February 13, 2020
Quick missions update:
TOMORROW! That is my very last fundraising deadline for my missions trip to the Netherlands. I currently have $507.20 left to raise, and would love it if you’d consider contributing to what promises to be an incredible Jesus adventure to impact my motherland 😊
If you wish, you can do so here.
Hello January. You’ve been a tough one to write. And a long one. Consider yourselves warned, dear readers.
Yes, this blog is going to be about questions. Hard questions. The kind of questions that threaten to shatter the very foundations of your worldview. The kind of questions that point a shotgun at the reason for every major decision you’ve ever made in your life and flick the safety off. The questions would that impact eternity.
Now that I’ve got you interested, let’s step back to provide a bit of context. Let’s discuss the concept of truth:
I. Love. Truth.
I’ve come to love truth more fully since coming to BSSM. Words like “repentance” or “conviction” that once sounded scary I can now honestly say generally bring me joy and excitement because all they really represent is a process by which I trade my incorrect beliefs for God’s absolute truth. That sounds like a win to me.
Is it costly? Absolutely. Embarrassing? At times, yep.
It always means admitting you were wrong in some way, and changing the way you think and act. And it can be scary, because it’s unknown and mysterious. Even if you’re believing lies that are terrible and have kept you locked up outside your destiny for years, they still provide the world in which you have grown accustomed to living, and so even a freedom-infused, glorious, empowering truth from God Himself can feel costly to accept because it means shifting into a new world that has new rules to learn. It might be amazing, but it’s still an adjustment, and that can spark fear.
But I’ve decided that if it’s not truth, I don’t want it. I don’t want to live in a fantasy land. I don’t want to live in a comfortable mindset just because it’s what I’ve always believed. I want the truth. What’s more, I trust the truth. Enough to let go of whatever lies I am carrying, no matter how deeply engrained they are. Because I love truth.
In all of its forms, in all of its contexts, in all of its nuance, and no matter what the costs. If it means looking foolish, trading my dignity, admitting I was dead wrong, changing my priorities, blowing my life up… I love truth. It’s worth anything to align to it.
So truth: valuable. Essential. Costly, but worth it, every time.
At least, that’s what I claimed. And then January came along to challenge that.
I suppose I shouldn’t be so hard on January. It really was quite kind to me, especially the first few weeks. I felt a closeness to God that I have rarely if ever experienced before, highlighted by a conference with Randy Clarke, who started a movement in Toronto in 1994 that, in many ways, paved the way for Bill Johnson to start the Bethel movement that I’m living in now. The first big chunk of January was really quite great.
But then, the questions. Or, in my case, really only one question:
“What if the truth was that the real God was Allah [the god of Islam]?”
I know, I know, I know. If you’re freaking out right now, concerned for my eternal destiny, thank you, but please just keep reading.
So yes. It wasn’t quite as fully-formed as that, but that is, in essence, the question that came tumbling unbidden through my consciousness during what would’ve otherwise have been a normal “Revival Group” meeting filled with lots of Jesus awesomeness.
“Why not Allah?”
Instead of staying in the wonderful, joyful, peaceful headspace that is the norm for revival group meetings, my mind was suddenly all twisted up into knots, fighting to come up with sound reason and logic to counter the argument while simultaneously attempting to take hold of the thought and throw it right in the trash bin. I managed to shove this unwanted question into the back corner closet of my mind and shut the door quickly enough to prevent gravity from pulling the mess out onto the floor for all to see.
And there that ugly mess stayed… For about 12 hours.
But the following day, that monster crept on out. I didn’t even notice it at first. I was just irritable and agitated without any real reason. I found myself bugged at a couple of my classmates for really petty things.
Later on, a few of us were hanging out at a fellow students house, and the question come back to my consciousness with a vengeance.
“Why not Allah?”
I fought with it for a few moments before I stopped myself. After all, why was I fighting this question so hard? If I truly love truth, should any question really scare me or intimidate me? After all, what if… What if the implication were true? What if I was actually following the wrong God? If I indeed love truth, I certainly can’t just bury my head in the sand and pretend that the question doesn’t exist.
Now, I realize most of my Christian friends out there are probably screaming something along the lines of:
“Experience! You can’t argue with experience! You’ve had tons of moments with the God of Christianity that prove His legitimacy!”
Yep. Entirely agree. Personal experience should absolutely be part of our confidence. And I have experienced the God of Christianity in ways I don’t believe I could ever deny.
But for reasons that weren’t clear, that argument just didn’t work. The question stood just as strong in my mind, refusing to be impacted by my experience.
And so, I pondered it. I toyed with it. I measured my love for truth against the impact of this question.
Do I love truth that much? To allow myself to entertain the possibility that the very foundations of my entire life might be wrong? Do I really love it?
As you might imagine, the risk felt high. It wasn’t just my relationship with God that was being called into question. The impacts would ripple out into almost every single human relationship I have.
My family, immediate and extended. All my friends back home. My many new friends since starting BSSM.
Now, this might sound a bit odd, but my relationship with God didn’t feel like the biggest risk. True, things would obviously need to change, but if I trust truth whole-heartedly, that means I’ll trust the real God, even if I don’t have Him. If I’m chasing down the wrong God, following the right one has got to be better. I suppose I just trusted that truth would win out, and even if that meant blowing up my life, I was, to a degree, ok with that ramification. It felt relatively safe in that regard.
My friendships though... Here’s where things got interesting. This is where the risk felt greatest.
Would they still accept me? Would my questioning scare them off? After all, we are all at a School of Supernatural Ministry. We’re supposed to be the Jesus Freaks, the crazies who would die for Him. And, though I’ve grown into some really deep friendships with some of them, I’ve only known them since August.
