I landed in Toronto on a beautiful sunny day. The city’s basketball team had just won the NBA final, and to say the city was alive with celebration would be an understatement. I had never been to Toronto, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d come to Canada to serve, to help launch a new ministry for Youth For Christ Canada, Jesus School. My plan was to come to bless the local church, to reach the lost with the gospel, and to pray for this nation. Little did I know, that I would walk away with more than I came with, rather than empty from serving, I would leave this place filled to overflowing, celebrating an incredible victory of my own.
From the moment I arrived in Canada, I could feel the leading and blessing of God on this trip. My first proper conversation with a Canadian was with my Uber driver. He shared how his wife and he wanted to have another baby, but she had severe poly-cystic ovaries, and things weren’t looking good. I share how the same diagnosis was given to my wife, and how Jesus intervened and we now have three healthy babies. I prayed for his family as I drove through the streets of Toronto. He is not yet a Christian, but I assured him that Jesus heals, and I he thanked me for praying as I stepped out of the car.
I then hopped on a train to meet the my host from Youth For Christ International, who was collecting me, to take me to dinner to connect with some of the leadership team of Youth for Christ, Canada, as well as an Australian team of Youth for Christ ambassadors and staff, and other Australian team members who were traveling with Jesus School cofounder, Mark Greenwood. After dinner we would drive North to the Peterborough area, where we would hold Canada’s first Jesus School.
As I sat on the train, I heard a familiar language, Indonesian. Right next to me were two young men from Indonesia. We talked for about half an hour, I shared my testimony with them, about how Jesus had saved me from religion into relationship, from hoping I was good enough for God, to knowing I am. It was a rich time, and I was amazed at the hand of God on my trip, just 2 hours into being in the country! I jumped off the train and walked out to look for my Canadian host, Adam Shepski.
And so the tables began to turn, the blessings of God were coming after me, and although I would see many more miracles and see God use me in incredible ways for the rest of my trip, I myself would receive such crazy blessings, and my cup would overflow from that moment on. When I met Adam, it was as if my family expanded on the spot.
Adam is the International Prayer Coordinator for Youth For Christ. We’d met only once before in passing at Awakening Australia. As I drove with him I realized I was driving with a man who loves Jesus deeply, and I knew I’d gained a co-laborer in the gospel. Little did I know that within just a few minutes we would be in the harvest together.
“Shay, loved beyond measure”
We walked into dinner and there she was, “Shay”, our waitress and soon to be, sister in Christ. Our waitress was covered in tattoos, and also covered in the love and hope of God for her life. I could see she had been hurt in life, the devil had come to “kill, steal and destroy” from her, but Adam and I knew straight away, Jesus had come to bring her “life and life to the full”, and since Jesus is in us, that meant that we weren’t just our for dinner, we were on a rescue mission from God.
I met the Canadian and Australian team, plus a very special friend, Lydia from YFC Slovakia, then ordered my dinner. As it arrived I asked my waitress if I could encourage her. As with almost every person I ask this question to, she said, “yes please!”. For the next 20 minutes I poured the love and life of God into her. I told her how much God loved her, I told her that everything that was stolen from her could be returned in Jesus. I could see that she was nothing short of thankful as she hugged me and shared how much that meant. But this encounter wasn’t over.
I’ve learned that words are powerful when sharing Jesus, but so too are actions. I pulled out $100 from my wallet, and gave it to her, while asking Adam to stay close, as I felt God would move and she would want to be connected to local Christians after our time together.
“This is for you”, I said. She immediately came undone. “What? No.” “Yes,” I insisted. You are worth so much to God. She gave me another hug. “Has anyone ever told you what Jesus did for you? How much He loves you?” I asked. “No.”
For the next 45 minutes, Adam and I shared our stories, listened to her story, and shared the life and death and resurrection of Jesus with her. She was amazed and shared how just one week prior, someone had shared a similar truth with her. “Do you think God is speaking to me?” We both agreed, “Yes He is!”.
