“God Doesn’t Need You” and why I don’t believe it.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:13-27

I’ve heard it is many times, as I’ve lamented our not returning to Newark, NJ to work among the inner city poor there.

God doesn’t NEED you.

And I know another person that heard words similar-

Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.

That young man, he and I, we don’t believe it.

Not for a minute.

William Carey, who has become known as the Father of Modern Missions, was told to to shut up and sit down.

I’m so glad he didn’t.

And, frankly, I can’t either.

Not with knowing what I know, and seeing what I’ve seen, and knowing that these inner city poor are less than a 15 minute drive from most of us.

Saying that God doesn’t need me, is like saying God doesn’t need the sun to sustain life on the earth.

Granted. He could have designed things differently, so that He didn’t need the sun to sustain life.

BUT HE DIDN’T. IT IS HIS CHOSEN MEANS OF GIVING LIGHT TO THE EARTH.

And as a now-child of the King, and part of the Body of Christ, I have received the mandate to be the light, and to let my light shine before all men, that they may see my good deeds and glorify my Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

And if I’m not doing anything different than my neighbor-being kind to those who are easy to be kind to, or befriending those who don’t make me feel too uncomfortable, or welcoming people into my home and my life people who have just as many resources as I do, or not going too far out of my comfort zone, then I’ve got no good deeds to even awaken someone’s attention-much less lead them to glorify my Father in heaven.

God made my hands and feet to be a visible display of HIS hands and feet in the trenches of dirt and heartache, and suffering and need. It’s how He’s chosen to do it, to include us in His Glorious Rescue Mission.

God doesn’t need me.

But He does.

Because I am a part of that beautiful Body of Christ, in which all of the fullness of Christ dwells.

And if I’m not GOING to the margins, to seek and save the lost, if I am not GOING to those who have yet to hear the good news of Jesus’ love, then I’m not obeying the Head. I am a disfunctional part of the Body.

A Body which is His CHOSEN means for making His glory known, CHOSEN to be the vessel through which His redemption plan unfolds, CHOSEN to be the mouthpiece to testify to the truth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, CHOSEN to be the hands and feet and heart that actually suffers, and strives, and labors to make visible a (now) invisible Savior who suffered and strove and labored to win His rebellious people back to the Father.

God doesn’t need me.

you say,

Oh, but He does.

And He needs you too.

Ann Voskamp communicates these thoughts beautifully here

Going to the Hard Place

Living and working in the inner city undid me. Being sent to the hard places taught me the Gospel. It undid my self-righteous, just-spiritualize-everything mentality. It taught me that being a Christian, a “little Christ” was so much more than memorizing verses and meeting people in comfortable coffee shops to discuss the Scriptures. Being a Christian is far more gut wrenching, but also more glorious than showing up to all the church’s different events to socialize with all these people that were exactly. like. me.

It taught me that those verses about the poor weren’t simply about being “poor in spirit” or seeing myself as “poor in God’s sight”. It ACTUALLY MEANT POOR PEOPLE. People who would ask for help, and never be able to return the favor. People we would invite in for dinner, and we would never get invited back over. People who were so different from me, but needed friendship, so hanging out with them didn’t “fill my emotional tank’.  Most often it meant smelling the strong smells of unlaundered clothing, giving time and energy when I didn’t really feel like it, and making myself available, on God’s time table, NOT MINE.

I learned that being a Christian, a “little Christ” meant having hands that got dirty. Noses that smelled the stenches. Ears that heard the heart-wrenching trevails of pain, betrayal and baggage that sends one’s mind whirring. Mouths that speak truth, and pray over situations far too desperate than anything I could help in my own strength. Arms that actually hold the neglected child. Minds that actually work to solve problems of how to keep that teen from being locked up, or how to get the power company to turn the heat back on, or the landlord to wait just a little longer while we gathered the rest of the rent needed for that family of eight. It meant showing up with every component of my humanity to make myself available to spend myself on the poor. And all this is impossible without a heart transplant in the hard, hard place, of my own heart.

