May 7, 2021
Love proves us.
A few weeks ago during a worship set outside in the tent with the rest of my second year class, I found myself letting my gaze wander around the sea of faces, and started realizing how very much like a family our class has come to feel to me.
Not just my homegroup. Not just my tightest circle of friends. Not even just my revival group. My class. All 700-ish of us.
Not, mind you, that I’ve met everyone or have connected on a deep level with everyone I have met. But it really is incredible to look around a crowd of hundreds of people and be able to pick out many of them, instantly connecting to some history with them.
He’s my housemate. She’s in my revival group, and I’ve watched her completely transform this year. I’ve gone for runs with him. I’ve never talked directly with her, but the way she prayed during a zoom class early in the year still moves me. He is an incredible worship leader who still feels easy to connect to though we’ve only interacted a few times.
There’s that couple that I had never noticed until I went on a trip with them and discovered how incredibly powerful they are. There’s that girl who can’t quite sing on key, but has such a gentle, sweet heart despite the hardships of her past. She is always overflowing with uncontainable joy, bursting out in laughter at sometimes funny moments. I led worship with him. She is hilarious on zoom chats. I would’ve gone to Netherlands with him last year.
Lovely grey-haired women anyone would want for a grandma, and heavily muscled men that would be rather intimidating were they not full of the love of God.
Mentors. Adventure buddies. The ones who were simply with me while I was trying to sort out a tangled mess of emotions and thoughts. They challenged me in the simple way they value prayer, prophesied into my life when I needed it most, and educated me on church history. There are quiet, loud, sweet, and fierce. There are those I have barely met, and those I can hardly remember not knowing. They flood me with joy and hope, inspire me, and, at times, make me nervous.
They are friends. All of them, friends. Some deeper than others. Some friendships, perhaps, I expect to dwindle after school, but some I know will last, in some form or another, for the rest of my life. And in all those relationships, love is the foundation.
As I was thinking through all this, I was reminded that, as a group of Christians, our love for one another actually proves us.
John 13:35 says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And the same author, John, writes in 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and in verse 20 of the same chapter penned “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. “
Our love for one another proves us. Without it, we’re just a group of people going to classes together for a year. With it, our Faith is proven.
This year has been wild, hard, beautiful, adventurous, confusing, frustrating, breaking, revelatory, and ultimately transformational in ways I am sure will only unfold over time. And while there are lots of reasons for why this BSSM journey has been everything I dreamed of and more, a massive part of it is you, my fellow students.
So thank you. Thank you for saying yes. Thank you for showing up. And while I haven’t met all of you and likely won’t get to say a proper farewell for the summer to many of you, I hope you know this:
I love you. All of you. Deeply and truly.
Until next year, fam, keep blazing. Be shot out like flaming arrows in the night, setting fire wherever you land. Preach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, rescue the lost, deliver the captives, and, through it all, LOVE.
February 7, 2021
Oh October. You were a good one.
September, as I mentioned in my previous post, was different. Different than the start of last year, different than the end of last year.
And while many differences continued into October, there was also an air of recognition in the month. Perhaps it’s just the in way God tends to speak to me.
Last year, I found myself consistently astonished and surprised at the way God would grow a specific theme over a few days or a week. I would read a random verse one day, have a conversation with a friend a couple days later, and find myself writing down a quote from a message a few days after that, all somehow honing in on one specific point or theme, and all of it confirming, to me, that God was on it. It wasn’t just one source; He would come at it from all sides.
And I think it’s that mechanism that God seems to enjoy leading me with that led to a sense of familiarity with October.
But, let’s be clear: none of the lessons are the same as last year. While everything builds on last year’s foundation, God is leading me into brand new and brave new concepts and territories.
Recognizing and responding to opposition.
Or, more specifically, the lack of lack.
I think most of us have areas of our life where we worry about lack on some level. Perhaps the most obvious is in the realm of finances, but I think relationships, opportunities, and belief can all be spheres where we carry an underlying sense of uneasiness, either feeling like we’re missing out on something or are about to hit the harsh reality at the bottom of the barrel. October found me fighting with this in a whole new way.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that school wasn’t what I expected. It still isn’t. It isn’t really what anyone expected. We’ve been in person, online, in person, online again and, more recently, outdoors. I missed auditioning for drums and the usual start-of-semester retreat, which was massive for me last year. Missions and ministry trips certainly won’t be anything close to normal, and the normal hang outs with friends are more difficult and complicated to navigate, as we grapple with state restrictions and school guidelines.
