasis on "commitment," trusting the Lord to lead silently in putting relationships together. As for meetings, I believed anybody who was a believer ought to be free to minister in any meeting whether he was known or not. I believed people ought to be able to discern a man's spirit without having to know him.
So I went to anyone's and everyone's meetings, waiting to share as an unknown dark horse, then disappointed at the "lack of freedom" I was given to share. Meanwhile, I opened myself to new relationship, and more relationship, and more, and more—until I burned out. I burned out in that state where I had become a "jack of all relationships, and a master of none." I knew so many people that I didn't know anybody! I was so "free" in my relationship that I had no relationship.
It was in the quietness of this state of futility that I began to see a new twist to the phrase, "Except the Lord build the house..." I saw that, even in a Living house, there's a right place for every brick. Just because God's house is living doesn't mean any brick is free to join itself to any brick of its own accord. Every stone has its designed place of relating to other stones, some directly, others indirectly— all through divinely orchestrated development of relationship.
- Freedom to Minister
I realize now that my freedom to minister is still governed by a master plan. Specifically, it is governed by a plan of divinely developed relationship. The inability of people to hear me doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with them. It can mean they aren't designed to hear me, or possibly that the divine mortar of bonding relationship hasn't developed enough to enable me to speak to them.
Freedom to minister is governed within the divine plan of ordained relationship. While God can and does use the witness of the Spirit that allows prophetic strangers to minister in meetings, I recognize now that this is not His usual way. Again, such freedom looks forward to a day of perfection the church has not reached yet, and won't reach without the intermediate need of developing relationship structured by the Spirit.
So I no longer expect everyone to be able to bear immediate spiritual witness to my gifting, though I may still be disappointed at times when certain ones don't. But this again is an example of the inadequacy of the desert concept of ministry. It is so pure in its vision, so far ahead of the cloud, that it is unworkable.
- Freedom of Personal Relationship
Now that I understand ordained relationship, I no longer feel obligated to open my life to every Christian stranger that passes by. Frankly, I'm not God (sorry to disappoint some of you!) I wanted to be as open as God is to all people.
But in burning myself out through unbridled openness, I learned that I only needed to open my life to the people He ordained me to respond to. I no longer need to feel guilty for an inability to relate to a certain person or group of people. Nor did I feel further obligated to discover more "strange" kinds of unknown Christians to relate to.
By my own failure in this matter, God showed me the insufficiency of the desert concept of free relationship. The concept is good, but not complete. While it calls for life, it rejects structure of any kind, including divinely empowered structure. The desert concept of relationship doesn't allow for actually building a cemented spiritual house. It only allows for leaving the bricks scattered out on the work site after removing them from the wrong house that man built.
Desert teaching concludes that all structure is man-made, therefore it is anti-structure in outlook. (This is why it rejects not only man-made labels, but divinely appointed labels used to differentiate actual spirit-empowered offices and functions in the church. It is why in turn it rejects the possibility that anybody functioning under such a label can possibly be flowing in the Spirit of God's authority and anointing.)
IX. Conclusion: Seeing the Desert Gift of Discernment for What It Is…
... but just a gift.
The ability of some to see through the evils of human corruption in the church and to boldly expose and pronounce judgment upon those evils is a marvelous gift from God. And what can compare to the pure vision of the church envisioned by such gifted discerners: the vision for loyalty to Christ alone, the vision for growing up only into Christ's image, the vision for free, unhindered fellowship among God's people, the vision for purity and simplicity in the church?
And who but the community of scattered desert saints have seen so clearly to point out the limitations of God's gifts in the church, to show that those gifts and anointings cannot possibly bring life?
And yet, for all their seeing in critical accuracy the failings of the human church, the desert saints have not broken through to realize that their own ability of discernment together with the panorama of their vision for the church is itself but only a gift. As a gift with the same limitations as all the gifts whose limitations it discerns, it is unable to produce life.
It was this inability to see life brought forth through my own gifted discernment and vision for the church that finally led me to realize that my entire nature with its vision produced but an image, an image that had to be transcended if I was to find the true life I so desperately wanted to see brought about.
All my seeing of the flaws was but a lifeless snapshot. It was true. It was good. It was right. But it did no more to produce the life in the church than the human efforts it exposed. What bothered me was that I was forever telling people they needed to separate from this, and stay clear of that, and not get trapped by such-and-such—but I had no power of life to offer them in exchange!
