Sunday Thoughts: Comfort

 

Sunday Thoughts

“Unbelievers always think that the best thing in life is that you are autonomous; that you are yourself and that nobody bosses you around; that you are yourself, and that you make the law in your life. You set the law yourself – autonomous. that is the ideal of humanism. But the catechism precisely says, “My only comfort is that I am not autonomous, that I am not my own boss. I have someone else who is my boss. I belong with body and soul, both  in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. I am a Christian in the deep original sense of the word. I am a Christian – that means I belong to Jesus Christ.” – Dr. Jelle Faber

Once a quarter we have a Congregational Meeting during our afternoon Sunday School hour. On these quarters, we have a special Sunday Morning service and an extra Lord’s Supper. We have extra readings of the scripture and extra hymn singing. I treasure these special Lord’s Day services.

This last one, Pastor Jarret preached on Question 1 in the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q: What is thy only comfort in life and death?

A: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him. 

I’ve treasured this question in my heart for years, but most often looked at the “comfort in death” side of the answer. Christ is my comfort in death, and the death of other believers.

fc0b3b3fe05487fec4de14a0c51ec085I love the show Firefly, but there is a line that has always haunted me: “Everyone dies alone.” Mal says this to Inara when their ship is failing and Mal refuses to leave. He makes sure his whole crew gets off, but he won’t leave Serenity. Inara tries to get him to come with her, telling him he’ll die alone if he doesn’t. His response, “Everyone dies alone.”

When I first heard that line, I thought it true. Cynical, cold, but true. In fact, there is some comfort found in hard truth: Everyone dies alone, no exceptions. Deal with it. Facing truth, the hardness of life can make it easier to deal with. It sets the proper expectation so you aren’t surprised when life hurts.

But, I still found the line haunting. It rolled around and around in my head. I found it disturbing. It’s disturbing. The quote I started with answered some of that for me. ‘Everyone dies alone’ is the end of autonomy. If you wish to have no authority in your life, if you truly want to be god to yourself, then you must face death alone. You can ignore that fact, or you can face it, but either way, you will die alone. And, that my dear readers, is a scary thought. At the end, no matter how you live, you will die alone. The good, the bad, and the ugly will all face darkness alone. For Mal, that is what he wants. He wants to be left alone, even if that means facing death alone. He’s comfortable in those woods cause he’s trusting in himself.

But, what about those of us who have seen ourselves for the dark monsters we really are? Death will bring all that I am out into the light? Do I want a bright light shown on every thought, every lust, every lie, every manipulation, every second of selfishness, every drop of pride, every disloyal second I’ve lived. Do I want my life laid bare for all to see? How terrible and terrifying, how shameful that thought. Hide me, may the rocks fall down and hide me, for I am filthy. I have not a speck of goodness in me. I’m driven by fear, pride, selfishness, and distrust. I am not good.

What is my only comfort?

Christ.

Christ died and took my sin, my guilt, my shame. He took all that ugliness and gave me his goodness. He gave me purity. He washed me. He gave me righteousness. Then the Father adopted me. The Father poured out the love he has for the Son on me, accepting the monster as cleansed. Then, the Holy Spirit, oh faithful Spirit, dwells and works in me. Justification and sanctification. Not a drop of which I earned, but all of God.

And now… I won’t die alone. I will not face that darkness alone, for Christ is beside me. Christ holds me. I am loved. Not because of anything in me worthy of love, for I am fully unworthy of love. Oh reader, if you saw what God can see, you would disown me today. Your forgiveness I could never earn, your love I could never keep. But God. God knowns me better than I will ever be able to admit to knowing myself, and still holds me tightly within his grasp.

I will not die alone.

I will die a sinner, but now alone.

I will die a monster, but not uncovered.

On that judgement day, I will have something standing between me and God: Christ who died for me. And, oh doubt speaking within my heart, you lies of unbelief, guilt saying not me, Christ did the work. Christ is faithful. Christ is trustworthy.

All this is my comfort.

