The Imperfect Disciple

I had the opportunity this weekend to get a few days away with the family. We didn’t go somewhere far, but it was far enough to disconnect from the everyday busyness of life. We came to an Airbnb with notoriously bad cell service, intermittent WiFi connectivity, and no TV. All of which are highly desirable by me when we get away even if I occasionally find myself trying to place my phone on just the right place of the window to get cell reception for a moment. All that to say, this time was exactly what I was searching for: a disconnected getaway where I can spend time with my family, unwind, and accomplish some reading.

I received my copy of Jared C. Wilson’s new book “The Imperfect Disciple” Wednesday evening. I began reading it that evening and quickly knew this book would work its way amongst my favorites. Thursday, which is the last day of the week in our office, I was graciously allowed to leave the office a few hours early so we could make our way out to the place we were staying this weekend in Samish Island. We arrived shortly before dinner and after unpacking a bit I continued into my reading of my new book. By Thursday evening I had made my way halfway through it already. A pace that was previously unprecedented for me while reading. Friday had dawned and I picked up some more reading during the morning. We spent the later part of the morning and most of the afternoon into the evening together as a family and then Friday evening I dug back into the book until it’s completion. 

Wilson did an impeccable job in his new book. With his casual writing style and story telling, he mixes humor and sarcasm with brutal vulnerability at times to write a book for the Christian who doesn’t always feel like they “have it together” which I imagine is all of us at varying points of our walk in faith. Throughout the whole book I felt myself resonating with much of what he said and at the same time being drawn to Jesus in all of it. This wasn’t a ‘to-do’ book on discipleship, but I feel that it more importantly addresses the ‘why’ of discipleship. 

This book is filled with real every day things that real every day Christians try and work out but may not hear others talk about so they don’t talk about it themselves.

He addresses everything I had hoped a book on discipleship would discuss. You’ll find sections on Bible study, prayer, church membership, communion, community, and so much more. All the while you’ll also hear of other things that can slowly become part of our day to day walk of faith that people don’t typically talk about. The things you feel really guilty about but you’re sure that Super Christian Joe from your community group doesn’t really struggle with. Some of the parts of the book that I really appreciated are when Jared transparently and vulnerably shares of things in his own life like thoughts of suicide and idolizing pastoral ministry. He also goes on to address the difficulties of discipleship in a suburban context, a struggle all too familiar to me. This book is filled with real every day things that real every day Christians try and work out but may not hear others talk about so they don’t talk about it themselves. 

If you are the person who scrolls through social media comparing your life to the lives portrayed to you on your screen and hoping you will one day be able to get it together like them, know that they don’t have it together and if you read this book you’ll feel a whole lot better that you don’t either. If you are embarrassed about your prayer and Bible time, read this book and know that others are too. If your spiritual walk isn’t really where you’d like it to be, read this book and know that for others it isn’t either. 

Despite all of the above, perhaps the most important factor woven throughout this book is it’s gospel connection. This book doesn’t really offer much with regards on how to be a better disciple. However, on the other hand, it offers everything you need to be a better disciple and what that is, is the gospel. For every fault or imperfection discussed within the pages of this book, Jared Wilson points you directly to the cross. I walked away from this book not only reflecting on my imperfections but also praising the Perfect One. This book offers hope and grace, just at the title says, for people who can’t get their act together. 

This weekend was so incredibly refreshing to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I owe that in part to my family, I owe that in part to my church, I owe that in part to Jared Wilson, and I owe it in whole to God, the Perfector of my faith. 

Blessings Amidst Chaos

What follows is a story of this weekend. 

I was excited to get away for a couple days with our good friends, the Hackett family. WAS.

The Chaos

Thursday as we set off for our trip, everything was going well. We left work around lunch time and were on the road by one o’clock. Roughly a couple hours into our trip, we are about a mile outside Leavenworth and an incredibly loud and rapid clicking begins emanating from under the hood. I pull over to check what is going on and, as I stop, our car stalls. I check under the hood to see if anything seems out of the ordinary. Looking back on the moment now, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference but I felt it was my obligation as a man to make the effort. After checking, I closed the hood and began to start the car. The clicking resumes and as I attempt to accelerate, we are barely picking up any traction.