After living in a hard place, “the poor” was no longer a statistic for me. They had names, and faces, and stories. They went from being a “project” to being my neighbors, my familiar faces, my friends-BEST friends, and even family…my “adopted” sons and daughters, aunts and uncles for my kids, mothers to me who, in all their brokenness and perseverance became my heroes. And in those years of pressing through the hard places to the point of falling in love with the place, the people, the life there, some resolves were formed in my heart.

1. I will never live in the suburbs again.

How could I? Knowing what I know of the pain and suffering of these neighborhoods full of broken families and disfunction, that just need some neighbors who could be a beacon of light and an example to them. How could I ever live apart from having the need and brokenness on my doorstep? How could I live in a comfy place, with manicured lawns, and stable people (and yes, I know that there is brokenness everywhere, but there are common graces that suburban life GREATLY takes for granted). How could I go back to that way of life when Julissa needs a real home to stop by at after school, and Jaquil could use a hot meal tonight for dinner, and Vernard and TiTi need an example of what marriage looks like. How could I live apart from the freshness, the raw truth of the poverty that most of the world lives in. I need it in my face to keep my heart in check from spending on myself and my own comforts. I didn’t want to join the ranks of those who live inoculated from physical need, because it was that very physical need that helped bring a spiritualized Christianity into the nitty gritty of real life for me.

2. I will never be part of a “bells and whistles” church.

I know what its like to show up on Sunday to set up band practice and have to put pots and pans around the sanctuary to catch the rain through the leaking roof. I know what its like to be so desperate for Sunday School teachers because kids without parents are showing up and need to be taught the Word of God. I know what its like to be desperate for more hands to hold little ones so struggling single moms could be freed up to actually sit in the service and gain nuggets of truth and encouragement to give them strength to struggle through another week. I know what its like to have desperate needs to minister to but just not enough bodies to make the Body do what Christ intended it to do. And because of all that, I couldn’t tolerate spending extra money on fog machines or special lighting or serving Starbucks coffee after worship…could someone please come down here and help us serve a hot meal to these kids after worship? It’ll be the only cooked meal they get this weekend. Or could some of the money that you use on your “wow” affects during worship, be used to patch our roof so we’re not sitting amongst all these pots and pans? Or could someone be willing to forego the comfy feeling of a social event on Sundays so that these kids that have no stable parents, much less mentors, have a decent Sunday School teacher? No, where-ever God would send us, we would always seek to yield any gifts we might have to help a small, struggling church, because we know what it is like to be one.

3. I will never go to the Bible belt.

There is a VAST need for Bible believing church in the inner cities, in northeastern U.S,  in most countries all over the world, not to mention the absolutely unreached peoples of the 10/40 window. No, may my energies never be used to “reach” people who live amongst churches on every street corner, when people in my neighborhood, and people around the world, don’t have that luxury, or have NEVER EVEN HEARD the Name of Jesus. Everyone gets “called” to the southeast where there is already such a culture geared towards Christianity. I don’t want to help “carry the telephone pole and help the side which already has ten people on one side, while just one person carries the other all by himself”. No, having seen the need of just one inner city setting, I vowed in my heart that I would only go where the needs were the greatest and Christ is proclaimed the least.

Well, God laughs at our inner vows, evidently. And He sees bigger sights than we see. And He sees the hard places of our hearts, and sends us to the hard places that will break that hardness.

And just how the hard inner city setting softened parts of my heart, it hardened others, to the point that there is more breaking that needs to be done.  So, come June, guess where God is calling us?

1. a wealthy area

2. to be involved in a HUGE church (nothing against this church…it is doing awesome things and they love Jesus, its just so…well…different)

3. in Atlanta, GA-smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt

WHAT is going on?!? This is not the hard place I was preparing for!

And my prideful heart, thinks God needs some help running His Kingdom.

I think the Lord of the Harvest needs some help directing the harvest workers.

Well, this whole ordeal is God’s gracious way of putting me in my place.

The hardest place I could have ever been sent to.

So, when Danny, came back from his prayer and fasting, seeking God’s face for our next step, and “Atlanta, GA” was his answer

All we could do was kneel by our bed, and poured out our hearts to our Guide

and cry,

and pray,

“Lord, this is the hardest death I’ve had to face. Aren’t all those passions and desires for the poor something YOU put there? Isn’t that what your Word speaks of? Isn’t going to the hard places something you command? I didn’t conjure this up on my own! And I don’t understand, but I trust You. Please take this grain of wheat, falling to the ground and dying, and produce many seeds from it (John 12:24) Its all I’ve got to offer. And I want my life to count. To count in the lives of those kids and families. To count in the lives of people who have never heard your name. And because I’m yours, I will go to the hard place.  My hardest place.”

