New Ideas, Friends, and Potatos

As the weekend begins I reflect back on this week. It’s been a roller coaster for me. From wrestling with sin, to enjoying God, it’s been very up and down. On top of that I told my boss I’m planning on starting my own landscaping business (more of that in later posts).

So a lot has been resolved in my heart, a lot is being worked on in my heart as well.

This week has consisted of a sweet time of worship on Thursday night with friends from our church. Singing and sharing how God’s working. We discussed missions, God’s work in our own church, and heartbreaking loss for one of the families. But this is what the church is for!

Then Friday was work as usual, until i told my boss about the business idea, to which he was surprisingly supportive. It was nerve-wracking, but it took a weight off my shoulders telling him. I’m really glad that I’m finally going out on my own. I think God’s built my heart for entrepreneurship, so it feels like I’m finally moving in the right direction.fire-227291_1920.jpg

My wife, Rachel left Friday for her women’s retreat, so I’m all alone for a couple of days, though she’ll be back late tonight (Saturday).

Later that yesterday (friday) evening i finally forced myself to go biking, something i really want to start doing on a regular basis. During that ride I received a text from some friends (one of whom’s wife was on the retreat as well) inviting me for dinner. I drove over and we had a great time playing three guitars on the porch, trying to figure out what sounded good. After dinner and ice cream, we spent about 40 minutes attempting to get a fire going in the backyard pit, which we eventually succeeded at.

I’m not particularly looking forward to tonight. I close on saturday nights, so I’m always tired Sunday morning and it’s just a hard shift to lead anyhow. But i’m looking forward to sunday morning! After church we’re doing a potato bar raising funds for our teens for student life camp this summer. It should be a good time!

Monday will be a day of working on my business idea. Brainstorming with other small business owners, and starting to get a tangible idea of how and when to start.

Until then, I’m a bit lonely without my wife. But God is with me and He’s reminding me today of His Grace and love for me despite me! So I’m trying to rest in that and not be anxious with the idea of new, scary things.

I know this post has been much more random than usual, but it’s what I’m thinking about this morning.

 

Emotionally Fat but Spiritually Famished

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were driving home from Church. We pulled into our driveway, stepped out in our nicer clothes, guitar in-hand, and proceeded to walk up the driveway.

For some context, there’s a church across the street from us, so there are usually cars parked beside the road sunday morning.

Anyways, an older lady was walking back to her vehicle and she noticed us.
Seeing our clothes and guitar she deduced we had come from church. She asked us if we had, and we said that we just came back. Her reply at that point was something that’s stuck in my heart for weeks now, not so much for her motives (which i’m sure were pure), but rather for the deeper significance behind it.

What were her words you ask? Just two – “Good job!”

Why is this significant? Because, as a Christian, going to church isn’t a “good job”. Church was never meant to be something that you do once a week, you get a pat on the back, and then you live your week like the rest of the world (Colossians 3). Stepping foot in a building doesn’t automatically make you a Christian, or even a “good” christian, if there ever was one (Romans 3).

The real question is “what is a Christian”?

-The American churchis emotionally fatbut spiritually famished-.jpgThis american “christianity” has shaped us into a lifestyle of comfort, materialism, and godlessness under the guise of “i-go-to-church-a-few-times-a-month-so-im-a-christian” mentality. This is not Christianity. The buttery-smooth speakers who entice the flesh with little regard for Christ and him crucified. Never mentioning death to self, never mentioning that you could die for being a christian, only plopping you down in a seat and allowing you to consume until you’re emotionally fat and spiritually famished.

And before i’m misunderstood, attending church is VERY important in the Christian life. Or, i should rephrase, meeting at a church house and having fellowship with THE Church is essential to the christian life (Hebrews 10:24-26).

From scripture, there’s an interesting connection that i noticed while teaching the 7th and 8th graders a few weeks back. I asked a trick question, “what’s the difference between a christian, and a disciple?”.

***dead silence***

Me – “Nothing!”

If you are a Christian you will be a disciple. Matthew 28:19 equated sharing the gospel with making disciples. It’s not different. If you want to see people saved you MUST see them discipled. It’s not a “come to the front” moment, it’s a “lay down your life, give everything you have, and submit to a Christ into a life of godliness”. This doesn’t sound comfortable!

We want our cars, our houses, our boats! We want security! But Christ says to lay them at his feet. Don’t cling to them. Having a house or most anything isn’t sinful. But our hearts can so easily entice us into relying on them for our joy rather than Christ.