All that to say, I found myself battling against discouragement and frustration on a regular basis. Like many people in this era of COVID, I felt like I was being cheated by this virus and was powerless to change it.
More than that, I felt myself getting frantic as I worried that I, as a Jesus follower, would be in lack. That I would have a lack of growth, lack of experience, lack of hands-on ministry training. I came to BSSM to get instructed in how to build the Kingdom for the rest of my life, but now I worried I would be ill-equipped to handle the situations of the future with this less-than-normal year of ministry school.
All of this brought me to a morning where I sat down with a notebook, a Bible, and my swirl of emotions ranging from fading hope to discouragement to anger.
And, as He does, He met me.
In the midst of my doubt and frustration with school and the state of the world at large, I found myself flipping back and forth between a couple of specific verses:
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
- Philippians 4:19
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
- Matthew 6:33
I had read these verses before. Studied them. Marinated in them.
But I had always read them as a promise exclusively for my finances, and, while I’m not perfect, I can say with confidence that I have watched God come through in my finances enough times to recognize I have no reasonable excuse for doubting that He will keep on coming through. I may still slip into doubt occasionally, but I have only to remind myself of what He’s done for me in the past and the promises He’s made to me, both personally and through Scripture, to align myself back to the truth that He will never let my finances fail.
But when it came to experiences, or training, or even friends and connections, I was met with the harsh reality that I didn’t trust God nearly as much as I thought I did. It seemed something inside of me felt a need to force relationships or come up with opportunities for growth if either were going to happen.
Now, to be clear, I firmly believe there’s a measure of responsibility in all of this, and the verses have context that shouldn’t be discarded. But as I read the verses over and over again, I became convinced the promise applied to me.
So yes, finances. But also growth. Training. Internal structures. Relationships. Discipline. Love. Connections. Opportunities. Experiences. If I have need of it, my God, my Daddy, who gives good gifts, will supply it.
End of story.
And when it comes to school specifically, it turns out that God is the best Teacher anyways.
Worship may be in my living room in front of a TV screen with my one roommate rather than in a crowded auditorium with a near perfect audio mix packed out with thousands of people. Classes may look like zoom calls rather than face to face interactions with teachers who rapidly become personal heroes. Church may look like inviting a few people over to my house to watch the live stream instead of driving up the College View hill, past the prayer house, and up to that picturesque Bethel church building. Retreat may be replaced by more time home in a quiet room alone with God, and missions trips may look like being intentional about visits to the grocery store or hosting international zoom calls.
But as long as Jesus is in charge of the curriculum, I am going to get every single thing I need for my future. Whatever I feel I may have missed out on or am lacking in due to the restrictions of COVID and the impacts on school, God will supply at the right time, be it during my time in Redding or not.
I have God. Thus, I have no lack.
Indeed, I have only a lack of lack.
October 17, 2020
BSSM, round two. It’s different this time.
Yes, COVID makes school different. For the first week and a half after getting to Redding I was quarantining and awaiting test results. That meant I had to sit in on classes online, despite being a 10-minute drive from where they were being streamed from. I missed auditioning for the student worship team. I had to wait much longer than I would’ve liked to see some of my friends from first year (and still haven’t properly connected to others).
Our main sessions which would ordinarily pack the entire school year into one room for wild, passionate times of corporate worship are split into two half-full sessions, and then reduced again as students come down with symptoms, test positive, or come into contact with those who have and are forced to quarantine.
Masks. Limited social gatherings. Quarantine.
Yep. COVID still sucks in California.
But COVID isn’t the only thing that makes second year different. The feel is different. The themes are different. The expectations and responsibilities are different. The messages are different, and the leaders interact with students differently.
And I am loving it.
I’d say the biggest theme of second year, at least thus far, is leadership.
And it’s a bit strange for me, because the whole concept of leadership has always felt vague and ethereal. I’ve had a lot of moments over the years where people would tell me I was or was going to be a leader, and in general my reaction was to smile and nod and assume that this whole leadership thing would somehow someday just attach itself to me and I’d be a leader.
Turns out, that doesn’t seem to be the way this thing works. Shocker.