But, like I said, I’ve always thought about this great truth in light of death. But it says ‘life’ too. Life? Yes, what is my comfort in life? It is the same as in death! My comfort is Christ and his work, the love and adoption of the Father, the faithful work of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how this humbled me. I woke up in the middle of the night right after we got our new flooring filled with anxiety. There was so much to do. The house was a mess. Things were unhome like. How could I keep my husband de-stressed and me un-overwhelmed when things were so crazy? So much to do, how will I get it all done? I tossed and turned and thought silly thoughts.

I forgot my comfort. I forgot that God, who adopted me, died for me, forgave me, justified me, sanctifies me, and loves me is sovereignly working all these things out for my good. He is a Father taking care of his child, me. All these things that need to get done, that he has brought into my life are here because he loves me and wants me to grow.

I don’t know about you, but I can make a mountain out of a mole hill. I distrust myself if I’m not stressed out. I feel like the only way I can get stuff done is if I’m stressed about it.

And yet, God has said that I’m not to be anxious.

He has my hairs numbered, and I’m a shedder. But, not a single hair falls that he doesn’t know about and plan.

Reader, this means that money issues, health issues, marriage issues, past and future issues, blessings and struggles are all orchestrated by him for me well-being, and he loves me. Why, oh why am I not sleeping peacefully? I have a Father who can’t be stopped, tricked, or distracted from his care for me. I have a Father who won’t make a mistake, who never stops loving me, who will tend to me. I have a Father who is never abusive or negligent.

Oh reader, what is our only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to be autonomous. I won’t to belong to Christ. I don’t want to be anxious about taxes, meal prep, cleaning, organizing, managing money, or time. The best way for me to not be anxious isn’t for me to become a billionaire. It’s to trust Christ who died to save me, the Father who adopted me, and the Spirit who indwells me.

Truth is the best help against the madness that is midnight anxiety. Truth is the best help against the darkness of death.

This is truth: Christ, our faithful Savior.

“…the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.” – 2LBCF 2.3

 

 

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Going Home

 

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Courtesy of Lydia Muniz.

 

It’s a unique experience to be part of the same church for an extended period of time. Before Texas, our church changed several times due to moving. Now, I’ve now been a member of Heritage Baptist Church for over twenty years.

When you’re at a church for only five or six years, you don’t really get a chance to see who will rub you the wrong way. You don’t experience the pain of sinning against someone, or being sinned against, in the way you do when you’ve been in the same church with most of the same people for most of your life. You really only get to see the nice sides of people in that short of a space of time.

When you are able to stay put, by God’s providence, and you endure in a church, by God’s grace alone, you often see people at their worst and most immature. I cringe sometimes to think of the behavior some of my fellow church members have had to witness as I’ve grown up. I’m so thankful for their love throughout the years. But, that is the other side of the coin. Sticking around means seeing people grow up. It means watching saints learn to serve. It means seeing people come back. It means the opportunity to rub edges off one another. It means different levels of sanctification all fellowshipping together.

And, it means watching fellow believers die.

In our little church alone, we’ve had Glenn, Harry, Aunt Vi, Ron, and now Robert go home. Some of them went slowly with their family gathered round. Some went too quickly. We weren’t ready. Harry lingered for several days, never alone, always a handful of us gathered around him singing, reading, praying, just being there. Robert got his diagnosis and instead of six months to two years, it was less than two weeks. But, he didn’t die alone. Two of our ladies were with him.

These saints who have gone before are missed terribly. Something will catch the corner of your eye and trigger an old memory of one of them. You look for them, but they aren’t there. But we have hope. Oh fellow pilgrim, we have hope. We will see our brothers and sisters again. They are gathered together in heaven with Christ and they are waiting for us.

They have shed the last of sin, glorious thought. They have beheld our Savior, and they are together. Someday, we too will rejoin their ranks.

Being in a church year in and year out, Sunday after Sunday, unites you deep down because some of your dearest friends–and some who you didn’t really know well, but love–are up there. The people at work don’t understand this. Many of your friends and family don’t understand this. But that person in the pew next to you, they get it. They get the strange mix of boundless joy as one more saint crosses the finish line. They get the sense of longing you have for the rest promised in heaven. They know who it is you miss, because they miss them too. 