We chug along a mile into town, barely moving, and begin googling auto shops. There are only two shops in town and one of them had just closed. He answered and sent us to another shop on the other side of Leavenworth. We continue along, loudly clicking from the hood as bystanders are staring at us while we pass. We roll into the parking lot of the auto shop and the owner comes out the door as we are stopping. He looks at me and says “that doesn’t sound good.” He lets us struggle the car into his shop and he takes a look below it. He comes up with a serious look on his face and informs us that, “I don’t know how this could have happened, but the bottom of your engine is gone. The clicking is a piston shooting through the bottom of your engine block.” The engine on our little Suzuki had blown. We were dead in the water and stranded hours from home and about an hour from our destination. My insurance would tow us as far as an auto shop, but most places in tourist towns don’t just have engines and the necessary tools for that swap lying around and I was currently sitting at one. To get my car towed back home would be a fortune. I had no idea what to do and I felt helpless. My car was stuck, we were stuck, our friends were an hour away at our destination, and my home was at least twice as far in the opposite direction.

We began the search for a way to get the car moved and to search for a rental car that can get us at least through the weekend. The pursuit for a rental place quickly ended up disappointing. Neither of us have credit cards and few places will rent to you without one these days. Then when we were able to find places that would, they were forty minutes away and closing before we could get there. Meanwhile, our friend Kyle had dropped his family off and was racing an hour back towards us so that we could attempt to make it back to the car rental place on time to try and pick up a car since they would only do it in person. As time went on and more calls were made, it quickly became evident that we weren’t going to get a rental car that evening. This meant if we wanted to get a rental he’d have to take me on a long drive on Friday to pick up a rental and then make the drive back to Chelan, spending more time of our trip trying to figure this out.

In the middle of frantically making calls and having no idea what to do, Samantha brought up asking a good friend of ours for help. I reached out to our friend Matt who has been an incredible blessing to us time and time again in numerous ways. He is way out in Federal Way and agreed not only to spend his Saturday coming to pick up our family and bring us home but also to help rent a trailer and pull our car there too.

The Blessings

As sucky at this whole situation has been, as I’ve reflected on it over the past couple of days, I have begun to notice the little things that show up as the hand of God in all of this so far.

When our car first showed the signs of being shot, we were within a mile of Leavenworth and an auto shop. This is an incredible blessing in itself as we had just driven for hours through a mountain pass and could’ve been stranded anywhere out there, isolated from cell phone service and a nearby town. In addition, even though we had a piston shooting through the engine, we were able to putter along slowly down the road into town. I don’t know the dynamics of blowing an engine but I am personally thankful that we had the ability to drive this car to a shop instead of being stuck on the side of the road and needing a tow. What a blessing that was.

Once we got to the shop and found out our vehicle was done for, the owner was incredibly gracious with us. He offered to allow us to keep the car there for a week or so while we figure out how to get the car all the way home. This was huge and alleviated the burden of needing to find an immediate solution for removing the car from his parking lot that day.

Our friend Matt agreed to graciously surrender his Saturday to some pick us up and help bring us and the car home. This was probably the biggest burden of this immediate weekend lifted. Not having to worry how ourselves or the car was getting home was a huge relief and blessing for us. It also removed the need to pay for renting a car which would have been more expenses for us in the middle of all of this.

The place we spent the weekend was beautiful and comforting amidst the turmoil of everything that happened on the way. We were on a lake, in a gorgeous room, with friends who we loved, surrounded by snow covered mountains. We had two days of relaxing and just having fun to take our minds off the frustration that was Thursday evening. What a temporary relief.

Lastly, Samantha’s tribe got some kind of government settlement and she will be receiving a check for a few thousand dollars. Talk about God’s good timing. We don’t know when that will come. Hopefully soon. But, it will surely be welcomed as we dive into the struggle of trying to survive with just one car for two very busy people and figuring out my transport situation.