Would they allow me to continue being in this community even in light of my deep questioning?
It was a risk. Maybe my question would be too hard, too extreme for them to let me stay inside this family-like community. Maybe I’d be rejected, forced to tread this terrifying path alone. And that was what scared me the most in the moment. Not even that I might need to change which God I was following, but that all the friends I had gained might abandon me.
Now, I should pause here to say that all this was stewing around my head during this hangout at my friend’s house. And to a large degree, I was just trying to breathe. I was just trying to survive. I was trying to endure until it was socially acceptable for me to leave. And as anyone who knows me decently well will tell you, this is far from my normal state at any social event.
I was in turmoil. I was wrestling with what this all could mean, but at the same time I felt a strong pull to let my friends in to my process. To be vulnerable, and see what would happen. It felt like there was so much friction to let them in to this questioning. It felt like it might cost me friendships that have become so very precious to me.
But finally, at what felt like the last possible moment, I risked it.
I should clarify that I did not reveal any specifics; only that I was struggling with what felt like major doubts. But regardless, I chose to risk. I opened up and told them.
None of them hesitated for a moment. Within 30 seconds, they had me surrounded, prayed for me, and spoke truth over me. And it was there, right in the middle of the risky vulnerability of community, that the breakthrough came.
They all prayed and spoke incredible, encouraging things, but one of the girls got what I firmly believe was Spiritual insight to the situation that resonated so deeply within me that I knew it was right:
This question plaguing my mind didn’t originate from satan. It wasn’t an attack from the enemy to torment me. It also didn’t come from Allah, or even myself.
No, this question was given to me by Jesus, the God of the Bible. And it was given to me because He trusts me enough to wrestle through it.
Suddenly, in an instant, it all made sense. This wasn’t some crisis of Faith I was fighting through. This wasn’t even me having long-hidden doubts rise to the surface.
This was God, my God, the true One, inviting me into a fresh journey of discovery. And, I think, a journey that is for more than just me. I think Jesus is calling me to wrestle through this question until I get an answer that is re-usable. I think that’s why my experience wasn’t enough to quell it; Jesus wants me to come up with a rock-solid, logical, undeniable answer that doesn’t need experience to prop it up. Perhaps one day the answers I come up with will end up in a blog, or a book.
But it started with what felt like a completely illogical and offensive question.
Now, if this seems like strange behaviour for Jesus to you, let me assure you there is Biblical precedent. I suppose Jesus is self-confident enough that He doesn’t mind playing with people a bit, making wild statements or asking questions that no one else could answer in an attempt to get them to think in a new way. Jesus has done this sort of thing before. It’s not a new style of communication for Him.
First, in Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus asks the religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees) an interesting question:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”
They said to Him, “The Son of David.”
He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’?
If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”
And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.
So… This is hilarious to me. These Pharisees had studied what we now refer to as the Old Testament like no one else. They were experts in it. And Jesus, as is His habit, asks them a question. In the process, He points out what appears to be a blatantly and undeniable contradiction in their holy texts. When He does, no one can answer him. None of them could come up with any good explanation for the inconsistency He just pointed out. They are left speechless, wondering, and questioning.
And Jesus just… Leaves them hanging. He doesn’t bother to explain it for them. He doesn’t even give them a hint. He just plops down what must have felt like an earth-shattering question, drops the mic, and leaves.
Keep in mind that Jesus Himself is the resolution to this apparent contradiction, which just makes this whole situation that much more comical from our perspective. He obviously believes in the Old Testament. He knows that it is not in any way flawed or faulty. He knows that there is a good answer for His question (which happens to be Him). He just doesn’t seem to care about providing it to His audience.
If we bring it into today’s context, I imagine this would be very similar to a pastor closing out his sermon by pointing out some apparent contradiction in one of the gospels, and then dismissing everyone for the week, leaving them wondering and confused.
The Pharisees must have let with doubts. Questions. Wondering. Jesus knew that, and He wasn’t afraid of it. He wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions or leave people in the dark.
Another example which I like even more is that of the story in John 6.
For context, this is the day after Jesus fed 5,000 people and then walked on water. A crowd follows Him, hoping for more free food (because who doesn’t like heavenly bread?). Then, Jesus claims to be the source of the manna that the wandering Israelites ate in the wilderness some 1500 years before (v. 35). The Jews aren’t super happy about that, and seem to have a hard time accepting that idea (v. 41). Instead of apologizing and explaining Himself to keep His followers around, Jesus actually ups the ante by claiming that His true followers would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood (v. 53). As you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well with anyone, and many of His disciples leave Him (v. 66).
But Jesus doesn’t explain Himself. He just says ridiculous things and waits for the response. He doesn’t apologize. He doesn’t try to make what He says more palatable. He just says things that sound incredibly offensive, and watches His disciples leave Him.
Again, this all makes some level of sense to modern-day Christians who understand what Jesus did on the cross and how it fits in to what He did at the Last Supper. But His audience didn’t have any of that. In some ways, Jesus must have started sounding like a babbling madman. Eating His flesh? Was He inviting His followers to cannibalism? And offering Himself as their first meal?
Jesus is loving, kind, patient, and compassionate. But sometimes, He can also be a bit savage. He doesn’t play by our rules. He doesn’t fit in our nice neat boxes. He seems to love breaking out of them.
Like, for example, asking me why I don’t believe in Allah, and then not bothering to immediately explain why this question was bouncing around my brain.