Explanatory Note:

**Danny has been chosen to participate in Perimeter’s Church-Planting Residency program. He will be working for and be trained by Perimeter for the first two years and then we will move into an inner city setting in Atlanta to launch a church (finally!) amongst the types of people I feel so strongly to reach. After that (5-7 years total) MAYBE the Lord will permit us to move back to the city that has so strongly has gripped my heart.

A Battle Lost, but the War not Over

I do not begin to know what the Lord is doing in all of this, but I do know that God never breaks His promises. We join the ranks of those who waited in expectation for the redemption God would bring about. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses..and the rest that believed in what was to come, but did not see it in the present…

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth………These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:13, 39

I long to see the streets of Newark ring forth with praises to the Creator and Savior. I long to see broken hearts restored by the One whose heart broke for the purpose of ushering in that restoration. I long to see fatherless children know the love and faithfulness of the Heavenly Father. I long to see broken, ugly, marred things be made beautiful. There are many longings lefts unfulfilled as this chapter closes, and, although it seems that this battle has been lost, the war is not over…..

Danny’s letter to supporters announcing the closing of Safe Haven, the ministry we started to reach out to children, teens, and families in the inner city of Newark, NJ

Dear Faithful Supporter,

Eleven years ago God gave me a vision for a community… a community plagued by crime, gangs, addictions, prostitution, and filled with thousands of kids being exposed to the hideousness of such evil and raised in the midst of it. My heart broke, and I saw the need for the Gospel to be proclaimed in word and deed in the lives of those precious kids and in the lives of all those living there. Out of that vision Safe Haven was birthed. I never imagined what God would do, and I am still hopeful for what He still will do as the gospel seeds which were planted in those lives begin to bear fruit.

You are receiving his letter because you have been a part of that vision, part of the transformation that God did in thousands of lives through the work of Safe Haven and Trinity Reformed Church. Somehow and in some way, God has included you in his restoration project in Newark, and I am so thankful that we had the privilege to labor together to bring God glory and see our own lives, as well as the lives others, changed. Some of you came and served here, selflessly pouring yourselves into the lives of others, and in turn receiving more from the relationships you developed in that community than you ever imagined. You met Jesus here in a special way and will never forget the things He taught you, the way He comforted you, and the way He used you. Some of you chose to give, and you abundantly and selflessly shared your resources with the poor and marginalized here. As God’s love flowed through your generous hearts, you felt His presence and you rejoiced all the more in the great gifts He has given you and your ability to share with others. You were blessed as you gave. Some of you faithfully prayed, committing this ministry to the Lord and trusting Him to accomplish His good work as His gospel went forth with power and love. You wept for this city with us, and you rejoiced as God answered your prayers and did mighty things to display His power and bring people to Himself. It has been an adventure and I am so thankful for what God has accomplished, and thankful for each of you and your part in this story.

Sadly, it seems that Safe Haven’s small chapter in God’s larger redemption story is coming to an end. The Reformed Church of America, under which Safe Haven operates, has rightly determined it is time for us to close down this ministry. It has been really hard to write this letter, because it is hard to watch an organization into which I poured my life have to close its doors to the community. My heart grieved as I watched from a distance as Safe Haven’s leadership and vision fell apart this last year. I have felt powerless, called away to seminary on a new mission from God, to study and grow and prepare for church planting in the future. There was nothing I could do but pray for God’s will to be done in Newark according to His plan and not mine. “Why God?” is all that comes to my mind as I observed the struggle and witnessed the ministry I love fall apart. I don’t know why He would allow this to happen when there is still such need in that community. I haven’t received an answer yet and am not sure if I will.

