Tomorrow we are under Obamacare, under the sun, but our trust is still in God, who reigns above the sun and over everything under the sun

What a crazy and frustrating transition it has been to leave our health insurance providers against our will and to assimilate ourselves into Obamacare. But health insurance is not our god: God is our God, and Jesus Christ is still our Lord. But I do want to share with you what we learned along the way and encourage your heart and mind for next year on a few subjects with the next several posts, beginning with one of the most concerned issues in our country at this time: health insurance.

First, our experience.

Cheryl and I have had separate polices. Being self-employed as a pastor means I shop for a policy on my own with no benefit of a group policy. Cheryl has been on Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (ICHIP) with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois because she is uninsurable due to multiple pre-existing conditions that will never go away. ICHIP has served us well. I have been with several providers over the years as my Insurance Broker shifts me around every-so-often to get a better rate. But, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, ICHIP’s premium’s are being doubled and then scheduled to terminate in 2014. And because I have no group policy from which to share the load, my premiums are going to double as well, to pay for things that I don’t need, things that are morally objectionable, and to help pay for others to have insurance that are not on my policy. So we have no better option than to make the move.

What we learned:

1. You need to get a Licensed Health Insurance Broker in your state. Their knowledge is very critical to a successful transition. I’m thankful that I have had an exceptional broker for many years now.

2. Your Insurance Broker has a National Producer Number (NPN), a number by which the “MarketPlace” will respond to much quicker than if you simply walk up to the MarketPlace door, and knock on it on your own.

3. Do not use the website. It’s junk. You must get a pillow, a pot of coffee, a good book, and sit on the phone with a rep from the MarketPlace. Be prepared for multiple, “I’m sorry . . . my computer just crashed. It will take about 10 minutes or so to reboot and then we can resume your application . . . again, we’re sorry for the delay.” This can take up to 3 hours, depending on what time of the day you call. For me, their computer crashed 6 times in just over two hours. This is why their website is a nightmare; not even their own reps can avoid the freeze-ups.

4. Do not hang up and come back later to finish. If you do, they will most likely lose your application even if they give you an ID#. Persevere until you have a finished application and they have registered it with your Insurance Broker’s NPN. I sat on the phone for over two hours and was almost finished but needed to leave and come back. My Insurance Broker told me to get ready to hear, “We’re sorry Mr. Truman, but there is no application in our system. We’re sorry, but we will have to start from the beginning.” He was right. They lost my two and half-hour application. In the state of Illinois, according to my insurance broker, the MarketPlace, so far, has lost over 11,000 applications that were actually completed.

5. You will be eligible for a discount if your annual taxable income is below $62,400, and pro-rated for more discount the less income level you go.

6. Obamacare is NOT an Insurance Company/Provider. The government does not have an insurance policy! Think of it this way: Obamacare sticks it’s hand up the back of every Insurance Provider and make them provide to whomever, for whatever, at wherever facility, at whatever rates – deductibles – annual out-of-pocket limits, ect., or else be fined. If you like your present Insurance Provider or doctor, you may not be able to keep it, him or her. That’s the truth and it always was the truth.

7. Get LifeLock Identity Theft Protection. My insurance broker told me that the MarketPlace is a hacker’s paradise because it has almost no security fire-walls built into the system. Your SS# and auto-debit routing and account numbers to pay your premiums are exposed. It is a must that you get the minimum LifeLock protection. If you pay an annual premium at once, you can get it for $99, or even less with New Year’s offer promo code.

8. We successfully made the transition to Blue Cross Blue Shield/Obamacare. For us, the premium is lower than our previously combined premiums, but our annual out-of-pocket will be more. This is because Obamacare now sets the standard on what these Private Insurance Companies can charge and what they can’t. In all seriousness, no Private Insurance Company would take Cheryl on for such a low premium – she’s serious high risk. Here’s the point: no company can survive by taking on too many high-risk, high liability clients without raising the premium, or by not paying the doctor or hospital, or by discontinuing certain expensive procedures. So we’ll see what happens as next year rolls on. For now, it seems that Cheryl can continue to see her specialists at Loyola Research Hospital in Chicago for her kidney disease and autoimmune disorder. We thank the Lord for this.

That’s some of our experience. But thankfully, it is not our foundation for hope. Christ alone will continue to be our refuge.

All of this made me think of Ecclesiastes again, the portion of God’s Word that forces me to look above the sun and put my hope in the one who reigns over all the mess. There is a built-in meaningless and vanity to life because of our sin, which drives us to seek the only true meaning in God. I dare not stake my joy and security in any Health Insurance provider, because,

“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? . . . In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Ecc. 2:22, 7:14).

In other words, work hard, be wise, but do not deceive yourself into believing that if you do all the right things, and if you can get everyone around you to do all the right things, that you can keep hard times away from your doorstep. It’s foolish to think that you can out-manage people and problems. Your only hope is in Him who sent his Son Jesus, to do what no Health Insurance Provider can do: conquer death.

“Immanuel is hell’s terror”

Ray Ortlund, Jr. reminds me this morning of a great hero of the faith, Charles Spurgeon:

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .

Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given.

I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Old Testament (London, n.d.), III:430.

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014

Below is Justin Taylor’s post today on “thegospelcoalition” website. I heartily encourage you to seek the Lord in the Word, and if you do, you will find him. Enjoy!

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014

esvdrbDo you want to read the whole Bible?

The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

(For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, gohere.)

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:732:46Ps. 119:1115239399143:5).

As Joel Beeke writes:

As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation facilitates the diligent use of means of grace (reading of Scripture, hearing sermons, prayer, and all other ordinances of Christ), deepens the marks of grace (repentance, faith, humility), and strengthens one’s relationships to others (love to God, to fellow Christians, to one’s neighbors at large).

Thomas Watson put it like this: “A Christian without meditation is like a solider without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost.”

So reading the Bible cover to cover is a great way to facilitate meditation upon the whole counsel of God.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

One option is to get a Bible that has a plan as part of its design. For example, Crossway offers the ESV Daily Reading Bible (based on the popular M’Cheyne reading plan—read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) or the One-Year Bible in the ESV (whole Bible once in 364 readings). [For multiple bindings of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, go here.]

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email, but is now also available as a free app) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

Jason DeRouchie, the editor of the new and highly recommended What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, offers his KINGDOM Bible Reading Plan, which has the following distinctives:

  • Proportionate weight is given to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and the New getting one reading per day.
  • The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44—Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day.
  • In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once; the second reading of Psalms (highlighted in gray) supplements the readings through the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).
  • Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions.
  • The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).

Trent Hunter’s “The Bible-Eater Plan” is an innovative new approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” It takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email

You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

Merry Christmas the Day after


We’re very thankful for our Lord who came to rescue us from what we broke: a relationship with the one who made us for our enjoyment of him and his own glory. To be restored to a right relationship with God the Father through the reconciliation of his Son (Romans 5:9ff) is the gift of God. Our hope and prayer and resolve is to stay married to one another until we die. We made that vow to one another over 29 years ago. By God’s grace, “Lord give us many more Christmases together – magnifying what Christ did for his bride, his church, for us.”

God bless you with his tender mercies!

Ivan and Cheryl

No Need for a Mock Wedding to “conspire beside the fire”

Each year I enjoy hearing these lyrics: they’re romantic and sentimental. I also enjoy listening to the meaning of words. Here are the lyrics to Winter Wonderland, one of the most favorite songs this time of the year. Read them slowly and carefully – see you at the end:

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Gone away is the bluebird,
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song,
As we go along,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown

He’ll say: Are you married?
We’ll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you’re in town.

Later on, we’ll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid,
The plans that we’ve made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Ok: two love birds are walking through a forest and they stop to build a parson, that’s a pastor, out of a snowman – his name is “Parson Brown.” The couple knows they’re not married but sort of want to be so that, well . . . let’s just say it’s not for roasting chestnuts on an open fire – you don’t need to be married to do that! So, when the preacher-snowman gets into town, he “does the job” – “I pronounce you husband and wife.” Later on, vavoom by the fire. Plans fulfilled.

Or . . . maybe I’m reading way too much into the words. Anyhoo,  I’m just glad that I don’t need a pretend preacher to conspire beside the fire this Christmas. By grace, we had a real wedding, with a real preacher, with real witnesses and real vows. Now we can truly face, unafraid, the plans that we’ve made – and so can you.

A Little Bear Humor for Monday Morning

Once upon a time there were three bears who lived together: Papa bear, Moma bear, and Baby bear.

Papa bear and Moma bear fought all the time. It got so bad that they decided to get a divorce. As the family stood before the judge another fight broke out between Papa bear and Moma bear – but this time it was mostly over who would get custody of Baby bear. Finally, the judge had enough and stopped the proceedings. He asked, “Baby bear, do you want to live with your Moma?” Baby bear replied, “No sir, she beats me from time to time – I don’t want to live with her.” “Well then, do you want to live with your Papa,” asked the judge. Baby sternly said, “Oh no . . . he’s worse than my Moma – he’s beats me all the time.” The judge all flummoxed spoke up, “Well who do you want to live with then?” Baby bear happily said, “I want to live with the Chicago Bears – they don’t beat anyone!”

Dec. 22, 2013: Chicago Bears – 11. Philadelphia Eagles 54.

The Greatest Treasure That Ever Was Hung on a Tree

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5).

“. . . the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27).

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37b).

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offering you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me . . . Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book . . . and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5-10).

I Remember Christmases Past and Long for What They Hinted At

In the eyes of a young boy, approaching where Main Street intersected with Broad Street was magical. In 1972 it was the only red light in Summersville, WV. There were two golden Christmas angels mounted on the electric poles opposite of the other. They were huge to me – especially the trumpets that they held, directly facing the other as if they were about to blast a sound to usher down a legion of angels and open the heavens. Walking down Main Street was like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” – I can see the old courthouse with the canon in front and all the decorations that seemed to swirl like candy canes, matching the barbers pole swirly thing.

