A Crazy Kind of Faith

2011 was by far the craziest year of my life: This is my story.

A recent college grad, I found myself working a job I despised…managing a retail store. Lost in a sea of Canadian tourists, crashing relentlessly on the shores of Bellis Fair Mall, in the otherwise pleasant, Bellingham, WA. The pay was great, and many of my friends were still unemployed months after graduation. I couldn’t complain. By the world’s standards I was doing the right thing, the “smart” thing. That didn’t last long.

My Journal 1/1/11:

2011…here I come. Be good to me. Full of surprises. Full of wisdom, life and love. Adventures, plenty. I’m ready.

If only I had known how right I was.

God Challenged Me to LOVE Him Like Crazy

Each day the discontent in my heart grew and everyday I went to work knowing it wasn’t what I was called to do. January of 2011 was when God really began challenging me to be a leader spiritually. Calling me a higher level of discipleship. Reminding me who I was called to be. Captivating my heart spiritually as I truly, for the first time, began to understand God’s love for us through His unending grace.

I remember reading Romans 6, and how Paul’s words hit me straight in the chest. That we become “slaves to righteousness” because of the gift of grace, not in spite of it. That we choose to live righteously because God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. And in the face of such a gift, the only response should be complete adoration and a desire to live righteously. Not to test the limits of God’s grace by enslaving ourselves to our own selfish desires.

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

-Romans 6: 1,2

February brought with it an opportunity to serve in a college ministry we called The MVMNT, at Cornwall Church. At the time, leadership was shifting and there was a need for someone to fill the role. At the same time, I felt God was challenging me to leadership and reminding me of my calling.

A calling I had known from a young age, but in my recent past had chosen to ignore. No longer. I was ready to chase after the relentless God who had never given up on me. So, there I was, ready and willing to lead with a place to lead. God is sometimes too good to us. But, He wasn’t done with me yet.

God Challenged Me to TRUST Him Like Crazy

In March God spoke to me in a powerful way. It was a Refuge worship service at Cornwall (an experience I was able to reflect on in this video). It was an experience, a challenge that changes you forever. My whole life had revolved around an understanding that God would take care of me, but I always had a plan. A checklist. I had to know where I was going, when I would get there and why. Call it a man thing, call it a me thing, but the one thing it wasn’t, was a God thing.

I had such tight control over my life I barely let God in to work. Always making sure to do the “smart” thing. Playing it safe, if you will. That night this was all brought to a new light. I sat there as God moved on my heart in an instant. Watching a trust exercise playing over and over as a woman climbed a tower and fell back into peoples’ arms. I caught the weightless feeling in my stomach, the feeling of falling. The moment where you reach out for control! Grabbing onto anything or anyone. It was then I realized…I had never been able to let go. I had NEVER been able to trust God enough to step out in faith. That even when things get crazy and you are scrambling for control, free-falling through life, you know, no matter what, that God will be there to catch you.

Unhappy, and knowing more than ever what I was called to do. God was challenging me to trust him like I had never been able to before.

It Was a Crazy Kind of Faith

The next week I sent in my resignation letter. Foolish by the world’s standards. I don’t think a single person understood why I would leave my job without even having another. And in “this” economy. The truth was I didn’t know either. But I had to trust God. I had to have faith that He would provide. This was by no means a “testing of God,” it was always and continues to be a “testing of RJ.”

As I continued to help lead and organize The MVMNT, I saw God’s hand in everything. He was calling out a generation and bringing people back to Himself. Throughout our city, a community began to form. It was small, but God was moving in and through the lives of many individuals who paths began crossing.

At the same time, I began to see a worship ministry I had been involved in, be breathed new life by young men God had radically grabbed ahold of. Young men who were also close friends. And as we met Wednesday nights (for The Den) in their basement, humbly seeking the Lord and praying over our families, churches, campus’s and our city, we knew God was stirring in our hearts something greater. The Den became a powerful night of sincerity with God and each other, and as we worshiped an amazing community was knit together.