I love this story about Jesus because of how it ends. Jesus turns to closest disciples, the 12, and essentially asks them: “How about you guys? You gonna desert me too? Is what I say too offensive for you?” (v. 67).
Peter’s response has became my response.
He didn’t pretend to understand what Jesus was saying. He didn’t analyze it and try to come up with reasonable explanations. He didn’t try to create a doctrine around what Jesus just said. I think it’s fair to say He was just as confused and bewildered as the rest of the crowd.
He didn’t have an explanation. But He had encountered Jesus. So His response in verse 68 was this:
“But Lord, where would we go?”
No fancy Theology. Not even a faint hint of Him understanding what Jesus had just said. Peter didn’t have a good answer. All Peter knew was that He had experienced Jesus and there wasn’t any other options for him. And that’s where I’ve landed.
I don’t exactly have a great, re-usable answer to Jesus’ question of “Why not Allah?”… Yet. I do expect to dive into that question more fully at some point. I think there’s a really good reason I was prompted with that question.
But none of that questioning changes the fact that I have experienced Jesus, and there is no turning back. There might be some really strange, confusing, bewildering times in the journey, but I, like Peter, only have one response:
“Where else would I go?”
There’s no one else for me. No one but Jesus.
Phew! Ok. Yeah. So that was January.
First, I learned to trust my community. To be vulnerable. To risk, even when I don’t want to. I learned that they are more committed than my doubts could shake. And sometimes the friends around you are the ones that hold your breakthrough. Sometimes that’s the only way to get it.
Second, I rediscovered first-hand that Jesus has no problem whatsoever asking crazy questions or making bizarre statements. And there are good reasons for those questions, and better answers. But even in the in-between, when I don’t understand and simply don’t know, there still isn’t any other place for me to go. It’s Jesus or nothing.
And finally, I have begun my journey of wrestling through the question of “Why not Allah?”
I haven’t gotten far, but I’m gonna keep wrestling through it, because I believe God gave me this question for a reason.
This is part of my chase of Jesus. It’s not Him being cruel by asking an impossible question; it’s Him inviting me to playfully chase Him in area He holds no concerns whatsoever about. He’s not worried. He loves the questions, and He’s with me every step of the journey to the answers.
Yes indeed, Jesus. Where else could I go?
In the crazy questions, in the wild statements, in the strange leadings… There’s nothing else for me.
It's You or nothing.
January 29, 2020
First, a quick missions update:
I am on my last fundraising deadline for my missions trip to Netherlands, with only about $500 to raise by February 14. If you’re interested in donating and haven’t yet, you can partner with me in this adventure here.
Now then; life update:
December was a good month.
I drove around California a bunch with my little sister, chasing coasts, forests, tourist traps, coffee shops, and concerts.
I flew back home to Canada, reconnected with friends and family, played drums at my home church, and spent New Years Eve praying with some lifelong friends.
God continued His gentle schooling as I learned of the community inside the Trinity, and a bit more about what it means to “turn the cheek”. I received His reassurance that the changes He has done in my life while I’m here, the work He’s started, will be “sticky,” even when I go back into old contexts.
Indeed, December was a good month.
But it was also a month in which God led me through a challenging process of surrender, sacrifice and faith on the road to peace.
Welcome to (the latest phase of) my journey with FEAR.
December started with the tail end of a trip that involved the Pacific Ocean and the beauty of Yosemite National Park, including El Capitan, as well as learning (a very small amount of) German from my two adventure-mates. My soul was well-fed, my body well-used, and my Spirit ready to have the firehose of fuel that is BSSM turned on it once again. In other words, I was flying high.
And then the first day of school happened. Or, I suppose more specifically, Jenn Johnson happened.
I guess at this point I should mention that I had started making plans about my future. And, let me tell you, they were good plans, filled with clarity and purpose, direction and adventure, and, most of all, the Kingdom. After all, I’m all about that Kingdom.
And then, near the end of Jenn Johnson’s message in class, I felt God lean in and essentially ask me:
“Hey… What if I told you to do this instead?”
To which I responded, quite rationally:
“Actually God… That would terrify me to the core. How about we not do that?”
To which, of course, God nodded, winked, chuckled a bit, and said “of course, of course. I was just kidding. That would be ridiculous.”
Yeah. Or not.
And so began my trek through a mountain of fear. Seriously.
It was large, it was looming, it was reasonable, and yet… Here God was asking me to face it head-on.
Stepping back, I saw myself with two possibilities:
Choice one was my plans. Plans that felt so firm, so concrete, and so full of hope, joy and life. I could see all the possible outcomes, and they were so, so good.
But then there was choice two. And, strange as this might sound, I literally could not coerce my imagination to dream up a scenario for that choice was not disastrous.
Seriously. I tried.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this before, but my mind just couldn’t manage to combine thoughts into a theoretical story that ended happily when I allowed them to start walking down that path. That choice was dark, unknown, and mysterious, but, if I trusted my mind and my imagination, it was not good. It simply could not possibly be good. I could’ve imagined a million possible outcomes without one of them being good.
But… It seemed choice two might be God’s idea. There He stood, quietly and steadily asking what I would do with that possibility. And I started to wonder if this is what trust looked like.
Maybe when my hope is done and has failed, my trust and Faith in God needs to take over and borrow some of God’s hope. One thing I learned through this process is that God is much more hopeful of the future than I am.
Part of Ephesians 3:20 in The Passion Translation (which I’ve come to love; I suppose I may truly be a Bethel-ite) reads:
He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination
I used to interpret this verse to mean something along the lines of “even when I imagine incredible, outlandishly-good things, God can still top that.” I still think that’s an accurate application.
