Health Insurance Alternatives … is there really such a thing???

A little over four years ago when the “laws of the land” changed, we decided it was time to look into alternative healthcare options.  Alternative healthcare options you ask?  Is there really such a thing?  Well, I’m glad you asked, because yes, there is such a thing and a bigger YES that these alternatives satisfy the federal healthcare laws!!  While Obamacare may have helped some people lower their health insurance premiums (although I have yet to meet anyone it has helped), all it has done for us, being a middle-class, self-employed family is drive the cost exponentially higher.  This was a sink-or-swim situation for our family and we had to find alternatives.

I had heard about Medi-Share (another Christian organization who offers healthcare alternatives), and while I loved the concept of Christians helping Christians, I had a really hard time wrapping my head around what “healthcare sharing” looked like, and was admittedly skeptical, so I put it on the back burner until a little over four years ago when we were in our sink-or-swim situation.  I started asking around at church, and surprisingly found that this “healthcare sharing” idea was not as far fetched an idea as I thought it was.  As a matter of fact, I found out that healthcare sharing was alive and thriving, and through the testimonies of a couple of families at our church, we took the leap of faith and chose to go with a ministry called Samaritan Ministries.

Four years into this healthcare “alternative,” I can emphatically say I am so happy we found Samaritan!  Once you detach yourself from the brainwashing “insurance” way of looking at healthcare and realize that the concept of helping others really does work, it changes your life AND your pocketbook!

So a quick rundown.  At the time we chose to go with Samaritan, my husband and I were both self-employed and had two children at home.  Being self-employed, we have always paid for our own insurance, and the CHEAPEST plan we could find was a plan through Humana.  It had a $10,000 deductible, and once the deductible was met, coverage was 100%.  In order to cover the $10,000 deductible, we also had a $10,000 accident policy.  This policy covered anything accidental up to $10,000 wherein our Humana health insurance would pick up any remaining costs, so that meant the only exposure we had to the out-of-pocket $10,000 deductible was if we got sick.  (Are you laughing yet?)  Just before we made the switch to Samaritan, to have this “cheap” coverage, our monthly cost was going to be $1200 (update, as of a year ago, after my husband switched jobs, through his employer, getting coverage for him and the rest of the family was going to be $1600.)  (Thank you Obamacare!)  Who can afford this??!!!

Currently, there are quite a few options out there, but what we found worked best for our family was Samaritan Ministries.  If you are curious to check out the other options, as some work more like an insurance company while others, like Samaritan, look completely different, you can click here Compare Ministries and do your own comparison.

Briefly, rather than paying a monthly premium and then paying the healthcare provider and medication copays and what not, we now pay a single monthly “share” to those in “need.”  At the time of writing this (April 2017), we currently pay $495 a month for a family of 3 (or more) as our designated share.  These shares are sent directly to other members who have submitted medical needs to Samaritan.  Samaritan verifies the medical needs, and then each household gets a monthly email newsletter informing them who to send their “share” to.  It’s a simple concept, but looks completely different from traditional insurance, but it’s worth every penny to make the switch.

Samaritan sharing

If you are fed up with high deductible/can’t afford it anyhow insurance, you won’t be sorry you made the change.  I do not work for Samaritan, nor do I speak for them, I am just a very satisfied member.  If you find this helpful and decide to join, I would appreciate if you would mention my name, Kim Womack (in Colorado), as your referral.

Believe what a person says or watch what they do?

One of my good friends posted this on Facebook:

The age old question… Believe what a person says or watch what they do?

On one hand, the good book says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” implying what a person says is reflective of what is stored in their heart.  On the other hand, the Bible also says, “You will know them by their fruit,” implying behavior is the giveaway to the “real” person.

I’ve seen ministers in the church maintain every correct behavior in public view, at the same they were molesting teenage girls in private.  I’ve also heard every “right” thing come out of mouths whose hearts were corrupt to the core.

What to do? What to do? Me thinks we should watch AND listen.  Combining the two will, in all likelihood, give us the answer we seek.