As the school year came to a close and The MVMNT ended, I was able to team up with Seth and Korey who were leaders at The Den. The past couple of months, through the Spring, had been powerful and we knew God was calling us to something greater. I remember distinctly one night at The Den in May. While I sat quietly in prayer as the music played, God gave me a vision of people pouring through double doors into a building emanating with light. Light from this building was spilling out of the windows into a dark city from a building that could barely contain the people inside. I was wrecked. I had no idea what this meant and by no means considered myself “super spiritual” enough to be having visions. But God had for months now been challenging me to trust Him. To have a crazy kind of faith.

So, Seth, Korey and Myself began meeting up. Dreaming and asking what it would look like to chase after God on this. From the very beginning God had placed on my heart 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

If ever there was an example of God choosing the foolish, the weak, and the lowly, this was it. A couple of messed up dudes, saved and redeemed by grace through Jesus. But, we knew this was not about us. This was God sized and we were just blessed enough to be along for the ride.

So we met, we prayed, we trusted but had no real answers. I laugh now, but I remember it clearly the day that Seth said maybe we should talk to his brother-in-law, Brian MacSwan. A Pastor at CTK Church in Bellingham.

Ekklesia Was Born

Brian had a heart, a passion and a vision to help us pursue God’s call for a young adult ministry in Bellingham. In a short time, we were dreaming big and trying to put traction to where we were headed. Our team began to form, and God continued to open doors. We found favor and were blessed by the staff and resources at CTK.

Before we knew it, it was September. The Den had seen its last Wednesday night, we had met and brainstormed for months, and chosen a name for this “new thing.” Ekklesia: the called out ones, the assembly of people who meet for a common purpose. It was perfect, but the new school year was quickly approaching and we still had a lot of work to do.

Then, things hit light speed. In a matter of 4 days, we had a building, logo, t-shirts and booth on Western’s campus. A week later we launched…God showed up…and so did a lot of people. A hungry generation (check out Beka Smith’s blog for a recap of our launch). It was an amazing experience, and our entire leadership team was utterly amazed and at the same time completely blessed.

The rest is history…well history in the making. Each week we are challenged and we continue to seek what God has planned for us. Amazing things have already happened, and continue to happen on a weekly basis as we meet Wednesday nights at 8:30 at the Majestic.

As for me. Career-less now for over 8 months and still searching. God has continued to provide. There have been a lot of hard times. A lot of manual labor, and humbling work. I have been challenged at the very core of who I am (John 15:1-8), and supported and loved by those closest to me. But most of all, I have trusted God more than I ever have, even still not enough at times, and he has kept me through it all.

I cling to Lamentations 3:22-24: (whole chapter is fantastic)

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

I remember the moment I looked at my life and said. I could continue to make the “smart/safe” decisions or I could live my life with a crazy kind of faith. At the end of it all what would I rather have chosen?

So, you can call me crazy…I call myself blessed.

The second week of Ekklesia, I sat outside the doors talking with friends amongst the large group that had gathered. As the doors opened to let people in I stopped just before the steps to see people packing through double doors…into a building emanating with light. Light from this building was spilling out of the windows into a dark city from a building that could barely contain the people inside.

In an instant I was overwhelmed with just how big the God we serve is. He had taken me from a place of brokenness and confusion to a place of beautiful clarity as I stood speechless. A vision I had months earlier in a dark, dirty basement packed full of college students worshiping and praying together, was unfolding before my eyes. If ever I had a reason to doubt…it vanished. I know now I have no choice but to live forever with a crazy kind of faith!

First Ekklesia of 2012

One Response to “A Crazy Kind of Faith”
  1. Ashley Geist says:

    RJ- that was fantastic. I cried tears of joy as you watched the people come in. This is great. I am so glad I got to rea your story. Especially as we are embarking on a huge trust in God mission!

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