She asked us how she could live life with Jesus as she had never heard the gospel prior to this week. Adam gave her his details and she gave hers, and a Bible is now in the mail for her! Wow. What an encounter, and what a joy to get to love her as Christ loves us.
Several of the team formed a circle with Shay right there in the restaurant, we held hands and prayed for our sister in Christ.
“Todd, Immediate Family.”
Then, as quickly as we arrived, we were off. I sat with my new friends Todd, Chris and Joseph, hearing their stories and growing my family yet again.
The drive was both short and long, hearing others’ stories into the night, we arrived in the Peterborough area and settled in for our first night in Canada. Waking to a Canadian breakfast of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, to say I was stoked to be with this new family, would be an understatement. We spent the following morning relaxing and being refreshed from what had been for me, a massive few days. Just prior to arriving in Canada I had been in New York and Washington DC, primarily to pray over America’s Supreme Court, Senate and Capitol, and I was certainly very tired arriving in Canada.
What stood out to me the most on that first morning was how beautiful it is to be a part of the family of God. My host, Todd, lavished us with hospitality. He made sure we had nothing but the best and his warmth and welcome was stunning. It’s amazing how, as a Christian, you can feel so comfortable in the house of someone who was, just hours before, a complete stranger. This man is a picture of strength, integrity and love and he is my brother!? Wow. This is the beauty of being the family of God, we are all brothers and sisters.
The morning flew, and we soon headed off to the campsite, a stunning lakeside facility, where we would prepare as a team to launch Canada’s first ever “Jesus School”. The Jesus School is a week long school that focusses primarily on one’s identity as a Christian, and how we aren’t just saved from the punishment of sin, but we are saved out of sin, into righteousness. When someone becomes a Christian, they literally become the righteousness of Christ in Christ Jesus, and as Jesus is, so are we in this world.
I’ll never forget the students arriving for the school. The anticipation in my heart for what God would do in them, was palpable. One girl, I’ll call her Kay, as she is a more private person who may not wish to be named, arrived at the camp and immediately I knew God was going to do a great work in her heart. I knew others would be touched as well, but God had something special for Kay. When I went to meet her, she could hardly look me in the eyes. I could feel a sense of unworthiness over her, that she had been hurt by a man or men, but I knew she would be set free as she understood her worth and identity. Oh how worthy we are of the love of God, when Jesus lives inside of us!
I knew that freedom awaited Kay, for whom the sons sets free is free indeed, some of us just haven’t yet realized it. I would soon learn that I was also in for a dose of freedom. Jesus School had begun.
“Jesus School, WOW, SO GOOD.”
Truth be told, much of the week from when the school started, to now, as I write this blog on my flight home, is a little jumbled in terms of sequence. Each day seemed to blurr into the next, but there were certainly some incredible highlights and deep revelations that I received, from the moment the school began, I found myself saying again and again, “Wow, so good.”
The core of the school’s curriculum, is that Christians are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We aren’t just “sinners saved by grace”, we are new creations, saints that have been given a new nature in Christ. Although I have heard this message before, through online teachings, Mark Greenwood’s book, “Awaken to Righteousness”, and through the Scriptures, it was incredibly special to be able to spend 7 days unpacking this content again. Someone once said, “The Bible is the only book that’s thousands of years old, whose author is still alive.” As this is the case, I often find I learn more and more from the Scriptures the more I read them, and the more I spend time with the one who inspired them, my dear God.
“Jesus is the Truth about God and the Truth about You- Mark Greenwood”
Mark Greenwood would have to be one of the most phenomenal teachers of God’s word, that I have ever come across. His teaching on righteousness is not new (it’s straight from the word of God), but it is a much needed reminder for the church today.
I was reminded of many truths through Mark, and the other teachers, at Jesus School. One was that Jesus is the truth about God and is the truth about me. What does that mean? This means that I can’t afford to have a thought about God that I don’t have about Jesus, and I can’t afford to have a thought about myself that I don’t have about Jesus.