Our church hosted another small memorial service for another small member. It was a different memorial than some of our others, because, in a way, Robert had shut himself off over the last few years. The memorial service included a confession of that, given to one of our pastors before Robert passed. He asked us all to forgive him, which we all freely did. Despite that, he was one of us, one of ours. We loved him and forgave him. Some of Robert’s family came, some friends from work, many we didn’t know. The gospel was shared. Tears were shed. Hymns were sung, and we few, we happy few, rejoiced to know Robert was in Heaven. 

 

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Courtesy of Pinterest.

 

Sunday Thoughts: Matthew 18:6-9

If you were to see us not in our Sunday best, but in our spiritual armor, in our TrueSelves, what would you see? A congregation of beauty? Coiffed and pampered? Polished plate, gleaming and shiny? Our swords sheathed and our guns holstered? Maybe clean, on parade soldiers, unsoiled and unspoiled by war?

No, my dear friend, no.

You would see a congregation of scarred, maimed amputees. You would see intense listeners, leaning forward in their seats. We fight our exhaustion. We push through distraction. Our swords are in our laps, blades bare, guns drawn and ready.

Row after row after row of bone-tired warriors with missing eyes, fingers, arms, and legs, gather together. We wear dented, miss-matched armor covered in blood and gore. We’re broken, weary to the point of tears, hungry, and never out of the fight.

Look deeper. Look at our gossamer souls. Do you see the holes? Do you see the daily deaths we die to ourselves for one another? Over there is a battle with sin not going so well. Up front is a disfigured saint still gnawed at by a particular temptation. Back there is a weeping soul who fell yet again into the same trap. They bend under the weight of the battles they have waged this week. They stop their ears to lies and unbelief.

Do you see the dreams sacrificed? Do you see the wants set aside? Do you see the here and now given up? The prayers prayed during the dark of the night? The trials, great and ordinary? The hatred of sin? The suffering endured? The pain of refining? The constant ruthless severity with which each saint turns blade and bullet on his own heart and flesh to rend and fight the corruption within?

This isn’t clean.   

This isn’t pretty.

This is war.

Battle.

Look at us on the path to heaven. We have sacrificed beauty and ease here for glory there. We are the scarred, amputated, broken, weary warriors. We are the ruthless.

We are the loved.

Sunday Thoughts: Boredom

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Sometimes the everyday hustle and bustle of life rubs and rubs until you become blind, deaf, and dumb with the wear. You stop seeing magic. You stop seeing joy. You stop seeing life.

But, what has truly happened is you’ve stopped seeing by faith and started seeing with fallen, old-man eyes. Faith no longer clouds your view. Only deep dark shadows fill your world. You fall before the boredom and monotony of eating, sleeping, cleaning, chores, bills, needs, election cycles, loads of laundry, care for the young and old, wars and the rumors of war, birth and death. The repetitiveness of the world weighs down on you until you forget.

(NOTHING CHANGES!)

This malaise seeps into our churches. The preaching becomes only so many words falling together, powerless as autumn leaves. The saints are no longer a glorious army of the Lord riding forth on white steeds under Christ’s mighty banner. They’re dull, ordinary, offensive people you no longer wish to be with. Sunday isn’t our day of rest, or the Lord’s Day. It is an interruption, taking away hours that could be spent trying to maintain control of everything else in life, or actually resting.

Believers see with eyes of the world. Our old, dead eyes. We get lazy. We stop being Vigilant. Our Christian-colored glasses slip off our nose and aren’t pushed back up. We haven’t stayed in the fight. We haven’t kept the hope.

The regularity and rhythm of life bows us down.

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Awake! Awake! Awake, my soul!

Renew. Refresh. Push your glasses tight against your nose and SEE by FAITH!

The Kings of the earth rage and God laughs.

His hand isn’t weak. His kingdom isn’t failing or even losing the battle.

Put back on your armor and fight! Fight, by God’s grace and in His might, the temptation to see life with dead, old, rotten eyes. They lie.

See with truth!

