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What if God doesn’t provide?

I guarantee there are some people who will see the title of this blog post and wonder whether or not I am a heretic. Well, hopefully this blog post will clear that conundrum up for some of you.

As some of you may know, I am in the process of raising support to be a missionary through Great Commission Ministries on the Kent State University campus at h2o church. The process for me began about three weeks ago when I got back from Orlando for new staff training. The process has been an emotionally and spiritually (sometimes physically) trying one. I prayed at the beginning of this process (about a month ago) that God would help me to make this about Him and not about me. I prayed that he would expose things in my life that I needed to submit to Him and trust Him with. I can now tell you with full assurance that he has begun to answer these. Truly…

There are tons of things that God is bringing to my attention that He wants to change about me. He is no doubt drawing me into a greater and deeper intimacy with Him. For those of you who get jacked by hearing about how close someone is to reaching their financial goal, right now I am actually at about 25% of my monthly goal. It is indeed amazing and there are many times that I forget how incredible that is. This reality can only be attributed to a God who cares for the needs of His people and provides in miraculous and in the most winsome of ways. All of this is undoubtedly true, but there is indeed something that I have been wrestling with all the while. I have struggled with the reality that it is possible that by the end of this summer I may not have met my goal. What I mean is that it is possible that God could not provide my need by the end of this summer.

So, give me a chance before you start getting out your bible to show me Matthew 7:7-11 or Ephesians 3:20-21 to prove that I am indeed a heretic. It may seem strange that this has been a struggle point for me since God has provided graciously thus far, but I am continually finding it necessary to be dealt with. My question is this: how do we reconcile (is it even possible?) seeing God as Father and He who “gives every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) with the fact that God could not always provide what we need (or what we think we need)? This is the main question but there are some sub-questions that echo in my mind often like, “What if God wants to provide something different than monetary support?”, or “Is the provision of Gods one and only son enough for me even if God doesn’t provide in any other way?”. I have yet to find any one answer for these questions.

Look at the apostle Paul. Here is a man who understood the provision of God yet if you take a look at 2 Corinthians 11 it might be difficult to understand how Paul was able to trust Gods provision. Paul went through a ton of crap (evidenced in 2 Corinthians 11) in his life yet he says that he would boast in those miserable experiences and that Gods power was made perfect in his weaknesses. Paul was proclaiming the lack of control he had over his life and was even boasting over it! I think it is safe to say that Gods provision does not always present itself as we like to think.

We need to be honest and acknowledge that trusting God is risky. When you begin to trust God with all that you are and all that you have you enter into a world unknown. The reality is that I know that God CAN provide but whether he WILL provide is a different story. That is the tension that I feel like I am living in and it is possibly a tension we all need to live in when trusting God. I don’t know, perhaps I am wrong in all of this. I war against the all to often token Christian answers to Gods provision because to be frank I think they are often rooted in an American prosperity gospel rather than the biblical gospel. God doesn’t just provide us with a Ferrari or a girlfriend simply because we want one. God cares for us too much to merely provide us with what we think we need. He knows what we need and we often take a stab at what we think we need, but we are just too short-sighted to see how God sees. I think he does want to “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”, but we need to rest in the fact that that is going to look so much different than what we are dreaming it up to be.

So, I would love to hear thoughts on this, because I do not have the full-proof theology on this matter. Any comments welcome, even if you are to disagree. This is my life right now, and I would love to be in conversation about this with those who choose to do so.

This training is draining. I love it.

I, along with 20 or so other missionaries, are here in Orlando, FL partaking in GCM (Great Commission Ministries) new staff training. What an incredible experience the past few days have been. I have so enjoyed being spurred on by the saints here and their vision for their ministries and churches. It is so evident that God has done a work in these men and women and I know that He has great plans for them just as David said about Solomon:

“And David the kind said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great””(1 Chronicles 29:1).

God Himself has ordained for us to be here this week (just that in itself astounds me!) and has chosen all of these men and women for the great work that is ahead (and it is no doubt that we are young and inexperienced!). I am so excited for them. I have been inspired more and more as I hear story after story from people who are sharing their heart and vision for the ministry that God has called them to. It has inspired me in my own calling and it has enabled me to witness and love the ecumenical church (universal church) all the more. I have learned so much from everyone here.

