I have been thinking a lot lately about why I read the books I do and why I working on an International Studies masters degree at Fuller. In a lot of ways, the things I do don’t make sense; shoot, some of you reading this blog have even expressed confusion as to why I read the book that I do and why I pour myself out studying theology, missions and history. If you’re struggling with your studies, do you know there is probably a custom research paper for sale on your subject?
Well, I guess it all goes back to the summer 2001.
I spend that summer with my new bride volunteering with Latin America Missions in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We lived with a local family for two and a half months while helping a local Christian organization love on their neighbors through microfinance loans, computer training and youth Bible studies. It was a fantastic summer that fueled my love for international missions. Studying is so much fun and I enjoy every second of it, I would like to study in canada next, possible in the Northern part of Canada, it is supposed to be such a beautiful place and will be the perfect location to further carry on education…
One day that summer I remember sitting in our bedroom at our host home talking to the Lord when He told me something close to the following (I don’t recall the exact words):
You can’t give what you don’t have.
At that moment it hit me – if I wanted to change the world for God; if I wanted to help people – I would have to have some kind of skills, training or knowledge to give away. While I was going to college for a business degree, there was something about that day that sparked an interest in studying theology. I don’t really know why that thought came across my mind that evening as “theology” was a cuss word to me at that time. Shoot, growing up we always joked that seminaries where cemeteries!
Yet weeks later when I returned home to Texas, the thought of going to seminary after graduating from LeTourneau (my undergrad alma mater) kept returning. Following the prompting of the Spirit and with my wife’s encouragement, I started looking at various Bible school – searching for a masters program that a) didn’t require Greek and Hebrew classes, b) wasn’t connected to one particular church denomination or group (I didn’t want to learn the ‘party’ line – I wanted to learn from professors of all kinds of backgrounds) and c) allowed for and taught the power of the Holy Spirit (a requirement that really limited the playing field!).
However, God had other plans.
Upon graduating college in Dec 2002, God moved me to Idaho where I fell into a group of radical believers called the Vineyard. These guys weren’t just talking about God – they were feeding the poor, the homeless; giving out food to low income families; hosting a free medical clinic; and actively involved with several international church planting partnership. It was like coming home for the first time.
Still, I struggled with God’s call. How could I gain the skills necessary to teach others about Him? Why was I living in Idaho? It didn’t make sense to me….
Looking back seven years later, it all makes perfect sense. I believe that He purposely kept me out of seminary for those years because He knew that if I went I would blend in too much. I had to have my heart broken completely for the poor and downtrodden, those without voices on the edge of society. I had to learn the value of the local body of believers actively engaged with their community versus simply preaching the ‘gospel’ and allowing parachurch organizations to ‘do’ the mercy ministries.
I needed to learn WHILE doing.
And it has been a hard. Years of volunteering with the church while working full time – all the while reading and studying and pursing God. Many, many, many times I wish I could stop the train and run away to graduate school. I dream that life there would be easier as I wouldn’t have to deal with people. I could just study history, missions, theology and international development without having to ‘do’ anything. I could also meet and talk to people who enjoy the same weird books and concepts…
But no. That is not the way God wanted it. Nor is it the way that I want it. Not now. I have learned too much – seen too much. I must continue to learn and study while living out the message of hope, grace and reconciliation.
So why do I study? Why do I pour over strange books and take online classes at Fuller Theological Seminary when I could use the time/money elsewhere?
I do it because of the fire in my bones.
I do it because I want to change the world.
I do it because I want to be able to give away all that I have learned
I do it because I want to endure and make a long lasting impact on lives.
I do it because I am in it for the long haul; not a one, two or four year assignment. This is a life long assignment.
To give. To love. To teach. To show. To demonstrate.
I study because following Jesus is neither easy nor simple. It is hard.
Ah…but He is there in the midst. A wild goose flying to and fro with the wind, beckoning me to follow.
This is why I study.