The preached word is our mighty King speaking to us. The church is the body of Christ and our true family. Do not let the world push you down in the rut of life and cover your eyes with the muck at the bottom. See the world around you with the light of the Word! Christ has already won the war. He is King over-all and He is saving His people!

This is our true reality, our true eternity.

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(Inspired by Dr. Robert Oliver’s preaching on Psalm 2)

Sunday Thoughts: Repetition

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Courtesy of Bing.

 

This should probably be titled Wednesday Thoughts, since it was inspired more by our Wednesday night lessons on the Trinity, but since it’s inspired by preaching, I’ll just leave it Sunday Thoughts.

My husband has been preaching on the Trinity for about two years now, or about 71 lessons. He just finished up. What a challenging blessing this journey had been for our congregation. We’ve covered the basics of the doctrine, its historical development, the heresies surrounding it, and the theology of it. You can listen to all it on his blog, Rod of Iron.

I’ve had an interesting journey as I’ve listened to the preaching on the Trinity. I started out treating the doctrine as something I couldn’t understand and thus was exempt from understanding. Halfway through, I was terrified I was constantly thinking of God in error. Now, I am aware of how much I don’t understand, feel like I have a grasp on some things, and am more thankful than ever for the gift God gives us in our Pastors and Teachers.

One of the books I’m reading right now is By Common Confession, essays in honor of James M. Renihan, edited by Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, and James P. Butler. In it, there is an essay by Stefan T. Lindblad on the Eternal Generation of the Son. This was the first essay in the book that was way over my head. The language and subject matter are far above my normal reading level. And yet, due to the diligent preaching of the word by faithful men, I followed for more of the essay than I would have otherwise.

This led me to have a greater respect for repetition. You know that bit of review a pastor does at the start of every sermon in the series? You know that sermon almost exactly like the one he preached before his break? You know, that part at the beginning where you only half listen cause you just heard this last week?

That part.

I always viewed that part as necessary for people who weren’t here last Wednesday/Sunday. (Sounds so prideful doesn’t it?) I often encouraged my husband to not do so much review. I thought if he stopped reviewing so much, he could finish the series faster. And we’ve all heard it before. Thankfully, he didn’t really take my advice. The concepts, truths, and theology he was teaching are hard to understand, hard to hold onto, hard to processes. We want to skip it, so we don’t have to wrestle with it.

Over and over, on Wednesday nights, he repeated the same things about the Trinity. Over and over, we sat and listened. Things got deeper, bigger, broader, and my view on review started to change. From one Wednesday night to the next, I eagerly awaited the review because I knew I wasn’t holding onto all that had been taught last week. I needed to refit it all in my brain. Then I’d go home, meditate, worry I wasn’t thinking through it right, and be ready for the repetitive review by the next Wednesday night.

Repetition became one of the biggest aids in a difficult and often misunderstood or abandoned doctrine. It familiarizes us with the terms, re-aligns our thinking, and helps us gather up what we’d forgotten. Repetition gave me hooks to hang thoughts on allowing me to sort of follow an article about the Trinity written far above my normal reading level. Repetition is helpful.

This is why we never get tired of hearing the Gospel. I’ve been in church my whole life, was saved at a young age, and still, I come to church each week hungry for the gospel. I’ve sinned, fallen short, and I need to hear of grace again.

So, this is a remainder to me, and hopefully and encouragement to you, don’t check out when the Pastor is going over, yet again, the same thing he went over last week, and the same thing he’ll go over next week. It’s for our good. Listen.

 

Sunday Thoughts (Inspired Prose/Poem): Do Not Be Afraid

Do Not Be Afraid

Have you ever thought

how truly terrible

telepathy would be?

To read and feel and

know a fellow sinner,

a fellow monster’s,

inner thoughts?

All their anxiety, all their hatred, anger, lust, petty meanness, belittling, envy, covetousness. All that is selfish, self-focused, and disloyal in each of us. All that is psychopathic and sociopathic about each of us. All that is dark in us.

Can you imagine how that would tear,

rend,

bruise,

destroy

all of us, our families, our relationships, our world?