This really made me think.  I agree that there is an element of watching AND listening, but the Bible also says in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? My point? Even with watching and listening – do we really ever know what is going on in someone’s heart? Is watching and listening enough, or is that really what our focus should be?

Obviously, in every situation, in every relationship we have, we want people around us who have integrity, who we can trust, yet sometimes those we have trusted for years are the ones who hurt us the most, but I think that’s just because being human means we are messy, which makes God’s grace all the more valuable!! We want to see that those we allow in our lives walk the talk they profess – that who we entrust our children to in daycare, in school, in sports, in youth group, those who we work with, go to church with, who we do business with, who we do life with, who we marry, etc., etc. – that those we allow in our lives are credible.

The sad truth, however, is that every one of us is only ever a spark away from becoming that person who chooses to forego their integrity to be enticed and give in to their own evil desires (James 1:13-15). I think it is fair to say that we have all known those who we would consider to have (for the most part since we are all human) lived good or righteous lives by what they’ve said and done, who in one moment, make a choice that can destroy theirs and many peoples’ lives around them for a lifetime and we also know those who have appeared to live a good and righteous life who have lied to us for years –their secret sin not so easily identifiable, AND we have all at one point or another, been THAT person who failed someone else.

So while there is an important element in watching and listening to others, this morning I find myself more appropriately applying this to myself. What does my heart look like? Am I only a living and breathing whitewashed tomb or do I really walk the talk I profess? As we focus more on working on the log in our own eye, does it help us stop judging others whose sins don’t look like ours? I certainly haven’t mastered that, but I think maybe working on watching what myself says and does will help me be that which I want to see in others.

world is changed by your example

What do you think?

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me!

You probably don’t immediately recognize this scripture, but this morning the Holy Spirit whispered it in my ear, and I was quickly reminded that the Lord cares about everything that concerns us!!

Yesterday, I felt defeated … not just a little, but completely defeated, completely overwhelmed, ready to throw my hands up in the air and just run away.  I don’t often have those kind of days, but yesterday was my turn, and man was it a doozy!

I consider myself a very strong woman in the Lord.  I have been a baptized believer for 37 years this upcoming July, but it has only been in the last 16 years that I have come to know the Lord in such a way that when I read the scriptures, I know to trust them wholeheartedly because I have realized that being a Christian is much more than a title, it’s a way of life, it’s a relationship, it’s about realizing that I am a citizen of heaven, an adopted child and co-heir with Christ, and I have a Father in heaven who cares about every little detail in my life – EVERY LITTLE DETAIL!!  While I don’t always go to Him immediately, the more I pray and the more I stay in his Word, the more I allow the Holy Spirit to work through me, the more I see just how involved G-d is in my life.

So what happened yesterday?  Would you be amazed to know this has nothing to do with my marriage or my 17-year-old daughter or my 19-year-old daughter who is getting married in a month – although those do add into the mix in some ways … it is about my business, and YES, G-d cares even about the details and goings on of my business!!

I have been blessed with a great business, and I am blessed to work with some really great women!  Business just continues to grow and along with growth, we know there come growing pains.  A month ago, we got another new account, and interestingly, the woman who was retiring and teaching me about her position is a very strong Christian.  She had been praying for the right person to come in and take her job, and I was just thrilled to be standing in her kitchen giving testimony to how I had been praying as well about this new client, and we knew it was going to be a great match because G-d was involved!

Now step forward to this week … she has retired, and I’m on my own.  Fortunately and thankfully, this woman still takes my calls at 10 o’clock at night when I have run into a snag, and I’m forever indebted to her kindness, but the real issue is that this client and the needs they have are more administrative than all of my other clients, so the time demands  on me personally are overwhelming, temporary, but still very overwhelming.