The Bible says, “Anyone who has seen me (Jesus) has seen the Father.” It also says, “As He (Jesus) is, so are we in this world.”
I knew this truth to be true, but it sank in at a whole new level at Jesus School. Do you ever find yourself having thoughts like, “I have a problem with lust”, or “I don’t have enough self-control to do that”, or “I am always going to struggle with…” The truth is the cross makes you a new creation and Jesus now lives in you and you in Him. That means that if you can’t say, “Jesus has a lust problem”, or “Jesus doesn’t have enough self control to …” or “Jesus will always struggle with…”, then you can’t say it about yourself!
WOW, SO GOOD!
We are set free from the power of sin and death in our lives.
Did you also know that whatever we see in Jesus is what we can apply to Father God? This means we can’t afford to separate Father God and Holy Spirit from Jesus the son. This helped me to see the compassion and closeness of Father God over these days. God the Father isn’t more or less judgmental or compassionate than the God the son. I have often viewed Father God as judge, but Jesus the son as a compassionate jury. No, they are one. My Father in heaven is as approachable as His son.
WOW, SO GOOD!
“I’m a Safe Person- THANK YOU MELISSA!”
The catering at Jesus School was second to none, except for the coffee, it was black, black and black. Three days into the school, I was craving a latte.
“It’s my birthday today,” Adam’s wife, Melissa shared. “I’m keen for a latte!”
“Me too!” I quickly volunteered! “Let’s get one together!” she replied.
My world was about to be rocked.
Allow me to unpack how. You see, I have a personal policy, that was first introduced to me as a policy set by a church I used to work at. “Never be alone with a woman other than your wife”. For the past decade, I have done everything I can to not be alone with a woman other than my wife.
“Just a minute Mel”, I ran around the campsite looking for someone else to invite. I was hoping to get to know one of the worship leaders, Nathan, a little better, and so I quickly invited him along.
I don’t know if I can do justice with written words, what soon unfolded in my head and heart.
We went for coffee, and all was well, except Mel, who truly lives the truth of the gospel and it’s message of righteousness, soon felt something wasn’t quite right with what I believed.
“Why did you need to invite someone else for coffee Andrew? You’re either saying that you’re not safe, or I’m not trustworthy.”
Wow. There’s a Scripture that says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted”. I am so thankful to now have such a friend as Melissa.
“No it’s neither,” I replied. That’s when it hit me. Earlier that day we had done a session on exposing lies we believed about ourselves, and replacing them with the truth of what Jesus has done for us.
I realized in this moment, that I had, for over a decade, believed a lie, that I am not a safe person.
I ran the “Jesus is the truth about me” test through my mind. “Was Jesus safe around women?” Yes. In fact He was so safe that women were liberated from their pain and sin again and again in His presence.
For nearly a decade I have worked for ministries that have, I believe unintentionally, told me, by their policies, that I am not a safe person. Every time I have signed a contract stating, “I will not be alone with a woman other than my wife, or I will not drink, or I will not smoke, or I will not do this or that”, they have unknowingly, told me that I am not safe around women or other “temptations”, and therefore not truly set free from sin, by the power of the cross. As a result, I have again and again, held myself back from 50% of the world’s population, women. I have believed that I was not a safe person to minister to them or to love them with the love of Christ.
I stood there, in front of Mel, and several others who were being rocked by this revelation as well, and I put my hand on my heart. “I am a safe person”, I said. I began to tear up as I said it again with conviction, “I am a safe person!”
That night in the shower I found myself literally laughing out loud. “I never have to sin in any way, I never have to fall into sin with a woman, I never have to look at pornography, I never have to sin in any fashion. Sin has no hold over me! I am the righteousness of Christ Jesus. Sin is an external force seeking to destroy me, but Jesus overcame it and I can too. I am a safe person!”