Monsters are we all, hidden behind our pretty clothes and jewels. Tombs, rotting and stinking, painted white and carved, all beautiful.

A King of pure holiness,

pure goodness,

pure light,

comes.

And horror of horror, mountains please fall on us, this King can see all that we are. Into our core, the very heart of us. He sees our TrueSelves: lazy, self-worshipping monsters, oozing rot and ruin, that we are.

He opens his mouth and we quail back from him.

We’re lost.

How can we be in his light?

“Do not be afraid.”

Worlds stop.

Sounds fall.

All stills.

Do not be afraid? He of pure light tells darkness not to be afraid?

“Your sins are forgiven.”

Worlds rejoice.

Sounds rise.

All is in peace.

True goodness says, “Do not be afraid.”

Grace, Grace!

We have found our hiding place where we are free, accepted, clean, and loved.

“Do not be afraid.”

With these words, we can turn and love washed monsters because we are washed monsters, fellow beloved of the good King.

-Abby Jones: inspired by Pastor Jarret Downs’ sermons on Luke 5

Sunday Thoughts: Ordinary People

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(found on Google)

What is one of the must unsung things we as believers can do to help our congregations, our church family, our own pursuits of holiness?

Faithfully attend every service held in our local body.

Look! It’s so un-shiny, it’s so un-glitzy, it’s so . . . so . . . so boring.

Being there Sunday in, and Sunday out, on time, focused, in your pew, every week.

Where is the glamor? The excitement? The passion!?

Something inside us wants it to be more. We want to see!

Granted, there are some bigger and more obvious ways you can serve and encourage your church, but this is the best place to start. Start with the quiet and ordinary. Isn’t it funny how God always calls us to self-denial? We want something big and bold and he gives us something quiet and ordinary.

(From Google)

(found on Google)

Think about it. Faithful attendance:

First, it encourages your pastors. They’ve worked diligently all week to be ready to preach to you because they care about your soul. Have you ever thought about how discouraging it is to them when you don’t come, or you come in late, or you get up and down over and over? They are the messenger of Christ with a word from the Lord and you over slept?

Second, think about the other members. If so and so with five kids can get there, why not you? If so and so who is sick or over worked, or old got there, why not you? And how discouraging is it to your church when you decide not to make attendance a priority? Think how it might tempt others who are already struggling with faithful attendance.

You can encourage the whole body just by being there, not to mention feed your own soul!

Third, think about the outside world and the message it sends when you give up on all the ‘Sunday’ stuff to be at church. This sends a stronger message of your walk than all the tracks or evangelism you could ever participate in.

All that, and it’s so easy, so ordinary, so boring: be at church every Sunday, every Wednesday, faithfully.

We live in a world trying to divest itself of the ordinary. In doing so, it misses the beauty and power of living a quiet, ordinary life. Don’t listen to the lies. Be content and even joyful about being ordinary.

(found on Google)

(found on Google)

Sunday Thoughts: God’s Love

We're on a ship!

He loves me!

 

 

Using my husband, the Lord has graciously taught me the value of systematic theology and sound, solid doctrine.

It’s not like I didn’t know before that theology and doctrine were important. I did. But I kept theology in one hand and practical application in another as if the two were totally different things that never touched each other. It’s an easy thing for the modern Christian to fall into, even one raised in the Reformed faith.

Over the last three years, the Lord has shown me the practical benefits, personally and corporately, of sound theology.

During this process, one of the greatest things I’ve learned is that the greater God is, the greater our salvation! The more we grasp and hold to the creature/Creator difference, the more powerful, gracious, and merciful our salvation is. Praise God that He would save me!

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Pastor Pascal Denault

This same truth struck me a few Sundays ago when Pascal Denault preached for us after our SBFC-SW: God didn’t save us because He needed us. He saved us because He loved us!

What a powerful thought! What a harbinger of hope!

Think about all that Christ endured in this life only to die a torturous death, but then you see He did that out of love for me and His church, oh my heart! Here is beauty! We, the church, the chosen bride of Christ, are loved by Him that much! Not because He was incomplete without us. No, because He loves us. Oh how great God is! How great is salvation when it is all of grace! How great is this love!