Just because I have a great relationship with the Lord and have been a Christian for the majority of my life now, it never ceases to amaze how quickly I forget to include him in all of my struggles all the time.  Oftentimes, it is in retrospect when I have a moment to breathe that I realize I’m trying to figure things out on my own rather than leaving it on the Lord’s footstool, and this week was no different.  I did say a couple of quick mumbled prayers throughout the week for my business, but it wasn’t until yesterday, completely overwhelmed and on the verge of an anxiety attack that I realized I was really not giving G-d any room to work, yet He showed me in a very big way that regardless of my lack of dependence on Him, He is still there for me!

In my line of work, finding someone to do the administrative job I have been doing is really difficult because it demands a certain knowledge of the trade and those who have the knowledge would rather be doing the trade than exercising the knowledge (could I say that anymore confusingly?), but here’s how G-d rolls …

Yesterday afternoon in the midst of my overwhelmment (I think I just made up a word!), I got an email from a gal who has been in the trade for 9 years but has never done the administrative part.  She had just quit a school-year job and was actually looking for secretarial work and maybe a summer job in our trade, but what I needed – a little of the trade and a little of secretarial work – answered both of her needs.  Plus that … she has in-depth knowledge of the system I use AND get this … her first job was for the very same company that I had my first job through AND she’s a believer as well.

I’m not trying to be all “Christian-y,” but she had been praying that G-d would direct her to the right job, and she had just been turned down for a secretarial position she had applied for just moments before I spoke with her on the phone.  That I needed someone for a position that is very difficult to fill, and that she would contact me in the midst of my storm … well, that’s just a G-d thing … this is what He does for me all the time.

The scripture I referenced above was from Psalm 118 …He is with us, He is our helper, and for that, He deserves all thanks and praise for He truly is so very good to those who put their trust and hope in Him!

Psalm 116:1-2 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:6 The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

Psalm 118:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:13-14 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.  The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Psalm 118:21 I WILL GIVE YOU THANKS, FOR YOU ANSWERED ME; YOU HAVE BECOME MY SALVATION!

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:28 You are my G-d, and I will give you thanks; you are my G-d, and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

One of the affirmations I received about this woman being perfect for the job is something she said that I always say … “I don’t know how people make it through this life without the Lord.”

I am sharing all of this “good news” not because being a Christian means that G-d answers all of our prayers the way we think he should all the time.  There have been plenty of times I have watched friends struggle through marriages, watched “good” people die way too early, watched friends and family be afflicted with illness, all those many “horrible” things that happen to us in this life regardless of whether we are Christians or not that don’t seem like G-d is listening, but for those of us who are believers, we know this world is not our home.  We are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience, and G-d has said in his Word that in this life we WILL have troubles, but to take heart because he has overcome (John 16:33).

That means we need to be ready and expect that we will have all kinds of struggles in this life.  That is what this life is about … working through the struggles, but letting G-d get us through them … and He does!  They are all so that we can be refined and so that G-d will be glorified, and when this temporary life is said and done, the Lord will say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant … come share in your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS GOOD!  HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!

Have you ever pondered these words from the Lord (Job 38-39)?

Job 36:26 How great is God—beyond our understanding!

creation of earth

Job 38

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

Landscape-Ocean-Land

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

sunrise-over earth

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

vortex springs

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!

storm-Photo-Aug-12-2013-914-PM

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?

Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/T. Stanke et al./Igor Chekalin/Digitized Sky Survey 2

Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/T. Stanke et al./Igor Chekalin/Digitized Sky Survey 2

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
    or lead out the Bear  with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
    or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?

lioness

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
    and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry out to God
    and wander about for lack of food?

Job 39

mountain goats (donald m jones Minden Solent)

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.

wild-donkey-north-cyprus

“Who let the wild donkey go free?
    Who untied its ropes?
I gave it the wasteland as its home,
    the salt flats as its habitat.
It laughs at the commotion in the town;
    it does not hear a driver’s shout.
It ranges the hills for its pasture
    and searches for any green thing.

ox

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
    Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
    Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
    Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
    and bring it to your threshing floor?

ostrich

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.

horse

19 “Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
    It catches the scent of battle from afar,
    the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

hawk & eagle

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
    and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
    and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
    a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
    its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
    and where the slain are, there it is.”