Yet in the midst of the sorrow, there is hope… Not a hope in humanity, and our ability or capacity to build organizations and change or fix the broken things in our lives or in our cities, but in God, and in His ability to redeem and make things right according to His plan. He was in Newark before I was. He had His eyes on those kids before I did, and His heart breaks for that community more than mine ever will. Unlike the projects, programs, organizations or institutions we might begin, maintain and grow (and watch die), His Kingdom will have no end and the gates of hell will not prevail over Christ’s work and the invisible pure Church which our Savior leads. Yes, the things we begin do seem to break apart, usually because of our sin, our human pride and our own insecurities, but despite that, God’s redemption plan moves forward, and He accomplishes His will. What might have been intended for evil, He somehow turns around for good, and if there is anything to learn from redemptive history it is just that.

I am not about to point fingers at anyone for Safe Haven’s demise, and I encourage you not to either. I know my own failures as a leader must have played a part on the organizational level, and for that I am sad, but through that I hope to grow, and I hope to see God use me once again for His glory and Kingdom and for the healing of others. This has been a good chance for me to hitch in all the more to the promises of God and find my righteousness and significance in what Christ has done for me instead of what I may or may not do for Him. I pray that for you as well, dear partners in this ministry. Rejoice in what God has done, rejoice in Jesus and His Lordship, rejoice in His faithfulness despite our unfaithfulness, and respond to that as you live your life according to His Word. Continue to faithfully go, give and pray for ministries of mercy and justice, and do not lose heart in the battle for our inner cities, for the poor and marginalized of society, for the least of these who are often overlooked and underserved by the Church. Maybe God is clearing Safe Haven out of the way for something even more amazing to happen in that community? I don’t know – but I do know that our God is good, and that He is in control. I do know that He has commanded us to serve and love each other, to be faithful in showing up and leaving the results to Him. I do know that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He is close and present with us as we step out in faith and obey His Word by the power of His Spirit which He has given to us. That’s where I am finding strength as I grieve and walk through this valley of confusion; as I pray for that community and those precious people made in God’s image and in need of His grace and truth, and as I dream and hope in what God might do in the future.

I encourage you dear friends, to continue in faith, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to “spend yourselves” on behalf of the hungry and watch God bless you as you bless others. May the joy and grace of our Savior, who spent Himself for us, continually supply you with all strength, wisdom and power as you live for Him and for others.

For the King and the Kingdom,

Danny Iverson

Founder

never, ever, EVER Plan Your Life

I am stunned.

I am shell shocked.

How did this happen?

Every good thing I thought I was going to give my life towards.

Every person in that city that my heart breaks for.

All the struggle we pushed through in order to keep loving in that place.

The very purpose for which we uprooted, moved 8 states away, and endured hours of study and preparation.

ALL

GONE.

or seemingly so.

Anyone who knows us, knows our heart beats for the poor, the broken, the marginalized. Especially for those in the city of Newark, NJ, which contains such a high concentration, a vast majority of such people. with so few resources. so few fathers. so few stable families. SO FEW GOSPEL PREACHING, GOSPEL-PROPELLED CHURCHES.

I have merely tolerated the suburbs. these past two and a half years.

while my heart has broken over the dwindling, struggling, and eventually dying ministry we left behind.

So eager to return. To jump back into the lives of those people we left behind.

AND NOW WE ARE NOT.

never, ever, EVER plan your life.

The Lord will change it all up.

I wrestle hard with the why?
Why wouldn’t You let us go forth to obey the commands to spend ourselves on the hungry?
Why wouldn’t You let us go to a people I am passionate about serving and loving?
Why wouldn’t You let us go to a place with such need and so few laborers?
Why do those street kids that I’ve come to love so much not get the chance to hear and see the love of Christ (at least not yet)?
I Do Not Know

But I do know the promises if Isaiah 45:9-12
9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’
11 “This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come,
do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
12 It is I who made the earth
and created mankind on it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts.
13 I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness:
I will make all his ways straight.
He will rebuild my city
and set my exiles free,
but not for a price or reward,
says the Lord Almighty.”

So, as I wrestle, and mourn, and grieve…
I cling with all my heart to the fact that

HE IS LORD,

And He has said, “come follow ME”.

not the ministry,

not the people,

not the need.

follow ME.

(more to come in these posts. at this point, I am only emotionally capable of processing one piece of this at a time. Jesus, be my Good Shepherd that walks with me through this valley of the shadow of death… of my dreams and expectations)