Together with everything else I already described to you—my inability to carry out my pure vision for the church, the sickliness of desert-style meetings with their inhibitions and rehashing of issues over degenerate critical attitudes, my inability to account for good people amidst dead structures, my realization that the church is constantly turning over in ways that exposed the limitations on the applicableness of my judgments, my inadequacy in relationship— all these testified to me that my entire nature by which I perceived God's righteousness was just a gift.
In seeing my gifting for what it was, I saw I could no longer use my vision as a permanent, complete standard for measuring the church or for declaring God's full intention for His people. I had to yield it to something greater, to something that was greater than what the confines of my seeing nature allowed for. I had to acknowledge that I didn't have all the cards, and that I had to humble myself to let God blend my cards with the cards of others whose ascension natures differed from mine.
Someday the desert vision for the church will be brought to pass. It will be brought to pass because it is from God. But it will not come to pass until the church passes through ways for which the desert vision does not give account.
In order to reach the goal of their own vision, desert visionaries will have to actually humble themselves to let go of their vision, and be willing to acknowledge God's processes of Life at work in contexts that for now, fall short of their eye for perfection. And they must submit themselves to that Life. And those who fail to acknowledge that life (because it doesn't flow in the context of perfection they were gifted to envision) will die the same way as all who clutch their gifts.
Desert discerners need to understand that their vision for perfection is just that, for perfection. But they have not been given the vision of how to get there. That has been committed to others. For the church to reach its goal, those with the vision for the goal and those with the vision for God's immediate purpose must learn to blend together.
The greater responsibility lies with those who see the goal because they see the farthest. Those scattered folk with the gift of critical discernment are the eyes of the body of Christ. But they need to realize they are only the eyes. They are only part of the body. So they must submit to join with those who are God's immediate hands and feet amidst imperfect contexts. Again, eyes can only point the way, but only hands and feet can move there.
Gifted desert critics need to realize that they have been set in the body as living laws of God before their generation. As such, they have an exceeding great weight of responsibility to respond rightly to their vision. Part of that responsibility is to realize that they must release their judgments concerning the church back to God as soon as they receive them. For God does not hold the church accountable to them, but only to Himself.
Only God may receive glory and hold direct authority over the church. And only by grace will He fulfil the righteous requirements in His people which He issues through His gifted critics. He does not fulfil it according to their direct legal expectations and demands.
X. Warning to Desert Critics and Fellowships
It was twelve spies who went to see Canaan, but only two who were able to lead in the next generation. The other ten adopted the same attitudes as the overall body from which they had been called out for that gifted purpose.
Even so, the majority of desert saints who have left the large disobedient church bodies are as mistaken about their role in church history as are those original bodies from which they were called out. Only a remnant of each will move on together to fulfil the next stage of church restoration.
Who are those that will deliver themselves to be a remnant from the desert? Answer: Only those who wake up to see the limitations of their own nature with its gift for discerning evil—only those who go on to release the rest of the church from the judgments they have rightly seen and declared—only those who recognize and submit to the operation of God's Life in others, even when that operation runs contrary to the discernment they have been given—only those who overcome the bondage of fear of being unfaithful to God when His life leads them in ways that are contrary to the gifted nature He has imparted to them.
In short, it is those who will go on to keep judging themselves by their own message of repentance and self-denial: "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
Though God gives those with desert natures words of correction for the church, His intent for them in relationship to those words is that they should judge themselves and release others. But where desert people fail to release others and eventually themselves from the judgments entrusted to them, their gift becomes their downfall.
The fruits of unreleased judgment are manifest among desert people: Their illumination degenerates into a spirit of stagnant criticism. The criticism thrives on the re-hashing of the same old issues once fresh through immediate revelation. These issues then become the anti-doctrines around which their "fellowship" fossilizes. The spirit of heaviness and inhibition of expression hovers over the meetings.
Behind the somberness of the meetings lie certain unverbalized awarenesses that reveal a failure to discern the body of Christ:
- "We are the faithful remnant and chosen few" (though God told Elijah many others had not bowed the knee to baal.)
- "We are entitled to more because of our sufferings" (though Jesus gave the parable of the workers to show otherwise, and Paul declares the folly of comparing ourselves with others.)