Job 42

Then Job replied to the Lord:

bowing before the Lord

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

Is what you know enough to be saved? (Romans 10)

I’ve talked to enough people to realize that what we are taught as children forms a lot about what we believe when we are adults, and sometimes it’s hard to embrace a new truth.

When I was a little girl, I was taught there was a man named Kris Kringle, nicknamed Santa or St. Nick, who lived at the North Pole.  Throughout the year, he sent elves around the world to watch children to see if they were naughty or nice, and based upon their behavior, they were given gifts to be opened on Christmas morning.  Year after year, as did every other family we knew, we set up our Christmas tree in celebration of Santa coming to our home, were at our best behavior, laid our stockings by that tree (we didn’t have a fireplace), and the night before Christmas, we read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and just before bed, set out milk and cookies for Santa.  And just like the book said, every Christmas morning, we awoke to an abundance of presents neatly placed beneath our tree, our stockings overflowing with peanuts, candy, a few small gifts, and an orange.

Santa_being_pulled_by_his_reindeer

You can imagine (because you may have experienced it as well), the shock and disbelief as I got older and started hearing stories from friends that Santa wasn’t real.  It sent me into a crisis – a time when I was wasn’t willing to accept that truth and eventually forced to do some research for myself to find out the real truth.  For a year or two, even though some friends were saying Santa was a lie, my parents continued to maintain that Santa was real (for the sake of my younger siblings), but that one Christmas morning when I opened a few presents from Santa that I had found a month before hidden in the basement, reality hit me for the first time that not everything I had been told was the truth.

On further and persistent questioning of my parents, I was actually told the real story of St. Nick, which for the sake tradition, and for what seemed a harmless “lie,” when I got married, my husband and I chose to pass this story down to our own children.

So why do I bring this up you ask?  Because we face a similar dilemma as we learn about Jesus, and what we are taught in Sunday school isn’t always the complete truth.  If you are considering or have been a Christian for any length of time, you know that every church or denomination out there seems to teach an ever so slightly different view on what the Bible teaches.  For those non-salvation matters, like whether to use instruments or not during service, whether to meet on Saturday or Sunday for church service, etc., one could just chalk it up to a difference of opinion, as there is probably no right or wrong answer – the Bible remaining silent on any given topic, but what do we do with salvation?

mine is the true gospel

One church teaches belief saves, one church teaches a prayer saves, one church teaches you must be baptized in water, one church teaches you must be baptized by the Spirit, one church teaches baptism isn’t necessary, one church teaches it is necessary, and I just heard of a new one this last weekend that drinking the communion cup is what saves because it is, after all, the blood of Christ, so we have all these ways to become a Christian, but really, who’s right?  And I’ve heard an answer to that one as well – that grace covers it all because, after all, we’re only human, and if we believe, regardless of the way we achieve our salvation, we’re saved.

But just because I believed there was a Santa who went down the chimneys of every home on Christmas Eve and delivered presents, no matter how much I was convinced that was reality, it didn’t mean there was really a Santa who could do such things.  In the same manner, because God is a God of order, I cannot justify or believe that every method of salvation truly saves us just because we want it to or because some preacher says so.  We MUST do our due diligence.  If the scriptures truly do lead to one way, which I believe they do, we must each struggle through the crisis of what we have been taught in order to accept what God teaches us wholly through his Holy Scriptures.

If you find in your studies that what you did to become a Christian is not what the Bible says is necessary to become a Christian, please don’t get offended, just do what the Scriptures tell you to do. That’s the mark of a true Christian – becoming aware of what the Scriptures instruct us to do and just doing it!  The only thing that will matter when your life is over is not how long you claim you were a Christian, but that you were a Christian according to what God says you must do to be a Christian, whether you followed his ways for 50 years or for an hour. Don’t let your pride be your fall on something as important as your eternity!