That is the story of how God blessed us in little ways through blowing our engine.

I'm A Blessed Man With A Covetous Heart

I'm very happy with the things God has chosen to bless me with. From my job, my vehicle, my house, and my beautiful wife to the very breath that allows me to get up in the morning. One thing I've always been quick to do is to give God thanks for all He has given me. I am so immensely happy to have the opportunity to steward all that God has given me. That being said, the moment I realized something had caused me to throw all of that out the window, I was concerned.

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a friends going away party. It was being hosted at the house of a man who I had heard of but never met before. From the moment I pulled up to this man's house, I began to allow subtle lies to enter my mind. At first they were unnoticeable but throughout the night I would come to realize they had consumed me. This house belonged to a single, retired man with no commitments who had worked hard to get what he owned. Yet, after spending only several hours there I had envisioned what my life would look like living in that home.

I began to allow subtle lies to enter my mind. At first they were unnoticeable but throughout the night I would come to notice they had consumed me.

He  had everything I could have wanted: A large, nice house on the water, a dock with a boat, a large yard. Everything I've ever "dreamed" of having in life was right before my eyes. The more time I spent there, the more my thoughts drifted towards, "you should want this" or "you deserve this". I had gone from a man, content with all my blessings to a kid in a candy store, exclaiming "Mine, Mine, Mine!". By the end of the evening, I had envisioned what my days and life would look like if I had lived there. All the things I would do (or not do because I didn't have to). Oh, don't forget all the parties I would have if I lived there. Yet, after having a conversation with the homeowner, he said something that snapped me back to reality. He said, "Honestly, it can get pretty depressing here at times."

What in the world could cause a man who was seemingly living the dream to find himself with occasional feelings of depression? As a Christian, the answer seems pretty clear and it can be found in Matthew 16:26 (Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25, Proverbs 11:4). He had all he could want in front of him, yet he had nothing without Christ. He was searching for comfort in his things yet those things provided no comfort. He was wealthy in this world, but spiritually he was in poverty. He was chasing something but he couldn't attain it. Yet, here I was, knowing the truth and at the same time pursuing the same things with my heart in that moment. I didn't want what Christ wanted in that moment, I wanted what Satan told me I wanted.

He was wealthy in this world, but spiritually he was in poverty.

I look back to the moment in Matthew 4 when Satan is tempting Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, that Jesus said: "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” and I'm so thankful for this. Jesus knew the truth that material things in this life will amount to nothing in the next. Because He knew this, He was able to look at the father of lies and call him out for what he was, a liar. Satan and this world can offer us nothing of true value. We're marketed dozens, if not hundreds, of products daily and they all sell the same message, "You need this. This will make your life better". There's only one thing you NEED and that is a saving faith by grace in Jesus Christ. As my Pastor wisely stated: "We deserve hell. Everything else is a gift. That's a lot of gifts".

With You God, I have much more than I could ever need or want. With all I've been blessed with, I have no reason to covet anything beyond what You have given me. Above all else, I'm thankful for the gift of salvation, which I could have never earned or deserved. I repent of my covetous heart and pray that I would daily stand in appreciation of all that God has given me, from the breath in my lungs to the shoes on my feet. Let me look upon all things in a way that brings glory to Your name, Jesus. Amen.

Know What You Believe And Why

When I first became a Christian I spent much time, as I’ve seen many others do as well, getting primarily fed by the Sunday sermons at my church. While this is a great way to learn, especially as a new Christian, it didn’t take long before I hit what I could best describe as a plateau.

After you hear certain things in the Christian world, you just begin to know them as truth over time. God is good. Satan is bad. Hell is hot and so forth. However, after the past several years of rapid growth and increasing personal understanding of the scriptures, I quickly realized many of the things I “knew” weren’t really knowledge at all. They were merely just things told to me that I assumed were true because I heard them frequently.

… many of the things I “knew” weren’t really knowledge at all but merely just things told to me that I assumed were true because I heard them frequently.