I actually don’t expect most people to understand this revelation, short of going on the journey themselves, but I’m telling you, this truth has rocked me to the core and I believe will serve me and those around me, for the rest of my life.
“Jenn, my sister and friend.”
When I met Jenn, I was immediately struck by her deep love for God and for others. She reminded me almost immediately of my Mum, who nearly everyone who knows me knows is, alongside my wife, one of my greatest heroes. Every now and then in life you find yourself meeting someone you feel you could jump in the trenches of ministry and spiritual war with, anytime. It was like this when I first met Adam and it was like this when I met Jenn. She burst onto our campsite a day late, but she lit the place up as soon as she arrived. “Who is this girl?” I asked. I soon found out that she runs Youth For Christ in Peterborough, the city we were being hosted in, and that for years she has stood in the gap for her city, coming alongside the prostitutes and the homeless, the young and the broken, to see her city saved and set free.
Ordinarily I try to keep my distance from any woman other than my wife, after all, I had believed for over a decade that, either I was unsafe, or my sisters in Christ were untrustworthy temptresses (how unhelpful a message is that to send to both men and women!?!). Oh how thankful I was to have received the revelation that this is not true!
It was a joy to laugh and laugh with Jenn, to pray with her and for her and encourage her. Several times I felt the Lord say, “She needs a brother to stand with her”, and I was there, standing with my sister and friend. What a blessing to gain such a friend.
I won’t soon forget a session I led on Jesus School where I asked people to take a moment to hear God’s heart for the lost. I invited Jenn to pray for us all, and one by one the room began to weep and to be filled with Christ’s love and compassion, as Jenn prayed, “let my people go!”
This is a bit of a side note, but I feel it could be helpfully shared here. When we can become secure in our identity in Christ, we can come alongside others to lift them up without fear of having them be better than us. I did this for several on Jesus School, and several did this for me. It was so beautiful to be secure enough in my identity to invite others alongside me to minister. It’s never actually about whether you or I preach or get to lead, it’s about whether or not we got to glorify God. I didn’t need to lead all of my session, or to be the only one to hold the microphone just because it was given to me, it was a joy to see my sister shine.
“A Champion of Women”
I love my wife more than anyone on the planet. Though I may have many sisters in Christ, I only have one lover who I get to celebrate the intimacy of God with. I made sure that everyone at Jesus School knew this, in fact I share my love for my wife every chance I get.
One thing that came out of the School, was how many of the women got set free from painful experiences of men, due to how they heard me champion my wife, and how they also saw me as a safe person who could champion them.
Remember Kay? Well, on the same day as my revelation of being a safe son of God for my sisters, I found myself praying for her during one of our Encounter Nights, where we came together as a school, to pray and worship. I told her the impression I had been given from God, that she had been hurt by a man or men, and that Jesus wanted to bring her freedom. I told her of her worth and the love of God for her, and how He would restore all things. We hugged and hugged, and she cried and cried.
By the end of the week Kay would be baptized (she literally ran to the lake to get baptized by the first leader she could find). Not only would she be baptized, she would look me in the eyes again and again with confidence, and consistently beam with the love and freedom of Jesus.
Just after being baptized Kay said to me, “Thank you for loving me, for all you said about me. It meant so much to me.”
Oh, how thankful I am to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. That as He is, so am I, and that I can be a champion of both my brothers AND sisters in this life! I would never have sat with my sister and hugged her if I hadn’t believed what has always been true of my new nature, I am as He is!
On the final day of Jesus School, there was another woman that came up to me, sobbing. She said that the way I champion my wife and treated the women at School, had been a significant part of healing her from past pain with men. Wow. Jesus was a champion of women. So am I! If you are a Christian, so are you!
“Peterborough, the light of the North.”
By far one of my favorite days was when “Jesus School” flooded Peterborough. I came to learn, while on the School, that Peterborough was the first city in Canada to receive electricity, but that it’s historic General Electric plant had just closed a few years prior to our arrival.
