We Must Be a Broken People

Lighthousefellowship (1).jpg

Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the

 

“perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and

 

discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

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.

 

 

Where Am I Called?

The question of calling is something i wrestle with on a daily basis. Though I’m still quite young, I find myself stressing over where and what God is calling me to. For instance, am I called to where I am now, or am I called to somewhere else?  Or should I ditch that line of thinking entirely and just do something, hoping something will come out of it? Either way, this deep uncertainty is something that’s been heavy upon my soul.roadway-1081736.jpg

The first two things I know God has for us is to pay off debt and serve our Church (the latter will be a never-ending calling according to scripture!). What happens after gets a little foggier. For instance I’m considering doing online schooling for ministry training, but my only reservation is I don’t know in what capacity of ministry I would be best to serve in. All I know is I want to faithfully serve a local Church until the day I die, whether vocationally or layperson.

Along with uncertainties about my lifelong vocation, I’m uncertain about where that will be fleshed out. Will it be where I am now? Somewhere else? I do feel a certain pull towards somewhere in this moment, but discerning whether it’s the “right” way is the difficult part.

Amidst uncertainties, my greatest comfort is God’s perfect sovereignty. He does have me right where I am for a reason, I may never know that reason, but according to Romans 8, there is one. Whether I make the “right” or “wrong” decision, God will be working in it for my good and His Glory.

 

Reading Scripture Feels Like Life

I wish i could say I’m always exceedingly excited each morning to read my Bible. But I’m not. I’m excited that God will somehow use it, but sometimes I don’t see God’s purpose behind it. Reading the Bible doesn’t always feel as clear and personal as it should.

When David didn’t understand what he was going through, He literally had to tell himself to hope in God. Trust in God. Rely on God. He didn’t see God in his suffering in Psalm 43:5 and in turn lost his hope. He had to cry out to his own soul to hope in God, for he would praise him again. But in that moment, he felt distant and without hope. bible-1021657_1920.jpgHe didn’t see what God was doing.

In the same way there are seasons in each of our lives where we may be reading through a book that we particularly resonate with, for me it’s Romans. Many other times we may be reading elsewhere and it becomes more difficult (though not impossible) to see God’s purpose and how it relates to ourselves as a believers. In my chronological trek through scripture I just read near the end of Genesis 19 where some pretty terrible things occurred. How can God have a purpose through such terrible things?

As i reflected on this it made me think of our lives as a whole.
There are ups and downs, mountains and valleys, times where we have a clear purpose and times where we feel that we’re getting nowhere. It’s a lot like our daily time with God. We’re building a relationship.

Relationships require work, and for example as a husband, I do genuinely want to love and cherish my wife. But many times it doesn’t come easily, so I have to remind myself of my commitment and devotion and pray for guidance and a
new-found desire to serve her.

In the same way when we spend time with God in his word we have to remind ourselves during those valley moments that God is at work in even the most obscure and seemingly unclear passages. We need to be praying that the Holy Spirit ignite a desire for His word even through those more boring or difficult moments.

Sometimes it’s a self-inflicted season of discouragement. We may be giving in to a particular sin and the Holy Spirit is grieved and as such we don’t get as much clarity and depth as we usually do in our devotions. I’ve personally seen this manifested in many ways.

2nd Timothy 3:16 reminds us that all scripture is God-breathed. Literally directly from God. All of it is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. God has a purpose for every word in scripture. So when we read something that doesn’t seem very meaningful, we must remind ourselves that God is at work in this text. So take heart, If God can work through an unclear verse, He can work in your life’s seemingly “meaningless” moments too!

 

Choosing a Christian Healthcare Provider (Cost Comparison)

One of the things that I wrote about recently was the stress of things that pop medical-563427_1920.jpgup in life (and my lack of trust in God to show for it!). That event was termination of my health insurance.

I’ve been looking into alternatives because I found that federal programs are way too expensive (for us) and I don’t put a ton of stock in a 74 year-old promising that my free health care will grow on (someone else’s) trees.