Romans 10:1-3 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved (but the Israelites already believe they are saved).  For I can testify about them that they are zealous (ardour in embracing, pursuing, defending anything) for God, BUT THEIR ZEAL IS NOT BASED ON KNOWLEDGE.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and SOUGHT TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN, they did NOT submit to God’s righteousness. 

We see here that Paul is indicating that God’s chosen people, His beloved Israelites, weren’t saved, even though they believed they were.  What???  Just because they said they were saved, based on their own knowledge or belief of what righteousness was, this was NOT ENOUGH to be saved.  It was dependent and still is dependent on God’s righteousness (the condition acceptable to God, Strongs G1343).  And if you know anything about the Israelites (today known as the Jews), you know they live, breathe, and eat the Old Testament scriptures.  How many of us today can say we live, breathe, and eat the scriptures.  If those who are known for living by the scriptures don’t understand God’s righteousness, is it not plausible then, that we, who scarcely open our Bibles at church once a week, really know what the scriptures teach us about salvation?  If your understanding of salvation is simply based on what you have been taught by someone else, trusting that they knew AND shared with you the entire message, and not just what they believed was necessary, are you willing to risk your entire eternity based on that message?

The bible is very clear about what is required to become a Christian, and believe it or not, it does include baptism, not as a way to demonstrate one’s faith publicly as some churches claim yet can be found no where in the Bible, but baptism for the actual forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 22:16, Hebrews 10:16-22).  And if the scriptures weren’t enough to prove that, in my next blog, let’s take a look at what the churches back in the early centuries claimed about baptism.

“Revelation Song” by Kari Jobe

We were here that night!

“Revelation Song”

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only wise King

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery

Oh, You’re worthy, mystery
You are worthy

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You, I will adore You

“Burn Away” by Meredith Andrews

Wow, if there was ever a prayer through song that I could sing to the Lord asking for refinement … it’s this one!

“Burn Away”

Blazing light, holy flame
Fierce and wild, have Your way
Consuming fire

Yes You are love, You are love
Blazing light, holy flame
Fierce and wild, have Your way
Consuming fire

Burn away
Everything that breaks Your heart
Everything that is not love
Purify my every thought
Take away
Everything that comes between us
Everything that is untrue
Jesus make me more like You

Make me holy, as You are holy
Refine me in your fire, oh God
Make me holy, as You are holy
In my life be glorified
[x2]

Burn away
Everything that breaks Your heart
Everything that is not love
Purify my every thought
And take away
Everything that comes between us
Everything that is untrue
Jesus make me more like You
Burn away
Burn away
Consuming fire
Burn away

What does the bible say about being baptized with only the Holy Spirit (part 1)?

This should be simple, but we’ll see soon enough here that man has muddied the waters to prove his own opinions.  I am taking two opinions  (part 1 and part 2) from a website who claims there is a difference between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism wherein the writer tries to convince his readers that we should disregard water baptism.  Let’s see what we can find out …

ARGUMENT #1 – Of a “more important baptism”

First there is suggestion that water baptism has been completely done away with and that this “more important baptism” is a spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit:

John the Baptist makes it clear that he merely baptizes with water as a sign of repentance, but that one who comes after him is more important, and that that one who comes will give a more important baptism, baptizing with the Holy Spirit: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7-8, John 1:33)

I still have yet to understand how or why anyone would take a scripture out of context (see my “cherry picking” post), but it boils down to a lack of knowledge of the word.  These scriptures have been taken out of context and those who preach it are preaching a salvation that is NOT in alignment with what the Bible teaches on salvation.

A LITTLE BIT OF JEWISH HISTORY:

Did you know baptism for repentance was nothing new to the Jews?  In fact, baptism, or immersing oneself (Tevilah) in a Mikvah (that which held living water), was something the Jews practiced daily.  There were also other reasons that the Jews practiced immersion as well:

Immersion in the mikvah has offered a gateway to purity ever since the creation of man. The Midrash relates that after being banished from Eden, Adam sat in a river that flowed from the garden. This was an integral part of his teshuvah (repentance) process, of his attempt at return to his original perfection.