But in this process that verse took on a whole new meaning, which started reading something like “when my imagination is so completely void of any hope that it cannot dream up a single good outcome of this decision, God is still entirely able to work that scenario into good.”
In short, God is never daunted by a situation.
And yet, fear still loomed so large, so real. It felt so utterly and completely hopeless. It felt like so much was on the line: my dreams, my destiny, my hopes for what the future might look like… And against all of that fear was stacked God’s gentle, consistent prodding.
A concept I have hung onto at several pivotal junctions in my life is that I have never regretted trusting God. It’s still true. I have never looked back at a choice to trust God and regretted it. Never.
And so, slowly, painfully, over the course of a few days, I started to let God’s hope take the place of my fear. I started choosing to believe that my idea of a perfect plan isn’t ever as good as God’s plan, even if I think it looks straight-up awful.
And as I did, I felt the sadness at what I had to surrender start to thin. And I started to remember that all I really wanted was Jesus anyways.
I’m not on this journey for the collateral blessings. If all I get is Jesus, I win. If Jesus walks along a beautiful beach dotted with cliffs while the sun sets majestically behind the horizon, you can bet I’ll be walking next to Him. But if Jesus starts wandering down a dark, foggy path, lined with jagged cliffs and lighted only by burning trees and molten lava flowing from a nearby volcano, well, I’m gonna recklessly charge down that path after Him.
Wherever He is is where I wanna be.
Now, remember, God still hasn’t actually told me which path to go down. Really, this was a process of Him poking (rather persistently) on a big clump of previously hidden fear in my life and in essence saying “hey, no matter where we go, this junk can’t stay here.”
So maybe God guides me down that foggy path that once held so much fear for me. Or maybe God gives His stamp of approval on my original plans, that ones that, if I trust my perspective, are obviously better. Or maybe He takes me somewhere else entirely, some path of which the starting point isn’t even visible yet.
Regardless, I’m in. And what’s more, I’m finding myself genuinely excited for it. Because if God is in it, what appears to be the worst possible choice out of a hundred will end up being the best. It’s what He does.
If I’m with Jesus, I win. And I’ll follow Him into whatever.
So I suppose by some standards you could say I’m back where I’m started. I still don’t know where God wants me to head next, and I’m still leaning towards the plans I had before God’s challenge near the beginning of December.
But the reality is that my internal state is entirely different. I can now say with confidence that with the two paths currently in front of me, the decision I make about my future will not be made out of fear. It will be made out of some combination of God’s leading and His giving me space to choose.
And that, friends, is what I learned in December.
To listen carefully when God asks questions. To not run away from His challenge, but instead to lean into it. To let Him poke and prod at my internal state, and to trust that I’ll be better for it in the end. To let Him cut out that fear that could’ve been a dangerous undercurrent to my decision-making process. To trust that His plans really are the best, every time, even when my wildest imaginations can’t fathom how. To remember that God, who is smarter than me, always has more hope for a situation than I do.
And to remember that, at the end of the day, if I get Jesus, I win.
If I get Jesus, I win.
January 18, 2020
Oh. Hello there.
Yes, it’s January. Yes, this blog post is going to be about November. Yes, there’s a decent duration of time between those two things.
But one of the many things I have decided since starting BSSM is that I don’t do shame. So stop trying that on me 😉
I promise I did start writing this in early December, but somehow time just slipped away. I suppose more of that can be discussed in my already-late post about December.
All that to say, this blog post is going to be written as if December hadn’t been completed and January hadn’t started yet. Think of it as a time machine, back to sometime around early December. Exciting, right? Bet you didn’t think you’d be time travelling when you clicked on this post.
Ok then... Ready to go? Press that button over there, and let's go back…
- Cue very realistic time machine noises -
What. To. Write about.
Three months? Really?
It just feels impossible. Was it really only three months ago that I stepped into the Redding Civic Auditorium for the first time, wide-eyed and completely mystified at this breed of Christian I was far less prepared for than I expected? That I went to that pool party to meet with my Revival Group for the first time, and somehow left without meeting some of the people who have now become some of my closest friends?
It also feels like three months is some laughable mid-estimation because of how much I feel I’ve changed. In fact, trying to sum up this month alone feels rather daunting:
The love of God and how little I understand it.
Why risk feels more and more like an essential lifeline.
How God is not a puzzle to be solved.
Worship nights & pillow fights.
Stars & guitars.
The deliciousness of truth.
How does one talk about all of these things in a single blog? Or how does one choose one thing to properly expound?
Oh well. Life is too short to be perfect. Let’s just pick one, shall we? Let’s talk about relationships.
No, no, not THAT kind. It’s still the first half of the year, and it’s been made pretty plain that dating relationships really kick into gear after Christmas. Perhaps I’ll talk about it more then. For now, let’s talk about Jesus relationships, and how I’ve come to value my own more deeply than ever before.
So. The greatest part of BSSM is Jesus. The second greatest part is the people. Yes, the leaders, but also my classmates. They are incredibly diverse, from tons of countries and a thousand different family, cultural, and religious backgrounds.
And, let’s just be real, different people can make you uncomfortable. Or, ya know, offend you.
Such was my experience with one classmate in particular. My knee-jerk reaction to him was to suspect him, feeling concerned that he was pretending or acting to gain approval from the rest of us students, rather than operating out of a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with Jesus.
I know none of you have ever made snap judgements, but it turns out I’m not immune to them.
Anyways, after I actually took the time to get to know him, my attitude shifted completely. I recognized that he actually carried things in God I didn’t, and I started being intentional about honouring him and learning all I could from him. I quickly counted him as a friend, and looked forward to hanging out with him.
