Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Throughout my time in ministry, I have become pretty used to strangers walking up to me in public either because they recognized me from church or because I spoke or sang wherever they worship. But over the last couple of years, those encounters, though they have continued, have changed in nature quite a bit.
Recently, while out shopping, a man I have known for at least a decade approached me and asked me how I was doing. At first, I assumed he was engaging me in the normal pleasantries you offer when you run into someone whom you haven't seen in a while. However, when I told him I was doing great, he gave me one of those sad smiles that clearly said, "I've heard differently."
After a few minutes of continued conversation, it became clear to me that he was under the impression that I had lost my way. Without any malicious intent, he asked me about my relationship with God, and conspicuously didn't believe me when I said it had never been better. From there, we made our goodbyes and went on our way.
I didn't share that story because it upset me or because I wanted any kind of reaction from you. I shared it because I wanted you to understand what the course I am on has cost me. And I wanted you to understand why I relate so deeply to Jeremiah's story:
Look at this:
If I say, "I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,"
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot."
Jeremiah 20:9 (esv)
Growing up, I read this text and I understood it to mean that Jeremiah was so passionate for God that he couldn't stand the thought of not preaching. I related to Jeremiah, assuming that it was desperate spiritual hunger that drove him, but that's not quite what Jeremiah was talking about here. Let's read it in context:
You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”
Jeremiah 20:7-12 (esv)
The weeping prophet. Jeremiah was known for his emotional brokenness over the state of his people. Not just the suffering they were experiencing, but their apostasy. Jeremiah spent a lifetime warning Israel about coming judgement from God, and instead of humbling themselves and hearing what God had to say to them, their prophets and spiritual leaders decided that Jeremiah was a trouble maker. A false prophet. A fool.
Instead of listening to the prophetic warning God had sent them, the leaders of Israel made it their mission to shut Jeremiah up. They opposed him at every turn, because the message he brought was one they couldn't bear hearing. Because his message was painful. As a result, obeying God was painful for Jeremiah. It meant rejection and ridicule and suffering. Yet he couldn't ignore God's voice, no matter how badly he wanted to. No matter how much better his life would be if he did.
I can relate to that.
Before I go any further, let me clarify that my story is not quite the same as Jeremiah's. God has not spoken to me about his coming judgement on the church, and I am not prophesying a future where God's people are taken captive by a foreign land. However, I am prophesying something that the church doesn't want to hear. A fact that I'm quite certain you're already aware of, if you've opened this blog.
I have always pursed God desperately, and I have always walked in relative freedom spiritually. However, several years ago, God began to speak to me about just how deep freedom can go. He challenged me to start experiencing life with him without the limitations of any structure or tradition that stole from God's intentions for the church. that is not to say that what we have built is not beautiful, only that there is something deeper. Something real. God confronted me with a vision of what life with him could be, and ever since, I have been unable to settle for anything less.
It would be easier if I could. Trust me. I have lost friends. I have lost my reputation. I have lost so much more. For years, I was an example of depth. People came to me on a regular basis, asking me to teach them how to know God the way I did. I was sought after to lead worship, and my name was the one people handed out when someone needed to be discipled. And now? Now, people ask me how I'm doing with God, secretly not believing me when I say I'm doing fine. Now, Pastor's warn people not to associate with me because I am a trouble maker. Now, I am called a false prophet, divisive, misguided, manipulative... not because I have divided, or prophesied falsely, but because I have brought a message that no one is ready to accept. Despite the fact that I have worked very hard not to cause division or anger or pain, that is the image people associate with me. This path God has set me on has turned my life upside down. And yet... I can't turn away.
It would be easier if I could ignore it. If I could put my head down and ignore the calling God has put on my life. But I can't... because the thing God is saying... it matters way too much.
For years, we have been begging God for revival. We've been crying out for the Spirit of God to be poured back out on the church, and for God to reawaken his bride. Well... this is it. This is the moment where that happens. The moment where God reminds his people what it means to know him. To walk with him. To lose ourselves in him. We have been crying out for a new thing, but that's not what he is doing. In our generation, we are going to see God strip back all of the structures we have built up around our pursuit of him, and we're going to see him bring us back to the simple gospel. The one where its only Jesus at the center.
There is no new thing. There is only the finished thing.
There are so many things that we have built up around ourselves for the sake of protecting our mission. And I'm not saying that we are evil for having done that. But regardless of our intentions, we have taken something that exists in freedom and as a direct gift from God, and have turned it into something that we can build in our own gifts and strength. And as such, we've robbed ourselves of the very power we are so desperate to walk in.
In this moment, God is restoring the simplicity of the gospel and confronting us with his design for freedom and an intimacy that only comes by grace. In short, he is calling his church back to a lifestyle of relying on Jesus, alone.
So yes, I know that for many of you, I have gone from being an example of depth to a heretic church splitter, but that message... that revelation... it's not something that I can ignore. It's not something I can afford to ignore. It matters. So I will never be quiet, no matter the cost. No matter what I lose or what reputation I gain from it. Because Jesus alone is a fire in my bones that I grow weary trying to hold in.
It has to come out.