The primary uses of mikvah today are delineated in Jewish Law and date back to the dawn of Jewish history. They cover many elements of Jewish life. Mikvah is an integral part of conversion to Judaism. Mikvah is used, though less widely known, for the immersion of new pots, dishes, and utensils before they are used by a Jew. The mikvah concept is also the focal point of the taharah, the purification rite of a Jew before the person is laid to rest and the soul ascends on high. The manual pouring of water in a highly specific manner over the entire body of the deceased serves this purpose.

Mikvah is also used by men on various occasions; with the exception of conversion, they are all customary. The most widely practiced are immersion by a groom on his wedding day and by every man before Yom Kippur. Many Chassidic men use the mikvah before each Shabbat and holiday, some even making use of mikvah each day before morning prayer (in cities with large populations of observant Jews, special mikvahs for men facilitate these customs).  It is also used for purification by the menstruant woman.

http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm

So John the Baptist coming to baptize (Hebrew Tevilah) with water for repentance was nothing new to the Jews.  What was new was that he came proclaiming that the Messiah was near.  Remember the Jews have been waiting for thousands of years for the Messiah to arrive, so for those who believed John’s testimony about the coming Messiah, they were being immersed as an act of purity – repentance.

WHAT MAKES MORE SENSE WHEN WE KEEP THE SCRIPTURES IN CONTEXT:

If you delve a little further into John, just two chapters later (and remember, the Bible was NOT originally written with chapters or verses), we see a different picture of baptism unfolding.  We see Jesus having a conversation with Nicodemus – a member of the Jewish ruling council – a man who clearly lives, breathes, and eats knowledge of the scriptures, and here Jesus is telling him:

John 3:5 “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This does not depict a “spirit”-only baptism; Jesus very clearly defines what it takes to be born again or “saved,” and he says it requires BOTH water and spirit, and here’s how water and Spirit translate from the Greek counterpart:

WATER:  (hydōr, Greek Lexicon G5204); of water in rivers, in fountains, in pools.

SPIRIT:  (pneuma, Greek Lexicon G4151); the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son.

After Christ has been crucified and risen from the dead (HALLELUJAH!) and has ascended into heaven, Peter is then given the task of starting the church (Acts 1 & 2).  What is Peter’s instruction to those who have been cut to the heart about Messiah and what it takes to be saved?   It is the exact same message Jesus shared with Nicodemus:

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation, therefore, happens through baptism – we repent of our sinful ways and are baptized into Christ’s death being fully immersed in water where we are raised from death to live a new life – our flesh is crucified, and we come out of the water born now in the spirit, a new man, both forgiven of our sins AND receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 6:Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

WRAPPING IT UP:

So what is the significance between John the Baptist’s baptism and the “more important baptism?”  Simply a covenant.  It wasn’t that water baptism was being done away with, it was that it was being changed through a new covenant.  No longer would a continual need for the offering up of sacrifices for sins be required because the Old Covenant was imperfect and could not take away sins.

Hebrews 10:1 For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Christ’s sacrifice for us, however, was perfect, and by His sacrifice, the New Covenant was established, forgiving the sins of all who choose to put their faith in him THROUGH baptism.

Hebrews 10:14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Such good news we have through the New Covenant:

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Amen.

John 3:16 – Is belief all I need to be saved?

John-3-16

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

These are a few of the well-known scriptures that are used by “faith only” believers, those who believe that a prayer or belief in Jesus is the only thing required to be saved.  On their own, these scriptures do seem to make a pretty good argument that all that is required to be saved is to believe in Jesus.  However, remember in a prior post where I talked about cherry picking or contextotomy – taking scriptures out of context to prove one’s point?  Well, let’s take a closer look at the scriptures and see what we can find.

