Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Poem for Providence

Sitting under mountain heights
And all of LA’s distant lights
Sits a small college campus

Full of students slowly learning
A strong desire, kindled, burning
To know and to be known

And all the while in our minds
It seems as though the dream has died
And Lord we call

Resisting thoughts that you are wrong,
That because of this, our lives are done
In you we trust

Through unfolding mystery
You revealed your Christ for me
And that’s enough

The gospel bids us come and die
Die to self and win the fight
We accept your timing

And mystery? It baffles us still
And yet we know good is your will
We rest in you

Thursday, April 19, 2012

(Thoughts) Concerning the Acquisition of Providence Christian College

For me, the hardest part about this acquisition is having things not turn out the way I had initially planned. I wanted to graduate after next year, and head to seminary. Now it looks like there is a possibility that I will have to stay an extra semester, and perhaps another year. It would be accurate to say I’m stressed about getting the money I need and acquiring more debt then I was expecting. Fortunately, my plans and expectations are not what matters.

In all of this, I have learned how easily I forget the command to not be anxious. I have been very angry and anxious as of late. Talks of merger/acquisitions have made me think, say, and do things that I regret. But Jesus’ words strike true in this time of doubt and anxiety. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Christ is speaking specifically about our daily needs, but his words are applicable in this situation as well. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Being anxious shows a lack of trust in God. Earlier in Matthew 26, Christ had taught the disciples how to pray. Praying “Give us this day our daily bread,” involves a trust that God will provide for our daily needs. The next sentence is, “… and forgive us our debts.” I do know that I have been less than perfect through this process, and I need to ask forgiveness first to God, and then to students, faculty, and the board for grace that I have withheld during this difficult situation.

“… and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” 

Generally, I desire my debts to be forgiven, but the second half of that sentence is much more difficult. I have a hard time forgiving others. Perhaps things were not handled in the best way possible in recent weeks. But Providence finds itself in a delicate situation, one which I know I would have struggled to handle in an appropriate manner. Perhaps we need to forgive and show more grace.

There is one thing I know for certain about the future. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Despite what happens, God will ultimately be glorified, and everything will have been (and was) for our good. What a joy that brings! What comfort! What contentment!

Has God not proved himself faithful to us in the past? Think of Joseph, becoming a ruler of Egypt. Think of Christ on the cross: “God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22). If God can provide grain in time of famine for hundreds of thousands of people and preserve Abraham’s line which would ultimately bear Christ, and secure our salvation and conquer death once for all, then God is most definitely taking care of this minute detail in the whole schema of (his)tory. No matter what happens God has a definite plan. He will use impure actions in this plan. And the greatest privilege is that we get to be a part of it. He will take care of us, because, “…he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). It’s a breathtaking reassurance that God will triumph over sinful actions, showing just how glorious he is in doing so.

So, if that means not being able to drink a beer or a glass of wine in the coming year; if that means not smoking a cigar or cigarette, I can refrain for the glory of God.

If that means an extra year of schooling, so be it. If that means moving to Georgia (worst case scenario!), fine. If that means taking extra classes (likely), okay. I’m sure God will bless you and I if we are his. He’ll bless the classes we’ll take, he’ll watch our going out and our coming in, and if he wills, he’ll provide the extra funds needed for extra years of education.Paul told the Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Phil. 4:11). The question I pose to myself is, am I willing to be content even when my money and my future plans are involved?

Remember that times of struggle produce perseverance of faith.

Throughout this hectic time, full of rumors, gossip, and perhaps slander, it is a very wise thing, I think, to heed the words of Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 which says, "Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others." Good words, especially for the administration in this time of upheaval. Please don't take to heart all the things that people say.

Something I’ve forgotten over the past weeks in conversations about the acquisition is what my only comfort in life and in death is (Heidelbrug Catechism A. 1):

That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

J. Gresham Machen, the day before his seemingly untimely death said to a friend, “Isn’t the Reformed Faith grand?” This comfort we have in Christ Jesus is just one aspect of our glorious Reformed (biblical) Faith. I’ve been so blessed to be at a confessionally Reformed college which teaches this, and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned here for the world. I know that God will use this time of change magnificently for his kingdom.