Instead, I’m learning that leadership is intensely practical and immediate. It starts right now.
The concept of “ownership” has been drilled into us, over and over again. I’ve thought and re-thought through the people I’ve placed around me, and which relationships I’m investing in. I’ve felt challenged to think through exactly why I am here, now. I’ve been encouraged and filled with hope in what is possible with God. We’ve had sessions on goal-setting, time management, and task prioritization. There’ve been messages about capacity, and how to grow it. Leaders have talked about what this school provides and how to prepare for the time ahead when we aren’t in it anymore, and are therefore required to sustain ourselves internally instead of just feasting on the incredible environment that’s been carefully crafted for us.
And we’ve talked about responsibility. For me, one of the biggest growing points so far has been to think through the responsibility I have for the people around me.
Classmates. Roommates. Co-workers. Friends. Family. Strangers on the street.
Let me provide some context by saying that I have confidence in my ability to shut myself in a room and get stuff done. I did good in college. I received recognition for my commitment to and engagement with homework last year, though BSSM doesn’t do any sort of normal grading. When it comes to employment, I know I can slip on my earphones, shut the world out, and throw myself into the work at hand.
I am aware that I’m good at accomplishing tasks assigned to me.
But what I’m learning is that that isn’t really leadership.
Leadership involves checking in with the people around me, and making sure they’re doing well. Leadership means going together. It doesn’t mean taking control of other’s lives or letting my sense of self-worth be dictated by another person’s choices, but it does mean caring about what’s going on in the lives of others around me, and loving them enough to challenge and encourage them.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
- African Proverb
I’m in this for the long-haul. This life, this purpose, this way of walking the earth… I’m in it to stay. I love going fast as much as the next guy, but I wanna to go far. I want to go long. I want to sustain the pace for decades, not just a few flashy years.
It makes me think of Jesus (which, as an aside, is always a good end to any thought trail). He was literally God walking the earth. All-powerful. All-knowing. Outside of time save for a few brief years when He chose to subject Himself to its limits.
And what does the fully self-sufficient God-man think as He’s starting His ministry?
“I could really use a bunch of fishermen and a cheating tax accountant or two hanging out with me for the next few years.”
If there was anyone ever who could justify not bothering to slow Himself down by bringing people along in His journey, it was Jesus. He didn’t need any of them. And as one reads the gospels, it’s hard not to sense that that these disciples slowed Jesus down.
He had to re-explain parables, and often they still didn’t quite get it. He had to break up, ahem, “discussions” over which one of them was the best. He had to remind them that having enough food wouldn’t ever be a problem after He had miraculously fed thousands of people by using the disciples to distribute bread and fish. He told them He would die over and over again and seems to have been met by mostly blank stares except when they tried to convince Him out of it.
Jesus didn’t learn anything from the disciples. Yes, they absolutely partnered with Jesus in His ministry on a few occasions, but for the most part, I think it’s fair to say that Jesus slowed down to bring them along. But to Him, it was worth it. It was worth it to invest in this collection of people made up partially of fishermen and entirely of people who would either abandon or straight-up betray Jesus in His time of greatest need.
Why? Why in the world would Jesus, who was intricately involved in the process of creating humans at the very start, make decisions over and over again to invest in people who often just didn’t get it?
I think it’s because He had a long-term goal. For Jesus, it wasn’t just about getting His earthly mission of dying for the sins of the world done and healing a few people along the way. No, He had a bigger vision. He was preparing a group of people to launch into what would become a successive, generational, worldwide ministry involving greater works than anything He had done while walking the earth (John 14:12). Jesus was interested in more than just His own ministry; He was interested in the advancement of the Kingdom as a whole, beyond what He would do in His life.
Jesus, Creator and Saviour of the world, intentionally brought people along in His journey. Who am I to presume I could or should go it alone?
I need people, probably still much more than I realize. I need to invest in them, to grow with them, to encourage and strengthen them and have them do the same things for me. I need to go together.
Because I want what I do on this earth to far outlast me. I want it to echo on into eternity.
And that, my dear friends, are some of my learnings from month one of BSSM 2.
Thanks for reading. Love ya’ll.
May 30, 2020
Hello friends. Welcome to my eighth and final instalment of first year BSSM recap blogs. I’m here to talk about April. And I’m here to talk about JOY.