I am sitting here after our first block of free time in the past three days. I have so enjoyed what has gone on here, and I am impassioned in being reminded of what God has done in my own life and the calling he has placed on my heart. I am also continually reminded here that what we are doing is absolutely absurd. Honestly. It is easy to be grafted into this missionary life in such a way that we forget that the only thing that makes sense of this is Jesus. There is nothing about raising support, or being on a college campus to love college students (when you are out of college) that makes much sense. Jesus is the reason for all of us here. It doesn’t make what we do much less crazy, but it makes it undoubtedly worth it.

I needed reminded of that too. Feeling refreshed. Now back to work.

Reading God’s Words.

I need to hunger for the Words of God. I not only want to know them but I want to understand them fully. How are we to behold the glory of the Scriptures?

Last week I was reminded of a N.T. Wright video that I had watched a few weeks back. I wanted to relay to something I am learning yet find myself also missing out on which was brought on by this video among other events.

Last week I attended a presentation from the Philosophy department head at KSU, David Odell-Scott. Odell-Scott spoke of the roles of women emphasized in the Bible, and sexuality in the Bible. It seems that this topic has encapsulated most of his life’s work. Odell-Scott is a very liberal NT(specializing in 1 & 2 Cor.) scholar to say the least. Anyway, through discerning what he had boldly proposed, I found little I agreed with him on, when it came to his exegesis. While he spoke of context, he ripped verses from their surroundings. This was the cause that lead me to Wrights concept of what it meant to read Scripture in its fullness…

I went home that Wednesday night after this controversial presentation, and pondered over what had just been said. I thought about his seemingly persuasive ideas but I couldn’t come to terms with hardly anything he said. He went to Romans at one point to discuss homosexuality. So, I went there again afterward with my roommate Andrew. We talked about what thought Odell-Scott was trying to connect in chapters 1 and 2. Was he seeking to justify homosexuality? Did he condemn it as simply another attempt of humanity to dethrone the God of all? I didn’t really know. As I began attempting to connect his points, the Scripture began to connect itself. I quickly got a glimpse of how chapter 1 flowed into 2, and 2 flowed into 3, and how Paul was setting up his readers for the next step in understanding the gospel from beginning to end. This thought did not at first seem anything close to revelatory, but my point is not necessarily directed toward that which is written but instead how we attempt to read the Holy Scriptures.

Let me briefly explain.The world lives in a culture that revolves around self. I believe that this has become implemented into our Bible reading.What do I mean? We as a people of God sometimes read the Bible solely to fulfill a mediocre ambition of temporary fulfillment or temporary hope through a Bible verse that has been taken to mean something it was never meant to. So, what we have then are Christians (including me) who merely read the Bible (or pick out a verse here or there) with a consumeristic mindset, a Bible reading that is centered on us. Please hear me rightly, the Bible is indeed nourishment to our souls, there is no arguing that. But, I also think we need a larger vision in our attempts to understand the most magnificent work ever penned (not to mention through and by the Holy Spirit). It can’t simply be centered on us, and what verses we have “down pat”. It has a larger field of vision than that. It is meant to change us as we begin to understand it, and not only us, but this dark world. These are the words that God wanted us to have. What do we do with that? It is who we are, and it is who God is. I think we are missing the point when we take a verse here or there, when in reality we are missing the Scripture in its fullness. I often fail at my attempts to be clear so forgive me if that has been the case.

Let me admit that I too reduce Scripture and I also conform it to myself instead of being conformed to it, thus Christ. Let me propose that Gods ambition through the Spirit by Scripture is much bigger than we have ever hoped or dreamed. We come to God with the smallest ambitions. Here C.S. Lewis in a famous sermon supports this in saying:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis sums up the offer of the gospel in whole, but I also believe that this concept can be applied to our reading of Scripture. We are a people satisfied with only a fraction of that which is placed before us. In the Bible, we have a whole world out there that is waiting for our pursuit. It speaks of almighty God, the world, and us. I must agree with Lewis when he says we are far too easily satisfied. One of my favorite missionaries, Jim Elliot says this in one of his journals concerning Scripture:

The Word of God is not bound! It is free to say what it will to the individual, and no one can outline it into dispensations which cannot be broken. Don’t get it down “cold” but let it live , fresh, warm, and vibrant, so that the world is not binding ponderous books about it, but rather it is shackling you for having allowed it to have free course in your life. That’s the apostolic pattern!