Then, a couple months later, I felt something shift again. A vague, unsettled, uneasiness came over me whenever he was around. I would find myself getting irritated or frustrated without any obvious stimulant. I started mentally and Spiritually distancing myself from him, filtering what he said and not allowing it to easily impact me. And so, I started asking questions. Of myself and of Jesus.
Was this my discernment kicking into gear, warning me against an unsafe person? Was this arrogance on my part? Some sort of insecurity?
Spoiler: it wasn’t discernment.
It was certainly a more involved process than I’ll delve into here and now, but what I came to realize was that my feelings really had nothing to do with my classmate, other than perhaps his behaviour causing my brokenness to bubble up to the surface.
What I came to recognize was that I was comparing my personal relationship with God to my classmate’s relationship with God, and coming to the conclusion that mine was somehow less-than, lacking, insufficient, and thereby raising my insecurity level. After all, I have never related to God in some of the ways he did, ever; that must mean he is further along in God and I am dragging behind, right?
As with most types of comparison, this was already causing relational distance between us, though he hadn’t done a thing wrong. And then I felt God step into the scene and start to guide me into a few fresh understandings.
First, He helped me realize how futile this comparison to my classmate was. After all, I’m also in an environment with people I consider to be absolute giants in the “Kingdom of God,” such Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton. That must mean I’m behind them too, right? Which one is the one I should most compare myself to? Whom should I try to emulate most closely? With whom should I feel the most insecure when examining my relationship with Jesus?
Then I felt Jesus say something so simple and yet, for me, so revolutionary:
“I don’t want you to be like him.”
Oh right. I seem to remember something like that... God created us unique on purpose.
I don’t suppose I had really forgotten that fact, but it had somehow just slipped too far into the background.
That thought led to another:
The fact that I was insecure in my relationship with God revealed a lack of trust in God. I realize that might seem like a bit of a jump, but hear me out:
Really, part of what I was saying in deciding my relationship with God was inferior to my classmate’s was “God, I don’t trust the way You are leading our relationship. Clearly we are supposed to look like that over there, and we don’t, and I don’t know how to get there, so the problem is that You haven’t showed me how.”
Mhmm. That’s for real.
And then we went deeper still. I felt God essentially ask me if, given the opportunity, I would trade my relationship with God for my classmate’s, or, for that matter, Bill Johnson’s. If it was possible, would I simply switch my relationship with God for what I apparently deemed to be a better relationship with Him?
The answer I came to and will cling to until the day I die is “no.” I have become convinced that there is no single thing more important or valuable to me than my relationship with God.
Because if you step back and think about it, any relationship is based on history, whether it's moments, months, or decades. And the history I have with God is something I realized I wouldn’t give up for anything. Thus, the relationship with God that that history has created is the most valuable thing I have.
From my 6-year old self praying some sort of salvation prayer I only just barely understood to my 12-year old self beginning to journal my endless prayers that the Ottawa Senators would win the Stanley Cup (apparently I need more faith).
From an experience at a youth conference at age 17 that convinced me anew that God was real and that He was the only thing worth chasing for the rest of my life to brutally hard seasons that made me question almost everything about my life. From wild nights of worship at youth church to solitary nights in my parents backyard under a moonlit night with nothing but a guitar and my untrained voice.
From the mountaintops to the darkest valleys. My victories and my defeats. My failures, successes. From the childish hopes and dreams that have long since melted away to the ones that have persisted, and the new ones. From my uncertain decision to take Computer Science in college to the jobs that seemed to fall into my lap afterward.
And, most recently, this journey to and through BSSM in Redding California.
Would I trade that? Would I trade the history that my relationship with God is built on?
No. Not for all the money in the world or my name in the brightest lights or the most glorious leadership position in the grandest organization. Not for anything or anyone.
My relationship with God is the most valuable thing I have. It is unique and beautiful and unlike anything anyone has seen before.
This is how it’s supposed to be. It’s how it was always supposed to be.
God creates billions of people and yearns for unique, individual, personal relationships with each one of them, somehow reserving a little special slice of Himself for each person that no one else gets to see in quite the same way.
My relationship with God is something no one else could ever have. It’s all my own, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I am so thankful for fellow classmates who relate to God so radically differently from me that I am forced to realize that.
Truly, the most valuable thing I have is my own relationship with God.
November 1, 2019
Hi friends. As I mentioned in my previous blog post I have the incredible opportunity to go to the Netherlands on a missions trip for about 10 days next March. I’ll be travelling with a radical group of revivalists, with the goal of expanding the Kingdom of God everywhere we go. We’ll be supporting churches, praying over and through businesses, and helping local leaders that are trying to cultivate a Kingdom Culture similar to Bethel’s in their own spheres of influence. Past groups have had opportunities to teach (true) religion in schools, talk and pray with political leaders, and connect with high-profile cultural icons (e.g., musicians), and we’ll likely have openings to do some or all of these during our trip.
And through it all, we’ll be aiming to bring the love of Jesus to every single person we come in contact with.
Maybe you yearn for a missions trip but present circumstances don’t allow it. Maybe you have a heart for Netherlands. Maybe you have a heart to see the light of Jesus infiltrate the darkness of an atheistic country. Or maybe you simply feel to invest in me as I invest my energy and resources into this year and into this trip to the Netherlands.
Regardless, if any of this sparks some measure of excitement inside you, I’d love to invite you to partner with me in this trip.
First of all, in prayer, both for Netherlands and for me and the team as we go, that our trip would be incredibly impactful, and that the ripples from it would continue long after we’ve come back to North America.