I remember mom turning our front porch poles into candy canes by wrapping foil and red paper around and around. I remember the old Christmas lights with their clips, and the glass tree-topper that was kept safely in the box that once held an electric iron. I remember when I got the electric football game, the rip-cord racing car, the rock’m sock’m robots, hot wheels cars and double loop race track. I remember hearing Santa Clause outside in the garage one late Christmas Eve shouting Ho-Ho-Ho. We ran out into the garage and saw this massive pile of toys (found out later that it was our neighbor who faked jolly st. nik).

I remember visiting grandparents on Christmas, and running into lots of family members. Lots of laughter, food, and smiling faces. I remember walking into grandma Hall’s living room past the fireplace – there it is: grandma’s Christmas tree in front of a big picture window, so pretty and sparkly. I remember visiting grandma White. We’d walk in and she’d say, “What you fers up to?” I loved her smile. I remember the routine of it all – I loved it.

I remember getting a box of assorted flavored LifeSavers from a neighbor. I remember lots and lots of snow. So much that it seemed like driving through a fairy-land tunnel on our one-lane road. The trees were so weighted down they hung over the road creating a secret passage to a happy-land where time stood still. I remember when there was nothing wrong with the world . . . and there it is.

I had no idea that cancer was slowly killing my dad, that cancer was slowly growing in my mom, that Watergate and Vietnam were eating away at the hope of a country, that oil prices were sky-rocketing, and that a recession was about to hit. I had no knowledge of the devastating effect of polio on so many children – though I had a friend who wore those metal sticks on his legs. I had no knowledge of the university and college turmoil in Ohio and California. I had no knowledge of the racism that was still spreading its ugliness in our culture. I did not know that my grandparents missed their own mom and dad at Christmas and secretly sorrowed the loss. I did not know that there was so much wrong and so much to cry about. I did not know that pain and suffering were part of Christmas. I did not know that moms and dads wept together on Christmas Day as they held their dying child in their arms at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Christmas’s of my childhood hint at an irresistible desire: We long to live in a time and place where there is nothing, absolutely nothing but Joy and Peace. Not because we’re too ignorant of the sad reality, but because there is full wide-eyed knowledge that all that causes pain and tears is truly gone. We long to live with no fear of impending sorrow. We long to never be alone again. We long to live in a land where it feels secure and safe as a little boy feels when he wakes up on Christmas morning to the smell of fresh cinnamon toast, hot-chocolate, and the love of a mom and dad, cuddle up to the fire-place . . . and just sit. All is quiet. All is calm. All is bright. All is well.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us) . . . the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matt. 2:23, 4:16).

I’m going to this place – it’s where Jesus is. Come with me . . .

Did baby Jesus soil his swaddling cloth?

I think we secretly hope that baby Jesus did not do #2 in his angelic cashmere diaper, and yet, we must admit that if we deny him this low-level humanity, then he is not fully human. What embarrassing indignity to confess that we produce something so vile that we keep it in pipes and tanks buried under the earth. And to this day we are publicly reminded of our true humanity every time we purchase the white rolled up paper on a cardboard tube. You place it on the conveyor only to turn and look at people looking at you buying ‘Angel Soft’ for you know what. Heavenly?  NOT!

What does it mean for baby Jesus to be fully human? Among many things it means that he was as human as a human can be. The scriptures teach that he became human, he humbled himself by putting on human flesh (John 1:1, 14; Phil 2:7ff). But our inclination is to keep him sanitized from our messy humanity. The famous Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger” is still unpersuasive. We are to rejoice and sing that baby Jesus was the perfect baby because, “no crying he makes.” Really? Baby Jesus never cried? Is that because he was nearly comatose from the methane gas emanating from the cattle stall?

It seems that we just can’t leave Jesus alone: we either strip him of his divinity or his humanity, or both. Throughout world history this has been and continues to be the tug-of-war. And it is a war, a spiritual one for sure. If he’s less human than what he showed us, then we have no Savior to save us from our sins, for God alone cannot save without a perfect sacrifice to take my place. God does not willy-nilly forgive sins without a payment. On the other hand, if he’s less God than what he showed us, then we still have no Savior to save us from our sins, for a human alone cannot save another human from his sins.

We must confess: There is no one like Jesus! He was born of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18) and at the same time was inside of a virgin girl named Mary (1:20). His name would be given to describe his mission: “. . . and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21). He would not do this by his birth but by his death. But his death would not have been sufficient if he was not both fully God and fully human at the same time.

It may not sit well with us that baby Jesus was that much like us, but if he is not, then we have no hope of being cleansed of our sins – which is worse than not being cleansed of you know what.

Great Times in West Virginia

We thank the Lord for some down-time back home.


This was taken on Powell’s Mountain, about 15 minutes from where I grew up. What a blessing to get snow over Thanksgiving.


This guy is for real. Duck Dynasty in WV. Jim Samples is 75, one of my dad’s long-time friends who lets us hunt on his property.


I shot this buck while he was flying through the air delivering presents. He froze like this!


Always a blessing to be out-hunted by my son.


Snow falling, 270 Browning semi-automatic in hand, outfitted by Cabela’s – all good gifts by the one who said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). I like getting dominion!

Back to work . . .