Hopefully with the words of these godly men, you begin to understand what I myself am wrestling with. Now finally to the video by N.T. Wright. Here is the URL: http://vimeo.com/31700217

College Students and Church

I was speaking with a friend of mine named Joe a couple weekends ago. Joe and I, along with 500 and some college students from all over Ohio attended a weekend retreat. h20 church( the church we both attend-him at BGSU and I at KSU) holds a fall retreat of sorts each year, and all ohio college churches attend. This was actually my first fall getaway with h20 and it was a great deal of fun, and the weekend all in all was an edifying one. I myself was able to witness the larger movement/body that makes up h20. Can you relate with the encouragement that comes from looking out into a crowd of like-minded people who are worshipping something that is worth their worship, not to mention their lives? I could have witnessed the worship alone that weekend and in that received so much. We received some awesome teachings and a considerable amount of truth was fed to us (borderline prophetical). Anyway, hopefully you are able to gain a good picture of what we experienced, because I have yet to write about the conversation I had with my friend Joe.

Joe goes to Bowling Green State University. It is a joyous occasion for me whenever we are able to interact, and considering we hardly see each other, these conversations have only taken place twice. As you might assume, we were able to talk the weekend at the retreat. After the first session we saw each other and began to catch up on life. We talked about what God has been teaching us and doing through our separate but united bodies. Somewhere in the midst of this conversation, we took a turn into the theological realm (which at our young age can usually result in a multitude of ways-but this one went somewhere good) Soon after this directional change, Joe began a sentence in which he stated, “h20 is the future model of college church planting”. Now, I wasn’t so much caught off guard by this statement as I was intrigued by such a bold claim. While we were having this conversation, the sound of the newest hip-hop songs were playing in the background for a dance party that Joe and I decided not to attend (don’t let this make you question the integrity of our church-hip movement was forbidden). Joe and I moved our conversation to the bonfire outside and I began pressing him for answers to why this conviction resided so deep within him. I asked him about ministries on campuses, multi-generational churches, community churches, the difference between campus ministries and churches (much of which I wrestled with last year, but still did not have rock-solid answers for). As Joe answered and I continued asking, I could tell we were both thoroughly enjoying the conversation. Then, when talking of multi-generational churches, Joe, I believe, said something simple yet profound to the predicament all campus churches find themselves in. He said, “Colleges students just want to be with college students”. It hit me, and I couldn’t keep talking without addressing what he had just said. We talked more about it, and then we ate some s’mores.

All the questions that I was asking Joe, I had once asked myself. So, the concepts themselves were not new to either of us. As I have I taken time to reflect on this question, I have come up with little, but I intend to share it just the same. The question that seems to echo throughout every evangelical lately is “How are we to do church?” This indeed is a necessary question and one to be answered in alignment with the Scriptures. No doubt. The church isn’t merely an institution, but a people, not only a people, but a movement of people. This movement has a message. This message necessitates proclamation, a heralding, by this movement of people. I had once heard someone say, “Contextualize the gospel, don’t compromise it!”. There is distinction here. I think that is exactly what Joe did when he said that college students simply want to be with college students. So, if it is true that college students just want to be with college students(would love to hear an argument against this), how is the gospel to be found in that? What shape does it take? Is it distinct? A college CHURCH? Why not? I quickly forget the opportunity God has given us in a place such as this. A group of young people in such an isolated environment is incomparable. So, in discussing what church is and how it is to look, are we considering our surroundings, are we considering the culture. I can assure you the culture of a college campus is different than that of suburbia. I am not proposing the church is the church without the “close-handed issues” or the non-negotiable’s, but I am proposing that college churches will look vastly different than for instance community churches especially in terms of the ages found within them.

Paul says this “For though I am free from all, i have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”-1 Cor. 9:19-23.

This is the Biblical contextualization, not a justification, as I once confused it.