Secondly, yes, finances would rock too.
I know everyone's circumstances are unique, and this is not intended to be a guilt trip of any sort, but I am deeply convinced there is no greater way to spend time, energy, or money than in building the Kingdom of God. It’s the reason I am here, in Redding California. It’s the reason I left friends, family, my house, and my job for nine months. It’s the reason I’ve spent a lot of savings on tuition, housing, and relocation.
I can’t guarantee a direct, monetary return. I really can’t guarantee a direct return at all. But I can guarantee that God is Faithful, and that this trip will impact eternity. Because, ultimately, that’s our mission: to expand the Kingdom of God in such a way that the eternal destiny of eternal beings changes from death to life.
So, if you are willing to partner with me financially and donate towards this trip, you can do so here.
I have a total of $2,150 funds to raise. Any and all donations are massively appreciated!
Thank ya’ll for reading!
Now then. Actual blog update time:
I trust and believe almost everything I hear around BSSM. Most things I hear ring true in my Spirit, match up with the Bible, and make as much logical sense as this Jesus stuff ever does (turns out that sometimes it’s not really a lot).
But there’s a phrase I’ve heard a few times now that I disagree with wholeheartedly. I’ve heard it from peers in first year, people I’ve met in second year, and yes, even from the stage out of the mouth of some leaders I respect a ton. It sounds innocuous enough; the kind of phrase a crowd of enthusiastic ministry school students would tend to clap and cheer for:
“This year is gonna be the best year of your life.”
Why, you ask, am I so averse to this line of thinking?
Well, to answer fully, one needs to step back in time some 8 years. I was 20 years old, and had already spent a year out of high school working because I wasn’t sure what sort of college direction I wanted to go in. And, truth be told, I was flat-out terrified to make any sort of meaningful decision about my future. I was paralyzed by fear, so I spent a long time just… Not moving in any direction. This blog post isn’t really about the details of that phase of my life, but suffice to say it wasn’t until about a year into my college schooling, as I was making yet another late night drive from Cornwall back to Ottawa, that I recognized, for the first time I can remember, that I had a genuine sense of excitement for my future, rather than that sense of fear that had become so familiar to me.
Ok, so step back to the more recent past, around the start of October, and I’m loving life at BSSM. Being here has brought an abundance of joy, peace, and a feeling of safety that I simply haven’t lived in before, though I may have dabbled in it on occasion. The Holy Spirit is digging up dirty things in my life that I didn’t even know I carried. My identity as a Son is being defined, reinforced, and then reinforced some more. I’m hearing more and more whispers of my destiny. It is honestly absolutely incredible. But, in the midst of it all, a fear starts to grow. A fear of the future. It’s reminiscent of that fear I lived in 8 years ago:
What am I supposed to do after this year? Where will I work? Am I supposed to come back to BSSM for a second year? A third? How do my new understandings of God and the Kingdom fit back into my hometown and home church? Or do they? What if I don’t fit back into where I came from? Where will I go?
It started off as background noise, but it just kept growing louder. I found myself letting these useless, downward-spiralling thoughts cycle around my head far too often. And, coupled with that, this recurring proclamation that this year is the best year of my life.
Then, one morning with Jesus, I started saying “no” to it. “No” to the endless attempts at figuring out a future that, as the great Yoda once so wisely said, is always in motion. And “no” to agreeing with the sentiment that this year at BSSM is the best year of my life.
Because it’s not.
I believe that partnering with this idea goes against God’s nature, and starts to kill hope. It leads you into feeling frantic to glean every nanosecond from this short 9 months because, after all, life won’t ever be this good again. And if, like me, you’re tend to be a little scared of what life post-school looks like, this idea can quickly start to steal the joy it’s intended to inspire.
“Life won’t ever be this good again and, what’s more, life after BSSM is probably gonna suck.”
If you boil it all the way down, that’s basically what this line of thinking can lead to. Seems like a kinda dismal, depressing outlook on life if you ask me.
But one thing I have come to believe about God is that He’s always leading us into better things in Him. From “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18), one good thing to another, with a hope that doesn’t disappoint.
I believe this is the way that the Christian life should always be lived: it keeps getting better. And then we die. And when that happens, life gets a whole ton better.
Look, I get it: the idea that this year at BSSM is the best year of my life is intended to encourage us students to enjoy this year to the full. I want to. I plan to. Because this year, in all likelihood, will be the best year of my life... So far. But only so far.
So let me appeal to any of my fellow BSSM students who happen to be reading:
Don’t believe it, not even for a second. Don’t believe that this is the best year of your life. It’s not even close. The God I believe in always has more in store. He’s always scheming up the next thing. And it’s always better.
God doesn’t have a plan for your next 40 years that involves you looking back in longing at BSSM 2019-2020. Sure, there will be down moments and hardships and hurts and frustration and offense. But despite all that, I believe that overall, life with Jesus just keeps getting better.
So replace the fear of the future with Faith in a God who always has good plans. Look with hope at the mystery of the unknown. Choose to have confidence in God’s character. Recognize that He’s brought you to an amazing place for an amazing season, and enjoy every moment you can… But I believe it’s just the start, merely the launching pad. For most of us, the future is hazy at best, but if we truly believe God and what He says, it’s also better than we can possibly imagine.
My best years are not behind me. They are not actively passing me by, compelling me to desperately grasp every second as they go by, wishing uselessly they’d last longer. I have confidence that God only has better things in store. BSSM is amazing, but I believe that I ain’t seen nothing yet.