I’ve experienced a lot of Jesus over the past year, in fresh and unexpected ways. I’ve seen Him from new perspectives, with new lenses, through new mediums of communication, and He just keeps getting more beautiful.
But there’s one particular experience I had yet to undergo. That is, at least, until last month.
Last month I got hit with joy.
Now joy is a bit of an interesting beast. If we start with the dictionary, we find that joy is defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” I would hope everyone can relate to that.
Perhaps a particularly meaningful gift, or being reunited family members after a long time apart, or maybe something as simple as watching a gentle snowfall begin. Joy contains that feeling of happiness, of pleasure, of utter satisfaction.
But, I would argue, it’s different. Yes, it’s related, but it’s also decisively, importantly different.
It feels a bit nuanced and hard to pin down, but how I have come to think about it is that happiness is rational. It’s expected. It has a defined cause, and an outcome. You are happy because you got a job promotion, or entered into an exciting new relationship. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with this emotion, but defining such feelings as joy, well… I would argue it just sells joy a little short. It pulls meaning out of it, makes it a little shallower.
Because while happiness is grounded in cold hard fact, joy, I propose, frequently doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Joy dances around the living room when you find out not that you got a promotion, but that you lost your job. Joy shouts in thankfulness in the midst of grieving a loved one’s passing. It stops to smile up at the sky when the world around it is running around in sheer panic from, say, a global pandemic.
Joy is irrational and illogical. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not supposed to.
Now I don’t believe the point of joy is to stick one’s head in the sand and ignore the circumstances. I think joy simply acknowledges greater, more authoritative circumstances. Truth beyond what we can see in the natural.
If we move from the dictionary to the Bible we find some interesting discussions on joy. To start with, the Bible refers to the joy of the Lord being strength (Nehemiah 8:10), and says that we should consider falling into trials to be joy (James 1:2). We are also urged to display joy in everything, in every situation and circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
So yes, it might be said that joy is in part a kind of wrapper around happiness, but it’s much more than that. It’s more than a reasonable emotion. In many ways, it’s detached from circumstance. It survives and even thrives in the midst of heartache and pain. We’re invited to choose joy when happiness makes the least sense.
While happiness tends to be a reaction to events, joy is different. Joy is a choice.
The Bible implores us to count hard seasons of life as joy, to make our joy obvious in everything. That tells me two things: first, such a choice is not in our nature. Otherwise, there would be no need to bring it up. Second, it assures me it is possible with God. This choice isn’t some fantasy, carrot-on-a-stick type of deal. This is real, and it’s possible. It’s possible to choose joy, this irrational strength and happiness, regardless of the circumstances.
So joy is a choice, and it’s one we get to make. We get to choose the illogical, the stuff that doesn’t make sense from an earthly perspective. We get to choose the joy that has a higher perspective.
We choose it.
Or at least, that’s what happens most of the time.
Other times, it seems, it chooses us.
Now, I had seen this phenomenon, what I’ve come to call getting “hit by joy,” a couple of times growing up, but it kicked into overdrive when I reached BSSM, and, full disclosure, it totally freaked me out at first. If you’re wondering what it looks like, it generally involves a person laughing uncontrollably without any sort of stimuli. And while I would say joy is usually a deliberate, intentional choice we make, in this scenario, the only part the target really has to play in it is not resisting. In this case, it seems, joy chooses us.
It completely bypasses logic. There is no funny joke being told, no physical intoxication, no external triggers whatsoever. Instead, this illogical joy seems to reach into the very soul and spirit of a person and evoke pure, uninhibited pleasure.
This is getting hit by joy. Or, perhaps more accurately, plugging in more directly to the Source of it. At this point, it’s not a choice beyond mere agreement.
I saw many of my friends getting “hit by joy,” and quickly got over my initial shock when I saw genuine, irreversible change taking place in some of the targets. Pretty quickly, I wanted to experience this bizarre but attractive state of illogical happiness. I desired it, but I also made a very firm and intentional decision that it wasn’t what I was chasing. I didn’t go to California for some sort of Spiritual experience. I went for Jesus.
And so, the months went by, and friends around me would often get “hit by joy.” I can honestly say I didn’t become bitter or frustrated, but the desire remained without any visible fruit.
Then came April. The last month. The home stretch. The finish line. That final sprint.
