Romans 13 – Submission, Love and Light

Romans 13:1 – I wonder how scandalous these words were to the church in Rome, especially as they remembered them as the Roman government ramped up it’s persecutions of the Christians? Submit to those who had no regard for them or their rights? The Jews among them must have also bristled at submission to what they say as an invading power.
Romans 13:7 – This was the theme of our annual Hero Service last Sunday (specifcally the ‘respect’ and ‘honor’ phrases) where we make a special effort to invite those who serve our community – teachers, police, firemen, health care workers. We had a great crowd and Jesus was preached. I’m looking forward to hearing reactions this Wednesday.
Romans 13:8-10 – Love fulfills the law. To love completely and perfectly is a tall order, and as Paul states in verse 8, the debt to love is never fulfilled. We can always grow in love and find new ways of showing it.
Romans 13:11-14 – Considering the previous chapters of Romans, i read this section in a different light. Paul is not urging them to good moral behavior, but reminding them yet again that, because they have been connected with Jesus’ death and resurrection, they live not in the darkness that surrounds them, but in the light of God. So act like it.

Health Savings Accounts and the Current Debate – A Letter to NPR

I listen to NPR news on the way to and from work each day. Morning Edition this morning ran a story this morning about folks with the ‘gold plated’ health plans, the kind that some in congres want to tax. The story was more of a human interest piece than news as it looked at two families out of the mainstream, or at least I assume they are. There was no analysis of how far their plans are outside of the mainstream, just the telling of their story.
I’ve been disappointed in the reporting on health care in that in every news story, the talk goes to premium payments and copays. It seems the assumption is that this is how health care works and how we pay for it. Our Health Savings Account takes a different approach. We have no copays but pay full price up to a max adn then insurance pays beyond that. I’m disappointed to hear the reporting always framed in terms of the typical copay paradigm, which I believe contributes to higher costs. Our HSA is much more cost effective for us than the PPO also offered, saving us thousands each year for the same care. I wrote the following letter to Morning Edition to express my disappointment in the one sided reporting.

I’ve been listening to the health care stories both on NPR and elsewhere and wonder why I haven’t heard stories of folks with plans other than standard plans with premium payments and co-pays. I have yet to hear of folks with HSA plans, which I have and has served my family and others in my company very well.
The lawyer today who pays $30K for his health care each year made me smile. The total cost of the premiums for my HSA are about $14,600 for my family of 5 (my employer pays about $11K of that). The terms of the HSA allow me to contribute pre-tax dollars to an account to pay for medical expenses, which I do each paycheck. I pay full price for everything out of that account until my deductible is met, after which everything is covered 100%. Our family deductible is $4K meaning that our max health care expense per year is $18,600, period.
Compare that with the PPO also offered by my employer. Premiums alone for my family are $18,500 (again, my employer pays about $11K) and every visit or prescription incurs a copay of some kind, easily adding thousands of dollars per year. As you can see, the difference between the PPO premiums and the HSA premiums is almost equal to my HSA deductible, meaning my out of pocket is the same either way BEFORE I go to the doctor even once. Even if I paid 100% out of my pocket, the HSA is a no brainer.
With the HSA, my health care expenses are capped, with the traditional PPO they are not. I could easily double my costs if I have several major events in a single year.
The downside is that a major event in the beginning of the year when the HSA account is low means coming up with the money from somewhere else until the funds area available. The shock of paying full price is a bit much at first, but it exposes you to the true cost of care which is good. Also, if we have a very healthy year, anything left in our HSA account is ours to keep. It functions as a retirement account, and withdrawals are subject to similar rules.
I’m concerned about what will happen to my HSA plan under these new government initiatives. Mr. Obama says I can keep my plan, however I’m not yet convinced that it will still be offered. I’ve heard nothing on the impact to HSAs under the plans currently proposed.
I wish more folks were aware of this option and understood it’s benefits and I’d like to hear it reported on NPR.

Five for Friday

Poison - Flesh and Blood.jpgAn “Occasional Series” here at Inspired by Daniel at Alien Soil, I fire up Media Player on random and post the first 5 songs here.

  1. Poison – Strange Days of Uncle Jack from Flesh and Blood
    This is the odd, airy 1:40 first track on the CD. Mumbling in the background, voice mail beeps. Weird. Makes you wonder what’s up with your MP3 player.
  2. REM – Country Feedback from Out of Time
    Slow, vaguely angry song that builds in intensity. Nice.
  3. Harry Connick, Jr – On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe from 25
    Great song. Starts simple with vocals and string bass only, adding piano and alto sax at the bridge. Neat stuff.
  4. Jimmy Durante – Make Someone Happy from the Sleepless in Seattle Soundtrack
    OK, stop snickering, yes, it’s a chick flick soundtrack, but there’s some great music here. This track is awesome.
  5. Perta – I Can Be Friends With You from Never Say Die/Washes Whiter Than
    Wow, this was a diverse list, wasn’t it? Petra from their early southern rock-ish days. Arguably the best Petra, certainly better than their 80’s hair band days.

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put it on random and give me yours in the comments.

Egg Trick

My Dad sent me this and I thought it was awesome. I love late night TV and watched Carson back in the day and I watched Letterman back to his days at 12:30 on NBC. Now I’ve been watching Leno at 10, Conan at 11:30 and then switching to Ferguson if I’m still up at 12:30.
My favs now are Ferguson and Conan, but Johnny was a legend and he Dom DeLuise are hilarious n this bit.