- "Because we've been faithful, it isn't fair that God should pour out His Life on others, therefore it can't be His Life others are experiencing" (though Jesus gave us the story of the older brother and the prodigal son, and Paul says God can restore broken branches and break off restored branches.)
These awarenesses are not verbalized usually, and they are denied openly, yet the spirit of them is inescapable. This is the case wherever fellowship results from common rejection and persecution by others. The center of fellowship is not in the Life of Christ (though professed to be), but in the awareness of the evils of others. It is anti-fellowship.
These are the fruits of desert meetings where the believers have not entered into the grace of releasing the church from its sins, nor come to reckon with the limitation and insufficiency of their own nature in Christ.
"I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you..." (I Cor. 4:14.) Personally, friends, I have continued in the path of judging myself. And when you boil it all down, this is the explanation for my coming to the teaching on transcending our ascension-gift nature. I simply came to see the insufficiency of my own discerning nature and the greatness of God in others beyond my nature.
I believe that many of you witness in an unspoken way to what I have written in these two letters. Your own honesty has led you also to see the insufficiency of your nature to discern, even if there is a lot you haven't grasped of it yet.
Others of you however are caught in a serious web of unbelief and negative criticism whereby you have chosen to build your doctrines and fellowship around the limitations and bondages of your own personalities. Your slide in this direction has become especially pronounced since I left your regions to come here.
You've lost sight of our original goal of pressing into all that God is and has for us. Instead, you've gotten stuck on proclaiming only those attributes of God mirrored by your own nature. And now you're building a new personal legalism on that incomplete image—an image by which you go on to falsely judge the spiritual maturity of the rest of the church. Your definition of "worldly" is anything that challenges your inhibited nature into fuller expression!
Don't you see you're going backward?—backward into the silent legalistic traps of the mystics, pietists, and puritans from which God already delivered the church centuries ago. Your blindness to the limitations of your nature leads you to buy into the legalism of anyone who shares that nature.
You've developed your own silent codes of "touch not, taste not, handle not" (Col. 2:21.) This is the "Galatian mentality" Paul warned about: "Having begun in the Spirit [ie, pressing into God], are you now made perfect by the flesh [ie, by legalism based in your own personality's reflection of God]?" (Gal. 3:3.)
As your faithful friend proven by years of sharing your nature, I have a place to exhort you this way where others do not. This warning is for you. Judge the fruits of your own fellowship. As long as you refuse to acknowledge the new life of God coming forth in other parts of the church, you will continue to bear fruits of weakness, sickliness, and death in your meetings.
This will happen until you either awake to humility to receive help from ministries you now scoff at, or until your meetings implode and your wandering fellowship disintegrates into futile isolation. At that point, you will be in danger of the cultic scenario I warned about in my first letter.
XI. Renewing Relationship
It's time for me to establish a new basis of relationship with all of you who read these letters. It's time to update our silent covenant in pursuit of God. Not that I write that much any more. Yet God still lays on me every few months to send out something. I've been faithful to send these writings out to you despite my awareness of the shift that's been happening in me over 2 years.
While I've secretly hoped that all could appreciate this shift, in reality, my spirit has suspected for some time that some of you have rejected this growth in me. If the truth were known, you would be as happy to receive no more letters. (This was confirmed to me on a recent trip when one friend of longstanding referred to my recent letters as "garbage.")
Because of the cost involved to me in this ministry (one mailing alone came close to $60.00) and because my desire is to keep speaking only to those who appreciate this ministry, I'm asking you to prove your silent covenant with me. Simply, if you live outside New England and receive these mailings, I need to hear from you if you want to stay on my mailing list. Specifically, I need you to affirm me in my direction. You've read these letters now. It's all spelled out. You know where I'm going. You can judge whether you can affirm this direction or not. If you can't affirm it, you need do nothing.
If I do not hear from you, then this will be my last letter to you. That simple. If you want the letters (few as they may be now), then write.
I close by thanking each one for the part you have played in my own development into God. I commend everyone to His grace, especially His grace at this time to make that hurdle over the limits of your ascension nature planted by Him. I desire to see you flow with the fullness of His Life as He begins to manifest it in new ways never seen before through all His People.
written from Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created June 18, 2016