He didn’t need me! He loved me!

We sell our salvation cheap when we think we are saved because God needed us somehow. It lessens God and glorifies man. It’s all about me. It’s all about me being something. It steals glory from God and leaves room for my pride. And, perish the thought, if He ever doesn’t need me anymore, or a better me comes along, I’m lost. What slavery!

I don’t want my husband to keep me around only cause he needs his socks cleaned or his meals cooked. I want him to love me outside of my abilities. I’m sick and can’t do much. One day, I’ll get old and be able to do less. If he only wants me for what I do for him, then I’m sunk. But, if he loves me, cooking and cleaning because a joy and no longer a burden. Old age can be faced with less fear because I know he loves me. He won’t abandon me when the road is dark, because he loves me.

The same is true of the Christian walk. If I obey out of fear that God will stop needing me, I don’t love Him. I’m only thinking about me. But If I obey not to earn God’s love, but because of it, than I am free from fear. I’m free to obey without worrying about losing my salvation. I did nothing to earn it. It is safely held in the sovereign, impassible hands of our mighty God.

Do you see how sound theology is infinitely practical?

 

 

Sunday Thoughts: Training

steve-rogers-i-understood-that-referenceA few weeks ago Pastor Eddie Florentino used an illustration for affliction that really stuck with me and has been a source of encouragement to me over the last few weeks. The passage for that morning was Hebrews 12: 4-11:

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

While walking us through the text from Proverbs quoted in Hebrews during Pray Meeting, Pastor Eddie asked if we expected Navy SEALs to get easy training? Do we expect their training to be hard or just a walk in the park?

Well, the obvious answer is we expect their training to not only be hard, but the hardest. These men are supposed to be the elite of the elite. They are supposed to make all our other soldiers look like guys hanging out for the weekend. No soldier should have it easy in basic training. To make it easy on them is to do them a disservice because it leaves them open to attack when they go to war. The better trained our soldiers are the better chances they have of surviving and coming home to their families. (You should always worry if the standards of training are being lowered. That means someone is not getting the training they need. That puts them and  everyone around them in danger.) The Navy Seals and all our other special forces should, and do, have training that makes basic look easy. We should hold them to a high standard and we should expect lots of men to be unable to cut it. If just anyone can make it through Navy SEAL training than we have a problem.

So what does this have to do with affliction and why did it stick with me?

It says in Hebrews that our affliction is God’s disciplining and training for us. It is how God molds us and makes us into his children. This world, in some ways, is our boot camp, our basic training, and God uses trials and and sufferings to get us in shape.

Yet for some reason we always complain that our “training” isn’t easy. Why oh why am I suffering?? We moan and complain when the Bible makes it very clear that God is perfecting us. You see that? Perfecting!  I don’t know about you, but that seems like something that would require a lot of work. Perfection isn’t easy.

For six months, I’ve been struggling with health issue, and yet when I put my mind on them as training, as my spiritual boot camp, I find them much easier to bear with hope. I have hope in my trials because I know God is using them to make me a better soldier.

Navy-SealSee, I’ve read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell (one of my top 10 favorite books) and American Sniper by Chris Kyle. Through their books, I have gained a very small understanding of what our Navy SEALs do in their training. I have vicariously experienced the mental and physical strength needed to survive to become a SEAL through their stories. Pastor Eddie’s illustration really struck home with me. I truly felt like Captain America in the picture above. I got that reference. It made many things click into place in my head. Their training is hard for a reason and our training by God is hard for a reason. It made my trials logical because I understood they were God’s work in my heart. God is not perfecting everyone. But, He is perfecting His people and that means my life is going to be a struggle, a battle, filled with trials and afflictions, because He loves me and isn’t going to leave me to myself.

That, my dear brothers and sisters, is hope!

Hope!

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are here to make me more Christ-like, not give me an easy life, and just like a Navy SEAL, I’m in for a world of hurt. Not because instructors or God is mean. No. Quite the opposite. The instructors what to make sure each SEAL is the best he can be so that he survives and helps bring everyone home. There is a point to the suffering the SEALs endure in their training. There is a point to my trials and suffering. God is loosening my grip on this world, making me holy, and teaching me about Himself. One day, He will bring me home.