Because i was on my parents plan, and both of us moved away to different states, I can’t be enrolled in their insurance based on state law and the like (i used to be covered until I was 26). My wife, on the other hand is still covered under her parents. So that’s a huge praise!

Anyhow I’m going to be breaking down my top three picks for christian solutions to high health-care costs. The three ministries are:

1: Christian Healthcare Ministries logo.png

 

The first option, CHM, has three different “levels” of sharing which are priced for one person or unit as follows (as of February 2016):

  • Bronze
    -$45/month
    -$5000 personal responsibility
    -$125,000 per illness
  • Silver
    -$85/month
    -$1000 personal responsibility
    -$125,000 per illness
  • Gold
    -$150/month
    -$500 personal responsibility
    -$125,000 per illness

The gold plan sticks out to me the most due to it’s $500 responsibility. For example (if i understand it correctly) if have to go to the ER for a broken arm, and it runs me $2000, I would receive the bill, send it to CHM, and they would in turn send me a check $2000 minus my $500 deductible. I would then deposit the $1500 check into my bank and pay the full $2000 to the hospital.

After that $500/year has been used, if i theoretically break the other arm (hopefully i’m not that dumb!) then the full $2000 would be covered by CHM because i already paid my responsibility.

The only downside is that anything under $500 (a doctors visit, etc.) I have to pay for out of pocket no matter how much of my personal responsibility has been met if it’s under $500.

Also, there’s not a joining fee or annual fee, so that’s a plus!

2: Samaritan MinistriesSMi_Corp_ID_PMS2613 rgb.jpg

The first thing i noticed with Samaritan is the $200 fee for joining. Health care is certainly worth far more, but it is definitely a small commitment.

The prices are fixed based on family size, so one-person is $180/month. In my case because I’m under 25, i would get a discount for a total of $140/month. This would save me $10/month against CHM.

What’s great about Samaritan is that they have set sharing amounts. No deductibles. The only way you pay from your pocket is if the medical need is under $300. Anything over that amount is published monthly to certain members so they can send their share amounts (in my case, $140) to a certain person directly.

Family rates are less expensive also, a good incentive to stay with them in the future. Also, Maternity is fully covered as long as my wife enrolls before she’s pregnant.

3: Medi-Sharenational_businessLogo_mediShare_0614-1.png

Speaking of maternity, Medi-Share only covers maternity with  deductible of $1250 or higher at a rate of $144/month.

Basically this health care service is similar to CHM, just significantly more expensive for family, so this is definitely not my choice. Plus the fact that maternity is a significantly more expensive deductible deters me a little in contrast to the other options.


I’m currently torn between Samaritan and CHM, but leaning more towards Samaritan at the moment.

I’ll be prayerfully considering a health-care choice in the next few days so be praying with us as we make this important decision.

Hardships Have Purpose

I so often find myself overthinking rather than praying. I think that I trust God, but then some circumstance pops up and I instantly run to my own reason, my own wisdom, my own self.

Dependence on God is something that doesn’t come easily. I tend to think of myself as the fichtelberg-1048982_1920.jpgdo it yourself, entrepreneur type person. And though I do do those things somewhat well, I sometimes forgot who’s really on the throne.

Instead of opening scripture to see Christ, I think too much. Instead of marinating in what God has already said, I dwell on my fallen intellect.

As I was pondering one circumstance in my life on my drive home from work today I was listening to “Just be Held” by Casting Crowns. The lyric that always hits me is “your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place”.

Really? This is actually part of a plan?

But it’s the truth, God created the universe with a purpose. He doesn’t throw things at me without a purpose. Life’s hardships aren’t senseless, meaningless, or unknown to God. He knows, and He will love you through it for His glory and our good.

That’s hard for me to hold on to sometimes. But it’s true.

He doesn’t promise to make things “feel” good, but He does promise that everything will work out for good. And that’s all we can hold on to sometimes.