I think it’s important to note here that each of the books in the New Testament were letters that were written to specific groups of people or churches.  Secondly, they were NOT written with chapters or verses.  Therefore, we must examine the entire letter for its content and context.  It should go without saying that everything written throughout that letter builds upon itself and goes together, and would not contradict itself at any point; it’s the sum of the whole, not pick and choose!

In regard to John 3:16 (and consequently John 6 and John 11 by way that they are part of the same letter) where it “appears” that we can be saved by only believing in Jesus, let’s back up just a little.  If we start at John 3:1, we find that John 3:16 is part of a conversation that Jesus was having with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, otherwise known as the Sanhedrin.  As you may already know, the Sanhedrin was vehemently opposed to Jesus’ claims about being the Messiah, and were the ones who eventually turned Jesus over to Pilate (Mark 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans.  So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.), so it is assumed that Nicodemus’ meeting “at night” with Jesus was done in secret for fear of being exposed as a “Christ follower.”

Regardless, if you take their conversation in whole (John 3:1-21), you will see quite a different picture on what is required to be saved.  Note how different John 3:16 sounds when you read the entire conversation in context, especially verses 3-6 in context:

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of G-d unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?”  Nicodemus asked.  “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of G-d unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Go back and read the conversation again.  By the time we get to verse 16, Jesus has already established that no one can enter the kingdom of G-d unless they are born of water and the Spirit, and He is clarifying who is a candidate for being born of water and the Spirit… it is only for those who believe in G-d’s son (verse 16), the Messiah, who Jesus is claiming He is.


A small detour if I may on the matters of being born of water and the Spirit.  From what I have studied out, in the Israelite religion (which I will refer to as “Judaism/Jew” because anyone who lives by the Old Testament and is still awaiting the Messiah is now known a Jew), in order for a Gentile to become a Jew, known as a “proselyte,” they must be fully immersed in water contained in a “mikveh.”  In Rabbinic literature, this water immersion is known as “the womb of the world,” and as the convert comes out of the water, it is considered a new birth separating him from the pagan world.  His status is changed, he is no longer a Gentile, but a Jew, and he is referred to as “a little child just born” or “a child of one day.”  In other words, anyone who is not a Jew by birth (a Gentile), and wants to convert to the Jewish religion, cannot become a Jew without being fully immersed in a mikveh.  Conversely, in the Jewish world, if a Jew converts to Christianity through immersion (baptism), Jewish belief is that this baptism is the mystical key that severs the one baptized from his/her heritage and loyalties, they have apostatized and left the Jewish community, and are no longer a Jew, but reborn as a Gentile.


So Nicodemus understands that believing in Christ as the Messiah would require an immersion in water and the Spirit, just as a Gentile did to proselytize into the Jewish religion, and while the unbelieving Jews believed this was rejection of Judaism and defection to another religion, Jesus was trying to tell them this wasn’t apostasy, it was completion of G-d’s promise, a partaking in the New Covenant.

If you want to further prove the point that belief is not enough to be saved, go back to John 1 and read through Christ’s claims about being the Son of G-d and note in verse 12:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME children of G-d – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of G-d.  (A small note here; there are some out there who will now want to argue what born of water and the spirit means.  I am not going to address it here, but we will get to that topic in a separate post!)

To those who believed in Christ he gave the “right to become.”  “Gave the right to become?”  This is in direct opposition to those who claim that “belief only” is all it takes to be saved.  On the contrary, it doesn’t only imply, but by virtue of its structure or definition, it tells us that belief is only part of something bigger.  It is one of the first steps in becoming a Christian.  You must choose to believe that Christ is the Messiah before you can accept anything else he says, right?  If you choose not to believe he is the long-awaited Messiah, you will close up the Bible, or at least the New Testament, and not accept anything more that he says or claims, end of story.  But if you are the least bit convinced that there is validity to what Christ claims, you would obviously want to learn more about what Christ calls his followers to do.  You then have the right to become a Christian, and Christ simply points out that it is by way of water and the Spirit that his followers are saved.