Romans 12 – Sacrifice and Service

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

I heard in a promo for the local Christian radio station a statement like this: “I love [radio station] because I can worship on days other than Sunday.” My immediate thought was that they don’t understand what worship is and these verses from Romans 12 back that up. We are to offer ourselves each day in sacrifice to Him. It’s the daily living of our lives that show our worship, but emotional music and waving our hands in the air.
If we allow ourselves to meditate on these two verses, it will convict our hearts. I know it does mine. If I think back on my day, my week and this month and year, I find that mostly I do what I want. I act as I decide best, within the framework of biblical morality. That sounds well and good, but Jesus demanded our complete surrender and submission to His will over ours, not that we would simply restrict our will to the boundaries of the law.
I’ve come to realize that means that I will act in ways that frequently make me uncomfortable, that are outside what I want to do and that it takes vigilance and a constant view of the savior and his sacrifice to motivate me to act as a living sacrifice every day. I haven’t done well at this at all in recent years, frankly.
Romans 12:3-8 – So, take what you’ve been given and offer it to God. If you can teach, teach, if you can serve serve. God did not give these gifts that you would spend them on bettering yourselves, rather that they would better the church and in turn the world.
Romans 12:10 – “Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Oh that this characterized every group that calls itself a church.
Romans 12:14-21 – Paul tells us here how we should act towards each other and the world. It does not come naturally. Refer to verses1-2.

Romans 11 – God’s Plan

Romans 11:1-6 – More evidence, direct statements frankly, that God chooses at least some, setting them aside for his purpose. What does that look like, I wonder? it’s tempting to say that God has somewhat randomly and arbitrarily picked some to be his and that means that they do not have to wrestle with sin or dedicate themselves to Him. But that’s reading into the text. God, through Paul, simply says that he has a remnant set aside. We don’t know how they were chosen as a remnant nor what that means for them and their faith.
The mystery of God’s choosing is profound, deep and complex and I think we do Him, and us, a disservice when we try to simplify it.
Romans 11:11-16 – The preceding verses talk about some in Israel who were hardened, but this passage indicates that the ministry outside of Israel holds hope even for them that out of jealousy they might be moved to seek God and be saved. So hardened does not equal rejected or dismissed or discarded.
Romans 11:20 – “They were broken off because of their unbelief.” An arbitrary hardening of some of Israel? No.
Romans 11:17-20 – This passage puts the preceding chapters and verses describing God’s choosing in the light of how he chooses. Some are hardened and cut off, some are grafted in. Yet, even those who were ct off can be re-grafted if they come to faith. So, God looks to our faith in His choosing, at least in part
Romans 11:25-32 – This seems to muddy the waters a bit again, indicating that God is up to something, a grand plan that involves hardening some to drawing in others which in turn will draw back those who he hardened. In fact, he has given us all over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on all. (v. 32)
I think that this verse sums it up for me:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Romans 11:33

He’s up to something alright and I can only understand it in part, but I’m grateful that I can take part in it.

Unity Proposal 2.0

For my readers that aren’t in the ICOC, you can safely skip this and save yourself 5 mins.
So, I guess there’s a new addendum to the document (United Plan for Cooperation, or UPC) that was to fade away for churches to sign agree to. Sheesh, I hope we don’t have another big signature agreement discussion / debate / brouhaha over this one.
Anyway, at one time it was a big deal to me, so I thought I’d acknowledge it. Now? Not so much. The original Unity Proposal has turned out to be a non-issue as far as I’m concerned. I guess it helped those who thought it was a good idea, from my perspective it had little to no impact on our church, which is a good thing.
Anyway, it’s there with more things to agree to, or maybe it’s the same things stated in a different way or something. I honestly don’t care, as long as it doesn’t effect what we are doing here. I only mention it out of tradition as it used to be a Big Deal to me.
My focus these days is both bigger (Jesus, the Gospel, the larger Christian community, etc) and smaller (my family, my kids) these days, so this is simply a momentary distraction. It was always sort of an answer in search of a question anyway.
Anyway, there it is. Sorry to waste your time.

Five for Friday – Get ‘er Done Edition

Metallica - Metallica.jpgAn “Ocassional Series” here at Inspired by Daniel at Alien Soil, I fire up Media Player on random and post the first 5 songs here.
Today, I’m up against a deadline at work. When I need to put my head down and get the work done, I put the headphones on and fire up my ‘Metal’ playlist (which is more ‘Hard Rock’ than just ‘Metal’). Nothing gets the creative juices flowing and ramps up my productivity better. I’m on my lunch now, so I can get a FfF in.
Mom and Dad might want to look away. 😀

  1. Metallica – Wherever I May Roam from Metallica
    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Driving beat, aggressive. Just feels like hard work getting done. I’m not a Metallica fan-boy, but I love this album.
  2. Metallica – My Friend Misery from Metallica
    With a limited play list, it’s not surprising that Metallica would come up twice. A little slower, but still a driving beat.
  3. Nelson – Bits and Pieces from After the Rain
    Well, this is actually kinda embarrassing. One, because not many folks would consider Nelson anything close to metal and two not many folks would admit to owning a Nelson album. I actually like it and the heavy guitars and driving beat fit with the theme here, even though most Metallica fans would cringe at Metallica and Nelson mentioned in the same context.
  4. Nelson – Will You love Me from After the Rain
    Figures, another Nelson tune. I was tempted to hit next and pretend it didn’t happen, but that’s not how FfF works. Not nearly as good and not as effective here. Frankly, neither Nelson tune is as effective as Metallica.
  5. Poison – Let it Play from Flesh & Blood
    Nelson might be stretched in to metal, but Poison I don’t think so. A good, driving rock song, one of the best on the album.

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put your Get ‘er Done Music on random and give me your list in the comments. Me, I gotta get back to work.

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