Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Change of Plans Part II: Back to the Future

I'm moving again. Back to Chicago. On September 1st.

I just finished reading my original "Change of Plans" post and saw that I wrote with the intention of only being back in Michigan until the Fall so I guess this really shouldn't come as a big surprise but it does feel dramatically different. I appreciate the support and prayer of those who have an interest in my and since people don't usually move to different states as often as I have done recently so I thought this post with help with any motion sickness incurred while trying to follow my journey in life.

So yes, I'll be back in Chicago but this time I'll be in the city. I really liked a lot of my experience last Fall living in the suburbs of Chicago but even then I found myself longing to be back in the city. I think it might have been that I was so close to the city but still not in it. It was strange because I didn't feel that same way necessarily while I've been living here in Michigan. Yes, it was really hard to leave people like Jon and Jill Huff, Emily Logan, Michael Jordan and Rahm Emanuel but I'm also really thankful for the past 8 months that I've been back home.

As for the specific place to leave, my good friends Jon and Jill have been tremendous in connecting me with someone from their church who was looking for a roommate. The apartment is almost fully furnished (only my bedroom is empty... and even a bed has been graciously provided) and it's in a nice neighborhood with families and most importantly, plenty of places to park. (I'm terrible at fitting my car into tight parallel parking spaces.) God has really worked it out in ways that I wouldn't have imagined.

Another sign of God's grace is that like He provided during my move to Michigan, I have a job to start as soon as I get there. It's (once again) at Panera Bread. ;) This position is for 25% more than I was making here in Michigan though so it should go a lot longer towards being able to pay my bills. Even if it might not be ideal, I don't mind working at Panera for awhile longer though because it's all part of the process of moving towards the bigger goal of finishing grad school and working in vocational ministry.

As for school, my plan is to head back to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (north of the city) in January. The place I'll be living is farther away from the school in actual distance but will be about the same time commitment because I'm right next to a major highway. It'll still be a stretch to pay for financially, even with the pay raise, but after looking at other options for grad school in the area I realized that I wasn't excited about any of the other programs that I was looking at. I could go to some other schools, good schools, and it'd be cheaper. I don't want to walk away when I'm finished with just a piece of paper though. I want to be able to look back and say that my time at school was as beneficial as possible to future time spend in vocational ministry.

God has been so gracious in providing somewhere to live, a job, friends nearby that I believe that He'll provide the ability to pay for this education as well.

In my blog post about moving back to Michigan I wrote that the top two motivators of moving me back home were money and church. I probably didn't save as well as I could have while I was home but I didn't go into debt and I learned the necessity of having (and keeping) a budget. As for my church, I believe that God had me home to physically be with my church during this time. Over the past few months I was able to see the fruit of all of the hard work of putting together our Saturday evening service. I was able to really connect and be mentored by church leadership. More than that, though, was seeing my church come together in difficulty. As painful as that difficulty has been, I've seen God's active hand in these people and in the ministry there. Even though I'll be another city, a part of my heart and my prayers will remain there with them.

Even in the area of finding a church, though, God has provided. The church that number those close to me call home is right down the road from where I'll be living. Mayfair Bible Church is a solid, small church that I believe will provide me with the opportunity to use my gifts and my calling for God's glory. I've visited there on numerous occasions in the past but I am excited at the prospect of planting myself there for this season of time. I may need to get involved with a parachurch organization as well in order to be able to use my gifts to minister to youth but this church has an incredible support system consisting of prayer and genuine relationships.

I'm not sure when "Change of Plans Part III" will come but I've seen God's evident hand in bringing these things together and I'm excited to see where He takes me on this stage of my journey.

"In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."- Proverbs 3:6

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Actually, God might give you more than you can handle...

There's a common misconception with many Christians that "God won't give you more than you can handle." This misconception can be seen on Facebook walls, Pinterest... pinning boards (I'm still not sure how Pinterest works) and in Christian music. It seems like there's not a day that goes by without hearing one song in particular whose chorus includes the phrase "... just believe what he said. He said I won't give you more, more than you can take and I might let you bend, but I won't let you break..."

The song is very catchy. It's also really wrong. The passage of Scripture that people tend to appeal to for this idea is usually 1 Corinthians 10:13b "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." It's important, however, to look at context. No verse is an island and so we have to look at what is actually being said in the verses around that phrase to figure out what it actually means.

1 Corinthians 10 is talking about the example provided by the Israelites and their history. They had Moses leading them, they saw God provide escape through the Red Sea and yet almost none of that original generation made it into the promise land. They all fell to sin. Paul then tells the Corinthians that this was a warning provided to them not to fall into sin themselves. The temptation to sin is prevalent in the life of every believer and the Corinthians needed to be aware. They had hope, however, because he includes the promise that they would not be tempted beyond what they could bear. The following verse clears up any misunderstanding "he will also provide a way out so you can endure it."

This passage was clearly talking about how God will not let us be tempted into sin beyond what we can bear. As believers we never have to sin. (Romans 6) God promises that since we are dead to sin that He will always provide an opportunity to not sin in a situation. We don't have the ability to claim that "the devil made me do it." We won't always be successful but that's why we have the Holy Spirit who aids us in our spiritual growth (sanctification). This passage does not apply, then, to the idea that hardships in life will not be overbearing. I don't think that idea rings true to our actual life experience and it gives the idea that either God has misidentified our strength or that we are failures because we are not going through life with a constant smile.

Why does this difference in understanding 1 Corinthians 10 matter? It matters because the idea that "God will never give us more difficulties than we can handle" only promotes the idea that we are capable in and of ourselves to handle whatever situation we're struggling through. The truth of the matter is that God often gives people more than they can handle because it's in that struggle that we realize it is only in Christ that we can find refuge and strength to endure.

We can see this in Scripture. Recently, I've spent time in Psalm 13, a passage that demonstrates a little more clearly what life was like for David when he was given hardship beyond what he could deal with:

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD's praise,
for he has been good to me.

David clearly seemed at the end of himself. It is at the end of ourselves, though, that we see that God is the one who delivers. Sometimes His Salvation comes in the form of deliverance from the difficulty and suffering that we're facing. Other times, we are kept in that suffering because even though we may never understand it, our suffering brings God more glory. What we can count on is a God who loves us and who desires for us to grow in our sanctification and our love for Him. Instead of clinging to the lyrics that He "might let you bend, but he won't let you break", it might be better if we sought out these lyrics instead:

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness is what you want from me

So take my heart and form it
Take my mind and transform it
Take my will and conform it
To yours, to yours, oh Lord.