And, for my dear readers who aren’t here with me at BSSM, if you find yourself looking longingly at some event in the past you deem to be the high point of your life, I encourage you to reconnect with the mastermind planner that is God. In Him, I don’t believe the best years are ever intended to be behind us. Whatever season you’re in, hold on. Lift your head up. Keep holding on.
Hold on to hope.
October 21, 2019
I wouldn’t say I came to Bethel warily. In fact, the more I chat with fellow students, the more aware I become of how easy the path really was for me, at least in some respects. It seems almost everyone had family or friends that had genuine concern over their choice to study at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry, sending them links to sites or videos accusing them of having sketchy theology, or of being a straight-up cult. I’m grateful I didn’t have that. In all honesty, I had pretty high expectations for Bethel, and minimal doubts.
But there’s always a bit of wondering when coming into a new environment. What will the leaders really be like? Will the community accept me? Am I not going to be extreme enough for this environment? Does the church culture have an arrogant slant, looking down on other churches or movements? Is their theology actually as strange as some people think?
Well, I’m (more than) a month in, and I can say I feel nothing but a ton of relief around those questions.
Again and again and over again I see, hear, or experience things that set me at ease.
Leaders, by default, believe in and empower you. Within three minutes of meeting my main pastor for the first time, I was told to feel free to release any words I got for people. Mind = blown. They are brimming with grace and patience. They will talk about and explain Bethel’s theology, why they do what they do how they do it, but they also have no problem with students that disagree (as long, of course, they aren’t disruptive or trying to tear apart the school from the inside out).
Community is more vulnerable, authentic, and encouraging that I would’ve dared to hope. The people in my “Revival Group” (basically groups of 70-ish students that have an assigned pastor and assigned leaders) have shared incredibly vulnerable stuff, things that they likely have shared only with the closest friends before, if at all. Everyone is quick to encourage and build up, and the idea of being competitive or jealous honestly feels a bit foreign.
References to other churches, movements, and denominations are completely honouring, perhaps more than I’ve ever encountered before (though my home church does an absolutely fantastic job too). Basically, if you’re part of the 2.2 billion people that profess to be Christian, Bethel is on your side. The way Bethel puts it, every part of the global group of Christians has their own God-given emphasis. Bethel has theirs, and they are fully committed to it, but they totally support and encourage the emphasis that other groups feel God has given them.
All in all, if there is one word I would use to describe my first month here at Redding at BSSM, it would be SAFE.
I feel safe to be myself. More than that, I feel safe to change who that is, or, more accurately, to discover more fully who God made me to be. There is no expectation to live up to who I am or who I used to be, only encouragement to discover who I was originally intended to be. I feel safe to be vulnerable, safe to be in community. I feel safe to explore my identity and authority in God.
I feel safe to disagree, to think for myself, to consider what’s being taught and decide for myself. I feel safe to go at my own pace. There is no sense of pressure or urgency to get on board with what’s being taught. There’s an overwhelming sense of grace for each person’s individual story and journey.
I feel safe to move on from things in my past, not in a way that dishonours it, but simply to keep moving forward.
This might sound a little wacky, but I feel safe to test out new theology. I’ve decided that even I don’t immediately agree in my mind with some teaching of Bethel, as long as I don’t feel a Holy Spirit warning, it’s actually ok to just try it out and see what happens. If it turns out that it’s not Jesus, I trust that God will redirect me back to the right path. And, if it is Jesus, I don’t want any of my previous experience or teachings to hold me back from one shred of correct theology. One of my most frequent prayers in the first month was “Jesus, if this is You, I want it.”
I feel safe to risk in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I feel safe, oh-so-safe, to fail. To make mistakes, many of them. I feel safe to own up to those mistakes, learn from them, and carry on in my pursuit of Jesus and all that He has for me.
As Kris Vallotton put it, “if Bethel were a cult, we’d be the worst cult in the world, because we tell everyone to think for themselves and to leave once they’re done.”
Yep. I feel so very, incredibly, completely, SAFE.
But I suppose I should also tell about what I’m actually learning more than just what I’m feeling. The hard part is figuring out what specifically to talk about.
I could talk about how my assigned church service never ran shorter than three and a half hours (because, um, it’s UHMAZING). I could talk about how my “Revival Group” already feels like family in a way that I honestly wouldn’t have expected possible. I could talk about God redefining and reconstructing the concept of worship in my mind, using in part the experience of not making the student worship team. I could talk about nature adventures to Whiskeytown Lake, Clam Beach, Founders Tree Park (Redwoods! 😳), or Minder Park, my go-to running route where I’ve seen deer two or three times already. I could tell of several life-giving coffee chats with people, talking about hopes, dreams, fears, failures, hurts, and struggles. I could talk about a collection of sin issues and broken mindsets that have been revealed and resolved, things that I was entirely unaware of. I could talk about how Jesus has taken me back some 15 or so years to illuminate and heal moments and experiences that I had long since given up on understanding.
But I think there’s a better topic to sum up the focus of my first month in Redding.
I think it was when my sister-in-law, Brittany, asked me a few days before I left Cornwall in August that I finally worked out the best, most concise answer to the standard question of “what’s the one thing you want to get out of your year at Bethel?”
“I want to find my fit in the Kingdom of God,” was my response. I suppose to sum it up even further, I could’ve just said destiny. My goal in coming here was finding my destiny in God.
It still is. Kind of. Except… Well, I guess it’s not my main goal anymore.
Yes, I came here for my destiny, excited to find my fit in the Kingdom of God and discover what that looked like for me.