As one of my favorite songs says “You possess your possessions or they posses you” (Switchfoot – “If the House Burns Down Tonight”).

And I think that’s the danger of so called american Christianity. We love being comfortable, rich, and fat, more then we love Jesus. And this is an eternal error.

Sure, there’s a whole lot more to being a christian then what I’ve mentioned, but I want to make this clear – If you are a Christian, you are a disciple, and you are to die to yourself and make disciples. Don’t neglect fellowship with the saints. Don’t just go, sit down, and leave. Fellowship is building each other up, maybe encouraging, maybe rebuking.

But either way. I think the American mindset of Christianity has it all wrong.

So, as you see the myriad of people coming in tomorrow for Easter Sunday, welcome them with open, loving arms. But don’t sugar coat the gospel message. The Christian life isn’t easy, but it’s so very worth it.


Key Verses:

Matthew 28:19
Colossians 3
Hebrews 10:24-26

 

 

 

A Radical Response To the Gospel

As I was studying to teach the 7th and 8th grade lesson on Acts 19, I was struck with the Ephesian people’s response to a horrifying discovery: Their pagan magicians could not contend with the power of Jesus.

The sons of Sceva (the pagan magicians) were meddling in places they shouldn’t have been meddling. They saw all the wonders that Paul was saying and doing in Ephesus, and thought that all they needed to do was invoke the name of Jesus, and maybe they too would be able to command demons and heal the sick.

In verse 13 they try to command a demon, but what happened to them would horrify anyone who found their hope in pagan worship. The demon literally said “Jesus I know, Paul I recognize, but who are you?” and proceeded to beat them and strip them and send them running.

So now the high and mighty sons of sceva were brought low by the power of satan. And all the people finally understood – these men do NOT have the answers.

Though i’m taking some liberty, i can imagine the people were comparing the two people – Paul and the disciples vs. the sons of Sceva. The two don’t even compare! One can command demons and heal the sick in Jesus’ name, and the other? Well, they get beat to a pulp for even trying. Based on the response of the Ephesians, I can imagine they listened to what Paul was preaching and many of them believed.

The power of the gospel is greater than we realize. The transformative power in the hearts of people as a result of the gospel is apparent in this passage. They ended up burning 50,000 pieces of silver’s worth of pagan books! That’s right around $5,000,000 worth of idolatry.

That’s the equivalent to:

  • 185 Ford 2018 F-150 Trucks
  • 12,500 GoPro Hero 5 Blacks
  • or, 6,501 iPhone 7 Plus’s

As Christ said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I think the Ephesian people who believed the Gospel were beginning an act of repentance in burning this paganism out of their lives.

This echoed in the ears of the silversmiths, who crafted the idols. They would lose their livelihood, so what did they do? Well, they were going to lose their pride and money, so they rioted and chanted godless things. Sound familiar?

All this to say, a radical gospel changes people radically. You can’t have one foot in the world and one foot in holiness. You’re either being swept away in sin’s current, or your swimming against it in the Spirit’s power.

Do I have that ‘crazy’, ‘foolish’, ‘radicalized’ faith that the world looks down upon? Am i friends with the world? Or have i renounced my pagan practices (or maybe, addiction to money, entertainment, etc.) and allowed God to burn them out of my life?

The Bible makes clear that true disciples of Jesus make disciples, and look radically different from the world. Is this true of us?

My Trophies

Ever gone to that conference and got a ton of free books? Or perhaps your friends have some fantastic new titles that you really want to read. 20160430_120023.jpgI can relate to both. A couple of years ago my wife (then girlfriend) and I went to a counseling conference in Lafayette Indiana (read about here!). Of course I purchased many great books that are still sitting on my shelf collecting dust (besides one I’m currently reading).

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a slow reader, or perhaps I just don’t take the time to read each day, but I walked into my apartment and realized I’d only read about 10% of them. I had turned my Christian books into trophies, not tools. They had become pseudo status symbols of my walk with Christ, hoping people would assume that I’m an avid reader who devours great Christian authors.

God really convicted me on this and I’ve begun to be more diligent to read more. Self-discipline is something I need more of. Whether it be to stop watching Netflix and read, or take my work break to open the scriptures, I’m trying to commit to use my time in a more profitable way.

And I’m not saying owning books you don’t read is bad, I’m just saying for me, I found that I had become lazy and just bought them for a sub-conscience (now conscious) want to feel more spiritual or godly. But God’s shown me (quite obviously) that the only way they can help me grow in godliness is if I actually sit down and open the pages.