Let’s take speaking in tongues as only one example. When I first became saved I was told and thoroughly believed when you become a Christian you’re automatically given the gift of speaking in tongues as evidence. Why? I didn’t know. Because that’s what my church told me and that’s what everyone there did so I just assumed that’s what all Christians did. After my own personal study and reading multiple commentaries on the subject, I came to a different conclusion myself that speaking in tongues is a gift available to believers, not the gift they all receive.

In fact, time and time again I’ve had my core beliefs challenged and rocked when I discuss different things with Christians and non-Christians alike. I frequently hear things that contradict what I was either taught or thought I believed as a new Christian and I’m forced to go back to the Bible and really get down to the bottom of discovering what do I really believe and why do I believe it. Paul is very firm when speaking with Timothy about a similar situation in 2 Timothy 4 as he describes that Timothy should be ready in season and out of season to preach the word because times are coming when “…itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Let’s look at a couple of practical things that we as Christians should be doing to ensure we have a faith of our own and not a borrowed one we picked up along our walk.

Bring It Back To The Bible (2 Tim 3:14-17)

This is step one and is always the foundation for where you should start. You have to bring it back to the Bible one hundred percent of the time. If you don’t you immediately give way to possibility of following personal opinion or even worse lies and complete heresy. Examine things you’ve been told over time and think to yourself where it came from. If you’re unsure, go back and see what God’s own word says about it.

Know When To Stand Firm (1 John 4:1-3)

There are certain things that we as Christians consider CORE doctrines. These are things that you must believe to be considered a believer. If any part of your beliefs contradict these core foundations it’s time for you to change what you believe. These beliefs include: The Bible is God’s word, there is one God in 3 distinct persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), Jesus is the virgin born son of God, Jesus is fully God yet fully man, Jesus was sent by God and lived a perfect sinless life and was killed as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sin of man, Jesus died and was buried and resurrected again conquering Satan, sin and death and securing salvation to all who believe in Him. He is coming back one last time to resurrect the believers, conquer sin permanently, and bring justice to all those who oppose Him. Do not give way to any teaching or beliefs that clearly violates God’s word or distorts it to say what it does not.

Know When To Agree To Disagree (1 Cor 3)

There are several sections or verses in the Bible that leave a lot of room for people to interpret it completely differently. I’ll point out the ever popular “election vs free will” debate amongst Christians. There are Bible verses that can clearly and confidently support both positions. The conclusions I draw from a passage may be completely different from someone else reading that very same passage with a different understanding than mine. While these points and positions of doctrine are without a doubt important, they’re not ultimate or foundational. It’s okay to have different interpretations of certain passages because one day we will meet the Author Himself and find out all that we want to know. In the meantime we shouldn’t be divisive over these “secondary” issues of doctrine but instead let our disagreements cause us to grow in further study and understanding of what we believe and why. Let the differences strengthen your foundations and then work together with your brothers and sisters in Christ to proclaim the ONE gospel to the world. Our secondary doctrinal views are merely that, secondary. So as long as we’re preaching and believing the one true gospel of Jesus Christ and our secondary beliefs are grounded in the Bible without violating it, let’s just agree to disagree.

Get Back To The Basics (Matt 7:24-27)

With all of the above being said, take some time to really evaluate where you stand doctrinally and why you believe what you believe. Get into the Word, study, and pray. Let no person be able to catch you off guard with questioning your beliefs, leaving you without explanations for your own views which you so adamantly hold to. Don’t let your understanding of God or His Word be built upon what you heard someone else say but discover it for yourself directly from the source. Surround yourself with other Christians who you can speak with and discuss questions or views with in a safe and comfortable environment. You can’t get to a higher understanding of anything that you don’t have a foundational understanding of.

I hope at least one person has found these few simple tips helpful and I hope this post will encourage anyone who reads it to rediscover what they believe and why. If even one person can discover they were believing something that wasn’t true or from the Bible because of this post I will be immensely blessed and my time writing it has been well spent.

In love and Christ,

Michael