“Never mind”, another new friend and now hero to me, Guy, said. “We will now be known for spiritual light.”
I couldn’t agree more. I went into Peterborough twice. Once before the school, and once after. Both times, I had radical encounters with people on the streets. I found Peterborough to be one of the most spiritually open and hungry spaces I have ever been in. I prayed for a demonized woman, a lesbian couple, for several Catholics, for a Christian who just needed to know God loved her, for a Mum who needed and encouragement, and many more. I literally had divine encounter after divine encounter.
What’s more, while at the Jesus School in Peterborough, I also got to know many of the local church, from YFC staff and volunteers, to local church members and movement leaders. I can say this with confidence, this town is earmarked for revival. I have ministered in over a dozen different nations, on five different continents, and over a hundred different towns. Few places have ever gripped me the way that Peterborough did.
Of interest, “Peter”, means rock, because Peter knew the immovable truth, that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God. Borough, means sending place for the government, or a pool of people that could be called upon to govern. I believe Peterborough carries an understanding of Jesus, who He is and what that means for us, and that as a result there are many in and from Peterborough will reign in both the government of God and of Canada.
“Canada Come Home.”
The day we went to Peterborough to flood the streets with the gospel, we also joined with a stunning local church, “Selwyn Outreach Center” for a citywide Praise Night.
As hundreds poured into the church, a friend summed up the atmosphere well. It’s as if the place is drenched in gasoline and at the first song, here comes the match! The place lit up with praise, and the Holy Spirit moved across the room. I turned to my brother Adam, “I believe there are at least 8 people in the room that need to come home to Jesus tonight”, I shared. “Let’s do it”, he said.
Before I knew it Adam was pulling at my sleeve and thrusting me onto the stage. I love that picture. Jesus asked us to pray that the Lord would send, or “thrust” workers into the harvest field. Adam does this so well.
I jumped on the platform and shared, “There are at least 8 people here, and you know you need to come to Jesus, or come back to Jesus right now.”
Immediately a couple in a same-sex relationship jumped to their feet. Soon after an elderly lady stood as well. The room erupted with joy as we welcomed these children home. Yet I knew there were more. I asked my new friend and sister, Grace, to come and sing over us a spontaneous song she had released just nights before.
“Canada come home”.
As she sang those words, person after person stood to make a public decision to come to Jesus. I counted at least 8.
“My Heart and Family is Bigger.”
There’s a saying, “All good things come to an end”. Well, with the Jesus School, this was only partly true. As we wrapped up the week I found myself hugging Guy, a friend to many in the Peterborough area. “I feel kind of sad”, he shared. “I do too”, I said, “But I’ve learned not to see these goodbyes as losing a part of my heart, but rather as expanding it. My heart is bigger, and so too is my family.”
I could write of many other highlights from this trip, from fishing with my new brother Micah, to writing worship songs for Canada with the phenomenally gifted John, Lydia, Jess, Duncan, Nathan and Jessica, to receiving stunningly accurate words of knowledge and prophecy from my new friends Andrew and Hannah to many stories of belly laughs with Adam, and tears with Todd. In fact I could name every single person from that school and how they impacted me, but this one was meant to be a blog, not a book, so I’ll leave it here for now.
What an honour it has been to stand with the Canadian Church. What an honour to gain new brothers and sisters. What an honour to be reminded that I am a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Canada, I will see you soon. You are loved, you are family, you are the light of the world.
To all others reading this blog, let me be an encouragement to you. If you call yourself a Christian, you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. You aren’t just saved from hell, for heaven one day when you die, you are saved to be a representation of Jesus on earth right now, while you live. You are saved for a purpose, live it and don’t let any lie deny you of it. You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough. You are an ambassador of Christ, His beloved son or daughter. Now go, make disciples of all nations, and know that He is with you.
Your friend and brother,