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.

 

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.

 

 

 

A Man Without Community

As each day went by this week I’ve been continuing my trek through the Bible chronologically each morning. I wake up, eat breakfast, sip on some coffee, and do my best to dig into God’s word. The typical distractions of a smartphone and news feeds attempt to divert my attention, and they do succeed some of the time. It’s helped me immensely to just leave the phone in another room. But that’s just me.

Anyhow after getting through a portion of Genesis the plan then skips over to a book called Job wherein we find a man (named Job) who had life by the horns, quite literally. He had 500 yoke of oxen after all.

Reading a chapter of Job every morning has led me to some conclusions:

  1. Job had a great life
  2. He then lost every earthly thing
  3. His community of “friends” didn’t make it any better
  4. God was still glorified in it

Job had a great life by any standard. He had a thriving farm, a wife, and some kids. tree-648788.jpgBut it didn’t stay that way. Men stole his oxen and murdered his servants and a storm felled the place where his children were. His life quickly unraveled before his eyes. His wealth, his children, and soon his health were all taken as a test to show Jobs unwavering devotion to God.

Right where I am in my reading is where his “friends” chime in to say their peace in this situation. In chapter eight, Bildad pleads with Job to repent and ask God for mercy, to which Job replies in chapter nine that he is in the right, he hasn’t sinned in this situation.

His other jovial companions, Eliphaz and Zophar mock Job’s words. And still Job clings to the truth that he is in that situation not because of his sin, but because of God’s sovereign plan.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Imagine being personally blamed for the death of your children and the loss of all your earthly possessions! I can’t imagine the deep sadness and temptation to despair. His solace was knowing that God was in control and God had a plan he was working for good. Job didn’t have Romans 8:28 as we do, but he lived it out far better than many of us ever will.

In these first chapters it’s amazing that we don’t see an account of genuine friends encouraging Job and helping him. It seems his pool of friends were a bit shallow.

This makes me immensely thankful for the community of believers called the Church. As Gods people we are called to help those in need, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Job didn’t have that. He was scraping his skin with clay pots for relief.

If you still don’t have many close christian friends, hope in Christ. Seek community in the local Church. You’ll find it’s an indispensable privilege we take for granted so much.

We don’t have to go through life’s hardships alone as Job did. Job didn’t have the Church, but we do. Take advantage and get plugged in.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.