 

 

Providence In Motion

In life we look back and wonder why some things happened. Sometimes it’s a bad decision, sometimes an unsure one, and sometimes it’s something completely out of our control.

When I decided to drop out of college due to financial and personal reasons, it was hard. I knew it was the right decision, but what reason did God have for bringing us there in the first place? I had my heart set on a four-year degree in ministry. trail-984198.jpgI was looking forward to graduating and being used by God in some new ways through this education. But this isn’t how it turned out.

I still struggle with the “why” of the whole situation, but God has shown me a small glimpse of His purpose through it.

Some of said purpose was found when chatting with one of my co-workers. The traditional “where are you from” conversation ensued casually and we began building an acquaintance with each other.

Then the big question of “what brought you here” comes up and I have to explain about going to college for a semester and then dropping out and moving closer to my wife’s family. Then the response is always “what were you studying?”.

The first glimpse of purpose.

“Pastoral ministry”, I always respond. This specific gentleman was interested after I said that and our conversations went from casual pleasantries to deeper things. He explained about his checkered past and how he wants to live for the Lord but he struggles with many different things. One thing I noticed through our conversations was his trust in himself for goodness. Ephesians reminds us that we can’t earn our salvation, it’s by grace through faith in Christ alone. I’m prayerfully considering how to explain these things to him.

Providence is an interesting aspect of God, His perfect sovereignty doesn’t lead me to want to dwell on past situations, but rather to ask “What’s your purpose in this?”. So when I think about the thousands that were spent on schooling for knowledge I already knew, I try to remind myself that God is still working it out for good as Romans 8:28 tells me.

And now I see a small piece of that sovereignty through something as simple as a conversation starter. I encourage you to see the sovereign in the simple.

 

 

 

We Need Community

During the whole process of moving into a new apartment (and the moving process in general) I felt something lacking in my soul. During my one semester of college I was learning about ministry, but not actively engaging in the local church. This was part of my problem.

Sure, we were going to a church, but with school, work, and marriage, we didn’t have time like we used to. We also didn’t have a close fellowship of believers that we knew well.concert-731227_1920.jpg

Fast forward to getting out of college and moving.

Now we’ve found a local Church that we’re committed to and God has blessed us with another godly couple that we’ve been getting to know. This has been a huge blessing and encouragement in our lives!

And that has been what’s lacking: Community. It’s not enough to go to the church house and hear a message and leave. The Church (believers) are meant to encourage and hold each other accountable. Without taking that extra step of getting to know other Christians in your local Church, your walk with Christ will be greatly hindered.

And mine was hindered for many months. Busyness got the best of our lives during college and we neglected to get connected with other believers. My spiritual life has been worse off for it.

So I encourage you, get involved in your local Church. Say hello to someone, ask the pastor where you can serve, and just get plugged in! You’ll be amazed what God does in your heart through the encouraging fellowship and service with other saints in Christ.

 

 

 

Our Debt-Free Plan For 2016

This point in my and my wife’s life is anything but “normal”.

We got married at 18. We both love the Bible. I completed only one semester in college.

Many would be fine accruing tens of thousands of dollars in dollar-941246_1920.jpgstudent loans (nothing sinful about that) and then find themselves not knowing what they wanted to do for a career.

I didn’t want to do that.

So we did something that was very “un”normal. I finished out my semester, dropped out, and we moved. Now that we’ve become somewhat settled, we’ve got a game plan to pay off all of our debt. Before 2017.

The short of it is $4750 in student loans, (from one semester!) and $3000 from a very helpful family member. So a grand total of $7750 plus interest.

We decided to go with the Debt Snowball approach, meaning pay off the lowest debt first and go from their. The benefit is it creates less people to pay faster, and the satisfaction of knocking out debts one at a time. So we’ll be throwing all our money on the $3000 and doing minimum payments on the student loans.

We’ll be putting a down payment of $1000 towards the first debt. We will still have $1000 left over in savings for any emergency that might crop up at any point.

After budgeting our whole month of march with both of us working, we’ll be making $400 payments on the smaller debt, and $100 payments on the student loans. One great thing we noticed was that we may be able to put as much as $700 towards the first debt. Praise the Lord!

All of this said, if nothing major happens and things go relatively smoothly, we should be debt free by mid-November!

So here’s hoping and praying things go well and I’ll certainly give updates on our journey!