Coincidences or Divine?

I have been a believer since I was a child. My father is a Presbyterian pastor and I am currently working on an MDIV (Masters in Divinity) and an MA In Recovery Ministry. I’m at seminary and most seminarians become pastors.

If you have faith, can you believe in coincidences or is everything Divine intervention? If you think that God is sovereign (reigns over all, all knowing) then can anything just be a coincidence? Or is everything pre-ordained (already planned)? Does prayer change things? Is healing possible?

I believe that God is sovereign that things are pre-ordained and that God can change things, that prayer does make a difference.

I am currently in my internship at Hrock Church in Pasadena, CA and in my internship my supervisor encouraged me to tithe (give 10% of your income to the church). At Hrock they believe that what you give will be given back to you (it is biblical). They actually have this mantra that they say every time they take an offering. I can’t remember all of it but it’s something to the effect of “checks in the mail, jobs, better jobs etc.”

I haven’t given a tithe in the past because every single cent is precious. I’m poor. I live below the poverty line in a city that is excessive and even groceries are expensive. I count every penny. I spend most of my month being terrified to spend any of it. I feel guilty for buying groceries even though I need to eat.

Some of this dire-ness is my fault and I take full responsibility. When I started at Fuller, living in their housing, you could put your rent on a credit card. I had two major credit cards and put as much on there as possible. Until they wouldn’t give me any more credit. It was astronomical. Just think about rent for 2 years on your credit card and you will see what I mean. It was insane. So I went into debt. They sent me to collectors and thanks to my parents I am only in debt to one of them still and it will be paid off in the next 5 months. (Yay!) And I will never have another credit card in my life. It is just not a good idea. I have other friends who are in the same boat as me and we discuss how crazy our debt is from credit cards and then we add on the debt of our schooling. It’s sad. I hate thinking about money. But then I remember that if you work for a non-profit for 10 years your school debt is absolved and some non-profits will even pay off some of your debt within those 10 years (it was already my plan to work for a non-profit so this just sweetens the deal).

So that is my situation and has been for the last 5 years. Even before the credit cards went to collectors I was having difficulty and counting every single penny I spent. I think it went back to college when my parents paid my rent and schooling and I had to take care of the rest. I worked a few weird jobs and always seemed to make it work but it was a lot cheaper back then. Rent was $300 instead of  $890 or the $615 I pay now. It wasn’t that long ago, its just that I lived in a really small town in Kansas to go to my undergrad. Things were way cheaper there!

So that is why I haven’t been giving a tithe. I have been terrified to give a tithe. Afraid that even one penny would put me on the street. It was absolutely scary.

But my internship supervisor encouraged me to give it a try. And since she put the idea in my head I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I was thinking about the story about the woman in the Bible who gives 10% and even though it is a small amount her gift is deemed precious, even more precious than anyone else’s gift.

The Widow’s Offering Luke 21:1-4 NRSV (the translation)

“He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Every time they passed the offering around at church I felt convicted to give. So a few weeks ago I did. I had just received a check for $50.00 from work and I decided that I was going to give. So I wrote a check for $5.50 and put it in the offering. The actual act of putting it into the offering wasn’t so bad. I thought I might have an anxiety attack doing so but nope. I just put it in and said to God silently, “God this is for you. Sorry if I have been holding things back from you.”

Things were actually pretty bad. I mean at the beginning of this month I knew I could pay my rent but I might have to decide not to pay my cell phone bill or something like that. And until yesterday I was thinking I was going to have to ask my parents to help me pay my rent next month. They always do it but I always feel super guilty (they don’t put that on me, I put it on myself).

So after I put the tithe in the offering I asked God to help me to not feel freaked out about it. Every time I started to worry about it I asked God to help me.

After I put the $5.50 in the bucket things did change. Not all at once and not miraculously (at least not the miracles you hear about) but things did change. I got my cable bill and they owed me money. My cell phone company gave me a few days grace to make my payment and I got my latest check from work early. It wasn’t much but it was something.

Then yesterday I got absolute freedom, an absolute gift. But I’m skipping ahead in my story. Let me back up just a little bit because God did more for me than just the money solution.

In the days after giving my tithe I felt this pull on my heart strings to start a website and get business cards. I was at a conference at my church and talking to some out-of-towners about my ministry and they kept asking me for a business card. It was after this that I decided to get a business card. They arrived just yesterday and there is a small typo on them but one I can easily fix or point out. I also started a website. It is just in its beginning stages but if you want to take a look it is:

I also started sending out resumes and cover letters. By putting that tithe in I was trusting God to do a work in me and he did. At this same time I changed my diet and started to feel better. Eating salads actually gave me more energy than eating a protein bar or even a sandwich.

God was already doing so much for me and all I was doing was trusting him.  Then my friend Maria gave me a word on Sunday.

2 Corinthians 9:8-11

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us.”

Tuesday, Valentines Day is when I got the big gift. Usually my church sends me a scholarship of $1500 twice a year but since I was graduating this year I was not expecting to receive anything this Winter. But yesterday I did receive. I got the scholarship. When I opened it up I immediately started praising God.

I looked up and said, “Thank you! I trusted you and you have provided. I was responsible and you have taken care of me!” I was so excited. I kept saying thank you and all the money worries just sort of melted away. I immediately thought of my tithe for Sunday and how excited I would be to give 10% to God because he gave to me.

I don’t think it was a coincidence. I think it was a Divine gift. Sure the church made the decision to give the money to me but I’m certain that that decision wasn’t made without God’s purpose and without God’s provision.

God has provided and I cannot ignore it!

I am grateful! I am thankful! I don’t have to worry about next month’s rent. I can continue to pay my bills and I have another month to search for a job! God is good! I am grateful for this provision and I will continue to give a tithe in the future!

There are no coincidences when the loving God is in charge.

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