BSSM 1.5 - QUESTIONING
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.