Ballymena to Bethel: California Capers Part 4


Twenty years ago I was a 10-year-old at primary school (or as American’s call it, Elementary school), but suddenly this past weekend I have had a fresh understanding of what a significant and privileged year of my life 1994 really was.

(Before I proceed I must proceed with a preface that over the last five years or so I’ve been on a wild and varied spiritual journey appreciating, for example, the depths of the Catholic Christian faith, the awesomeness of Anglicanism, the purity, integrity and simplicity of my forefathers’ Presbyterian faith, together with an appreciation of what the Holy Spirit adds to a dimension of Christianity known as Charismaticism. That’s not to mention the many more strands and elements of Christianity I have little or no personal experience of). In all of these, my passion and personal preference is more often than not to see a pure encouragement of indigenous expressions of Christianity within the context of the local culture and national creativity expressing itself in the unique way God intends for us as representatives of every, ‘tribe, tongue and nation’ that will be present in heaven, according the the book of Revelation. (This is just a ‘by the way’ before I get going on the past few amazing days here in Redding, California!).

Let me also add that I am no advocate of what I often like to call, ‘ globalized franchise Christianity,’ as in the replica, for example, of any great church local expression of Christianity, for the replication and creative-less lazy replica elsewhere. If anything, to me, this is horrendous.

That said, I can now continue:

As someone who is far from having Bethel Church on a pedestal, and as someone not even necessarily an advocate of the Sunday morning ‘thing’ we call ‘church’ (certainly back home in Northern Ireland), I will continue by saying, honestly, these past couple of days here have been some of the very best, most enjoyable days of my last 10 years, without exaggeration or hesitation.

We were created for worship. We were created to connect with our maker. I don’t really care what all the other voices of the 21st century may try to dictate otherwise. NOTHING compares to being caught up in the enjoyment and thrill of true worship, of a full and free manner.

This article is a crude attempt at what I can only convey in essence very limitedly, but in as much as I know how, I am happy to at least try.

The realm of glory and heavenly presence here for one to enter into divine worship with our creator, as one created with this very need and essence to do so, is so tangible and strong here at the minute. I can only describe it as nothing but a privilege, blessing and honor to be here, in Redding, for such a time as this.

Why I am even writing about this on here at all? To be perfectly honesty, to coin a good Northern Ireland phrase, as I’m on vacation, that’s a very good question. I initially very much ‘couldn’t be bothered.’

However I simply felt led to after I woke up with a strong conviction on Friday morning past to write a blog article every day this week of my last week in USA, and see where it leads, or who it may speak to. I have no idea. I am simply a paintbrush in the hands of my maker.

Yesterday, though, in Bethel church, the worship time was thick with the presence of God so much so that I stayed on for 12 hours yesterday. As someone not even usually currently that fond of the thing we call Sunday morning church, that’s pretty remarkable.

The Holy Spirit was touching people’s hearts, minds and bodies. How do I know? I was at least one of them. Not to mention the thirty or so who gave their lives to Jesus for a total turning away from their old lives and entering into the new, in the middle of the first service I attended when one of the Pastors, Kris Valloton, felt led to stop proceedings and give people a chance to respond immediately, unplanned, after the power and impact of a mighty story shared on a dvd on the large screen, of a young man named Seth who’d had his life transformed by Jesus from being addicted to drugs and alcohol. Now years on, he serves as a ‘kids pastor’ in the church.

This is not to mention the scores of people who got healed of various really major health conditions, musculo-skeletal conditions, and diseases throughout yesterday both morning and night. Faith for such things is very normal here.
Why should this be a surprise? Jesus commissioned his disciples and said that laying hands on the sick and then seeing them well would be basic discipleship.
Somewhere along the way, the Western church got it so, so skewed.

In the afternoon, after deliberately staying on for the 1 o’clock service because the addictive and beautiful powerful dynamic presence of God in the room was so alluring, I attended the, “Prophetic Booths” where I had the privilege of being served by two people from the school of ministry here, operating in the gift of prophecy, to speak encouraging and amazing words of life into me, of things they sensed from God. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed at the accuracy and relevance of some of the things those guys spoke to me yesterday, with genuine gentleness and sincere, humble hearts. Whoah. Another amazing element of what was rapidly becoming a very significant and powerful day for me.

Then last night, I again can’t really do it ‘proper justice’ here, but in my limited capacity to do so, I can simply say that Brian and Jen Johnsons’ worship leading / praise time was almost out of this world, leading people into a heavenly encounter. How do I know? I again was one of these. It was incredible and felt an enormous privilege to be present for.
It’s been a long time since I enjoyed myself on an evening more. Last night was wonderful and majestic. If you don’t believe me, have a watch yourself on and sign up to a subscription. You can access a video of last night for yourself.

I realised on Saturday, its 20 years since the outpouring of the Spirit in Toronto airport church first occurred, and just about exactly 9 months later I became a follower of Jesus in a small Minor hall of a school I was then attending in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. I was instantly looking for the miraculous and born with an inherent belief and faith for such as what I read in the book of Acts to take place here on earth today. Back then I was told such stuff no longer happened today, but not one to be put off easily, I continued to press on reading and praying, and realized soon enough that those people were simply wrong.
What began in Ballymena all those years ago when I said ‘Yes’ to Jesus becoming my Lord and Saviour led me on to where I am today, with further later revelations of the existence of, and fundamental significance of, the Holy Spirit and latterly God the Father (most important and fundamental of all, I’d now say), The amazing encounters I had today and yesterday at Bethel, here in California owe themselves to what began in Ballymena all those years ago.

Didn’t even make it on to today. Think that’s enough though to whet your appetite. We prayed for lots of nations represented here in the 2nd year class of the school of ministry (which by the way, has over 800 students in it, with over 1400 in the first year). I am sensing that somehow Northern Ireland could do with some more(!).

(It’s okay though, at least one of its leaders has given me his blessing to be here 🙂
It was good to receive a blessing and personal word, though from Kris Valloton last night when we chatted, and his blessing upon Northern Ireland and its government felt very powerful and again a privilege to receive. It’s the start of much more to come.

Its exciting now to see what the week after the 20th anniversary of the Toronto outpouring brings here. Maybe then I can bring some of what’s going on here in Bethel back to Ballymena and beyond. That might even turn out to be quite fun!

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