As with most schools in the world, we had moved to online-only. School was still great, but staring at a screen for hours on end was undeniably draining, exhausting, and strangely frustrating at times. It took extra effort to stay engaged, to “lean in,” to drain out every last little drop of goodness from this school year.
Given everything our class had gone through, I think it’s safe to say there was a real temptation for must of us to start coasting. To relax. To appreciate what we’d been given and just make it to the end so we could all go home.
But right in the middle of April, during one of our digital “Revival Group” meetings, I felt God remind me that school wasn’t over. He still had plans. And He’s the kind of God that can take the last two weeks of school and do something truly special with them.
Then, a few minutes later, still in our meeting, I started laughing. No one had done or said anything particularly funny. There was just a strange, warm, happy feeling bubbling up inside of me that I felt compelled to release as laughter, and I wasn’t about to try to fight it back down.
Within a minute or two I was sitting on my floor with my roommate, both of us just giggling and laughing at nothing. I think “swimming in Father God’s delight” is about the best description I can come up with, though it still doesn’t feel adequate. It was just pure, random, unexpected happiness.
Finally, here it was. After eight and a half months of school, two weeks before our last day of classes, suddenly, I had been hit by joy. This illogical, irrational happiness that bubbles up from Jesus without rhyme or reason.God’s kindness still blows my mind.
I left that meeting and ended that day brimming with thankfulness but also anticipation. What might God do next? After all, we still had almost two full weeks left!
I had my answer a few days later when I was washing dishes and started cracking up again. Then, driving to the beach about a week after the first event, that same roommate and I again started laughing at nothing as we drove through the hills West of Redding. Yet again, I had been hit by joy.
I can’t explain this stuff. It doesn’t make sense. But I don’t think joy expects to be explained. It just expects to be enjoyed and appreciated.
And again, I believe joy is often a choice on our part. A choice to lean in to God’s strength that comes from it, and a choice to agree with a higher and happier perspective.
But every now and then, it turns out, we just might get hit by joy. Joy never really makes sense, but it feels a little extra wild when we don’t even see it coming for us.
But I'll be a target for joy anytime.
April 21, 2020
Graduation for BSSM First Year 2019-2020 (whatever that might look like) is two weeks from today. And the approaching end to the semester has pulled me into some reflection.
Reflection on BSSM. On COVID-19. On the state of the world. On the reactions from the church, the economy, and in particular my school. And a thought occurred to me.
In most schools, there’s one thing that always happens right before graduation: Final Exams. The last tests.
Now, BSSM is a different kind of school. The teachers try to pitch homework as “devotions” (with varying degrees of success), the assignments are more about personal opinion and deep thinking than multiple choice “right answers”, and even when they are graded, it is purely on a pass / try again basis. All that to say, BSSM doesn’t have final exams.
Or, except, perhaps this year, it does.
Now, I don’t believe God sent COVID-19, but I think He’s doing a ton of incredibly beautiful things around the world with it. And I’ve come to believe that one of those things is allowing it to act as a final exam of sorts for my fellow BSSM students and I this year. This virus has become our last test.
How will we endure through this season? How will we respond to the pressure? How we will process through all the disappointment? Will we give in to the fear that feels so prevalent in the world, or will we hold fast and remain anchored in the only Thing we can fully rely on? Will we frantically and fearfully look around for anything promising any degree of comfort, like family, friends, or the distractions of Netflix, and run to it, or will we decide to be comforted in God alone, and let Him guide our steps instead of joining the world in reacting to the chaos?
And beyond this test, as it is with all schools, is graduation. Now, you can think of graduation as merely obtaining a piece of paper and walking across a stage. But I think it’s more than that. I think it becomes proof of your ability, proof that you have overcome, and I think we’d all agree it opens doors that previously could not be opened, such as in the search for a job. In the Kingdom world, I think it becomes proof of your trustworthiness. It becomes an elevation process, a “levelling up” if you will. Graduation becomes the stepping stone to the next thing in God.
So yes, COVID-19 is a bit of a pain. It’s uncomfortable, and inconvenient, and uncertain. But for all my friends out there, especially those joining me in an unexpected online season of BSSM, let me encourage you that this is merely the final exam, the last test. And as we pass it, we can look forward to that next level in God.
We can look forward to graduation day.