Have you ever wished God would show up in a pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire by night to show you which direction to go? We like to say, “Just tell me what you want me to do and I will do it.”
Have you ever heard God’s promises through scripture verses that stand out, practically in neon, and are repeated by every book you pick up or every podcast you listen to or in casual conversation with friends you haven’t seen in ten years or on advertisements on the sides of a bus or even in dreams or visions or an audible voice?
Wow! You say “Yes, Lord! I will follow you to the Promised Land!”
And then he leads you in the opposite direction.
“What?” you say.
The thing about clear direction from heaven is that it takes you in directions your mind can’t follow – otherwise you would not need it. I’ve seen this so often now, I’m finally beginning to see that it’s a pretty normal in the Christian life when the opposite of a promise shows up first.
The cloudy/fiery pillar led the Children of Israel back out into the desert – not their expected destination. But the Lord had some work to do on them before they were ready to leave slavery behind. Not all shackles are on the outside of a person. Some of them are in the mind.
I feel like I’ve had a promise of seeing a restoration/revival/reformation whatever you want to call it, in church as we know it. I keep hearing and seeing pictures of a reconciled, united Body of Christ, a joining of streams, a habitation of God made of living stones, a place where love is more than a theory and entire cultures change as result of its influence. I keep hearing the “one another” passages that talk about identifying followers of Jesus by their love for each other and not for the walls they have built around their “distinctives.” I see the promise. I know it is coming. I have said, “Yes, Lord.” I have followed his voice.
Then he led me in the opposite direction.
So here I am, a lover of the saints, not attending a church, following a cloud in the desert. One temporary camping spot at a time. Amazingly I’m meeting a different kind of church out here, one based more on spirit connection than proximity of pews. I’m not without fellow travellers with discernment willing to offer much-needed encouragement and correction; in fact there are a few people in my life now with whom I have a deeper, more honest, more faith-building relationship than I’ve had in years. I am learning to feed on the bread Jesus provides, but sometimes I miss the savoury familiar and predictable flavours I have known.
I think that’s why I don’t have permission to go back, nor am I seeing the promise fulfilled yet. I still have shackles around my mind. I have expectations that are defined and limited by my experiences in the old country. What God has planned operates on complete dependence on his ways, not mine.
Guide me, oh thou great Yhwh, I’m a pilgrim in this barren land. I am weak but Thou art mighty. Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
9 thoughts on “Let the Fire and Cloudy Pillar Lead”
Sister, you said: “So here I am, a lover of the saints, not attending a church, following a cloud in the desert.” That describes me as well. And in doing so, we are part of a “movement” that’s taking place in this hour. Many others are following that same Cloud.
Here’s a link to a piece worth reading. I don’t know that I agree with all that’s in it, but it shows there are many others who are dissatisfied with church as we know it these days. Check out the comments at the bottom of the message.
Hi Allan, I just wrote a ton of stuff and then deleted it all. I’ll just go back to basics. I am not angry or offended with anyone, (usually). I see a lot of good things happening in many institutional churches and I bless them for it. I do not have suggestions for better ways of doing church. Jesus loves me, this I know, this is all I really know, and He has said “Follow Me.” That is what I am attempting to do.
I feel like little Lucy in Prince Caspian. I appreciate the way others take up arms against the foe, but I choose to go look for Aslan (who represents Christ). I do believe He is our hope and that one day we who believe in Christ Jesus will all realize that we are indeed one in Him.
I’m not angry or offended either, and I have good friends who are involved in institutional churches. But I would say that most who are leaving are doing so because they are looking for a deeper reality of Christ– something they can become involved in rather than being perpetually in the pews.
Sorry to take so long getting back to you. I’m on the road again. I apologize if I implied that you are angry or offended. I don’t believe you are, but this is the assumption on the part of some people who have talked to me lately. A few are actually angry with me – quite angry. I don’t suppose there is any way of choosing to do something differently than the group without appearing to be critical. I try not to offend, but simply by saying that I believe there is more and pursuing it is going to offend some. Is this post defensive and asking for understanding? Probably.
I’ll go talk to the Lord now.
Sister, one of the problems with this type of communication is that it’s difficult to “hear” tone of voice, and therefore easy to misunderstand one another. I didn’t think you were implying I was “angry or offended,” I was just saying, “Me too. Like yourself, I’m not angry or offended.” Just hungry for God. But walking this way does leave one open to being misunderstood, as you said, and which I have known my share of as well. Which we must bear patiently. Something that one must lean heavily on is that if we truly are following “the Cloud,” it is not our own idea, is it. I am not just being rebellious, or refusing to submit to authority. I am actually being obedient. If I am following the Cloud, I am actually being led by the Lord, who went before them in the wilderness “to search out a resting place for them.” He has something new in mind, and we are not “there” yet. But there is rest in the Way (Num. 10.33, Jer. 31:2).
Oh this helps me. I’ve heard your dad say things like these, where we have times like Joseph in prison, forgotten, or times like the children of Israel in the desert being made ready for the promise. I find it hard to set goals or develop business plans while attempting to live that Spirit led life. Or to live with less yet again while believing his words to me of what will come through him.
You wrote “I still have shackles around my mind. I have expectations that are defined and limited by my experiences in the old country. What God has planned operates on complete dependence on his ways, not mine.” May I too learn too feed on Heaven’s bread and be glad for the manna in every day. The place of miracles isn’t an easy place to be.
Blessings, dear friend.
Ah, but living in the place of miracles on the battleground between two kingdoms is the most exciting place to be. Where else can the strength of spiritual weapons be proven to you?
(Now I don’t recall my father say things like this, so I wonder if a mutual friend sent you a link to this post? Nevertheless, if it’s just a matter of my poor memory I apologize. You are very welcome. -Charis)
You are right about that! There’s more in my arsenal than there used to be. With practice of the Word comes authority. And I was thinking of the dad of a different Charis! 😀 Thanks again for the post!
Blessings on your day. May you get a glimpse of the authority you have access to.
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