Romans 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to G-d.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to G-d as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 

Christ’s final charge to his apostles

After Jesus had risen from the dead, putting into effect the New Covenant with man, he appeared to his eleven apostles (remember Judas hung himself and they hadn’t chosen a 12th apostle yet), and gave them this charge:

Matthew 28:18-20  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Luke 24:46-49 He told them, “This is what is written:  The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

John 20:21-23 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

If you read on into Acts, which is the second letter or followup letter that Luke wrote, you see it picks up right where he left off in the gospel of Luke.  The apostles have obeyed Christ’s words, and are in the city of Jerusalem waiting to be “clothed with power from on high.”  And what better timing and what better audience could they have asked for?  Christ had told them to tell the whole world, starting in Jerusalem, and He’s perfectly orchestrated all the little details so that this can happen.  We find here in Acts that it’s Pentecost, and G-d-fearing Israelites/Jews from all nations have gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate.

As we pick up in Acts 2, the apostles have just been clothed with the Holy Spirit.  This rushing or roaring of a wind has caught the attention of all those visitors who have gathered around the Temple (not to mention that every foreigner hears the apostles speaking in their own native languages), and we read Peter’s inaugural speech as the 1st Century Church is ushered into existence:

Acts 2:36-42 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this:  G-d has made this Jesus, whom YOU crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our G-d will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

I don’t know how much clearer the Bible can be on what is required to become a Christian and have eternal salvation than this.  We have read Christ’s final exhortations to his apostles, and we have read what the apostles did in response to Christ’s exhortation as they usher in the 1st Century Church.

I read clearly in these accounts that in order to be a Christian, one must (1) Hear the gospel, (2) believe that Jesus is the Son of G-d, (3) feel remorse for their actions, which leads to repentance of sins, (4) be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and upon doing so, they (1) receive forgiveness of sins, are (2) saved, are (3) given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and (4) are taught to obey everything that Christ commanded them.

That seems pretty simple to me.  Maybe each “account” doesn’t say the exact same thing word for word, but taken in its whole, it seems very clear that to become a disciple of Christ ALL of these things must happen.  It’s the sum of the whole.

So here is where some may blast me for preaching a salvation that includes repentance and/or baptism, but what do you read in your bible? What do you say about those scriptures (and I’ve only touched on a few)?   Have I taken them out of context?  Regarding salvation, where in your Bible does it say to “pray Jesus into your heart” and you’ll be saved?  Where in the Bible does it say we can preach salvation but not call people to repent of their sins?  Where in your Bible are children commanded to be baptized?  Where in your Bible does it say believing is synonymous with salvation?  Where in your Bible do you read that baptism is an “option” or a “work” and not part of becoming a Christian or that baptism is a public testimony of your salvation?  What do we read about when a person receives forgiveness of sin?  What do we read when people hear the gospel message?

These are a few subtopics in the topic of salvation I will be touching upon as we follow this further, because there’s still much to be studied and said.  Clearly, many denominations negate repentance and negate baptism, or diminish the significance of baptism, and have introduced instead their “opinion” on what is needed for salvation as if it was their choice. They muddy a very clear call from Christ to his apostles and from the apostles to the church, and the only thing that makes sense to make sense of this muddying of the scriptures is that Satan has and is masquerading in our very churches, preaching a cherry-picked salvation, hoping that many people will blindly trust their leaders and NOT study it out for themselves.  And that reminds me of the game of “gossip” or “telephone” … remember as a child sitting in a circle at school?  The teacher whispers into the first child’s ear, who whispers into the second child’s ear, who whispers into the third child’s ear, and so on and so on, and by the end of the game, everyone is laughing because as the message was passed along, it was changed ever so slightly until the end result sounded nothing like the initial word or statement.

Happy children whispering

It’s certainly an honest mistake on the part of many, but again I ask, can you afford to be even kind of wrong when you stand before the Lord on Judgment Day?

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’