And I feel like God was just sitting back, chuckling to Himself, saying something along the lines of:
“Aww, that’s cute. You can think that if you want; whatever gets you to BSSM is fine with me, but my plans look a little different than yours…”
Turns out God’s way more interested in my identity than my destiny. He’s way more interested in my status as a son than in my productivity in the Kingdom.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37 that the greatest commandment, the one we should focus on the most, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That’s actually our main “job” as human beings.
But at the same time, 1 John 4:19 says that “We love because He first loved us.” We’re actually not capable of properly loving God (or anyone else, for that matter) until we are loved.
I’m already loved fully and completely. Before doing anything, before impacting the nations, before witnessing to my neighbour, before worshipping, before reading my Bible, I am loved. I could literally lie on my couch for the next 13 years of my life eating potato chips, and God’s love for me wouldn’t dial down a millimetre.
My identity as a loved son of God is concrete, set in stone, unable to be shaken by anything or anyone.
I realize that none of this stuff sounds revolutionary for anyone who has lived in a church culture for long enough, so it’s hard for me to fully convey what I feel like I’ve learned, but it starts to change everything.
I guess parts of this start to dribble into my second month in Redding, but I’ve felt God challenge me in strange ways recently.
“Don’t read your Bible today; instead, just let me celebrate you.”
“Cut your devotion time in half, and watch how you are still my delight.”
It’s breaking my knee-jerk thoughts that I have to reach for His delight, that I have to do something to obtain that feeling of love.
Rather than trying to run around getting the whole world saved, my first priority needs to be pointing the cup up my life upward, letting it get so full of the love of God that I couldn’t help my overflow on the people around me. I’m still working on that. I don’t think I’ve received enough love yet.
I’ve also been learning about what kinds of things come from being the son of a King. Ephesians 2:6, talking about Christians, says that God “… raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:1 says that we are “… raised with Christ.” John 20:21 & 23 say “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” and “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Matthew 28:18-19 says “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…” The implication (as I read it) is that Jesus has passed on that authority to us.
What’s all this mean? I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I think it means that we, as Christians, actually have a lot more authority and power than we generally tend to walk in. If we are, right now, actively raised with Christ and seated in heavenly places, I think it’s safe to say we as Christians should really be walking around with more power and authority than those that aren’t (yet) believers. If we’re supposed to be Jesus’ representatives on the planet and He was given all authority and explicitly gave us the authority to forgive sins, I’d say we should walk with a little bit of confidence.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: none of this is for us. None of our authority or power is to puff us up with pride or give us grounds to look down anyone else. This is not, in any way, to condescend unbelievers or anyone else.
On the contrary, all of this stuff has only one purpose: to point people back to Jesus (or, to use a Christian-eze term, “make disciples”). Should Christians walk in miracles and signs and wonders? My answer is “Heck yes!,” but not so we can parade around talking about how great we are. We should walk in miracles and signs and wonders so that human beings can encounter the love of God through, as Jesus put it, His “Kingdom.”
So yeah… I guess those are some things I’ve been learning at BSSM. My identity as a son is enough, fully enough, and there isn’t a single thing I could do to change God’s constant flow of outrageous love that I will never full understand. What I do or don’t do or accomplish for the rest of my life has absolutely no impact on that. However, if I am really the son of the King of Kings, that actually means I’ve got some serious pull. And the more I use that pull, the more I can point people back to the King, and the larger the family of God gets.
That sounds like a pretty fun way to live a life.
Sidebar: March is gonna be epic
Ok, so this isn’t really part of my first month at BSSM, but I wanted to sneak it in here anyways.
Part of the year here at BSSM (which, funny story, I kinda forgot about before I got here) includes doing a missions trip. All the students apply for seven of them, ordered based on preference, and then the BSSM staff figures out who actually gets to go where. And I kinda feel like Jesus likes me a lot ‘cause I got my first choice:
[Cue dance music here]
Yeaaaaaaaaas indeed. I AM STOKED.
Ok, so why Netherlands? Two main reasons.
First, all four of my grandparents came from the Netherlands, so my entire heritage is from there. I still have some distant relatives there, but I’ve never been, not even anywhere in Europe. So it will be super awesome to visit the motherland, as it were, and connect with some of those roots.
But the second, far more important reason, is because the Netherlands needs Jesus. Most countries do, but the Netherlands is predominately an atheist country, making it ripe for some Jesus light to come break open the prevalent darkness. And getting to do with a group of healing-working, prophecy-spewing Jesus freaks from BSSM makes me more excited than watching the NHL playoffs live.
Yeah. I went there. It’s for real.
But going on this trip also involves something else:
(Did I mention I kinda forgot about this trip when I came here? Man, why couldn’t these things just be magically free…)
Ok, so for real, my intention is not to turn this blog into one of those heart-string pulling, guilt-inducing pleas for money. I know Jesus wants me here in Redding right now. I believe He wants me to go to Netherlands in March. I also know He’s not short on cash. I’m not worried about Him providing. He’s pretty good at that.
Really, this is an invitation.
An invitation to invest in me while I’m attending BSSM, investing in my ability to “build the Kingdom", and an invitation to invest in bringing the light of Jesus into the Netherlands. I cannot wait to take what I’ve learned all year at Bethel and unleash it in the country of my ancestors.
For those interested in details, I need a total of $2,150 for the trip, about $300 of which is due by November 1st.
Again, none of this is to make you guilted into financing me or my trip, but if you find yourself getting excited about it and want to be part of my journey here in California at BSSM, any contributions would be a massive blessing! I will be most appreciative of any and all donations, which can be made online here.
Please shoot an email to Kevin@KevinBrink.com if you have any questions at all.
Ya'll rock and I love you. Thanks for reading this far. You'll be hearing from me again in a couple weeks.