We are being trained. That is a hope-filled thought.

I may never have gotten to be a Navy SEAL in this life (that’s another blog post for another day) but, God is training me as a soldier of the Lord in a much bigger war with a much greater Captain.

Sunday Thoughts: Divine Impassibility

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As you all know, I’ve been struggling with my health this year. I’ve been making slow but steady progress for the last few months, until about a two weeks ago when I regressed terribly. Back to the doctor! Guess what? I’m anemic. In fact, I have a severe case of anemia. Now, thankfully this is something easily fixed with a diet change, some supplements, and patience. More meat for me!

Within less than a day, I was feeling much better.

Here’s the interesting part: prior to the diagnosis, I not only felt drained physically, I also had no stress threshold of any kind. I had zero emotional control. Every little thing became a point of high anxiety for me. Mole hills became mountains. I cried over things I normally am able to shrug off. I explained all this to my doctor and she said that was totally normal for an anemic person.

Iron. Iron, or the lack there of, affected my emotions.

We live in a day and age when we encourage everyone to follow their heart except my heart was way off point because I didn’t have enough iron in my blood. My emotions are once again proven to be untrustworthy because they can be affected by such a small thing, like diet. My Mom likes to quote Dickens from The Christmas Carol:

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”

All this to say, guard your heart. Your emotions are not the most trustworthy way to divine truth. They can be manipulated by something as straightforward as a low iron intake.

After learning all this and feeling better after some meat, I realized yet again how thankful I am for the doctrine of Divine Impassibility. My emotions get yanked around. God is without emotions. He loves me now as he has always loved me and will always love me and nothing great or small can change that. God can’t suffer from a low iron count that makes him cry over the smallest thing or seize up in terror at some perceived fear. God is not like me and for that I am truly thankful because I can trust him. His love will not change. He will not suddenly fear for me. He holds me safely in his might. He will never lose me, or be annoyed by me. He is unchanging. His love will never change. I am the creature. My emotions affect things like my love. They misguide me. I can’t trust them. But, I can trust an impassible God. My God.

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God without Passions by Samuel Renihan.

This book was probably one of the most theologically rich books, or deep books that I have ever read. I tend to go for books which are heavy on life application as opposed to books that are rich in doctrine. This is a trait that I’m working on changing thanks to my husband’s teaching on Systematic Theology and Amy Byrd’s book Housewife Theologian. I’m slowly learning that Systematic Theology and doctrine are completely applicable to life, and rich in head and heart knowledge.

It took me a while to get through this book. I took it in small chunks. Some of it was hard to read and follow based on the English language at the time of the writer. Some of it was just really deep requiring a logical following of the argument to gain the point.

All in all, it was a very encouraging read and mostly for this point: reading the work of other Christian brothers over the last several hundred years gives you a sense of connection. We are not an isolated bubble in history. No. We stand united with many many other dear saints who have gone before us and have held to the traditions as dearly as we do and should. We are not alone in this river of time. We are joined in one great battle against the darkness with our fellow saints. You want proof? Here are men going back and back writing about the same issues we so recently dealt with in our association and still continue to wrestle with. We are not alone in this. Our older brothers also thought through and examined this doctrine. Our older brothers stood their ground and upheld the doctrine of Divine Impassibility and we may count ourselves in their number now. God is good.

My favorite quote from the book was from John Tillotson and his book The Remaining Discourses, on the Attributes of God:

“If God be pleased to stoop to our weakness, we must not therefore level him to our infirmities.”

Amen!

God’s gracious mercy to us to come to us the creature and make himself known to us, doesn’t mean we can turn around and subject him to our creaturely way of looking at the world.

My other favorite quote was by Benedict Pictet and his book Christian Theology:

“. . . thus he did at the same time decree to create men, and to destroy them by a deluge some ages after.”

God’s repentance at the flood wasn’t a changing of his character but a stooping down to us to help us understand. God decreed the flood from the beginning. He doesn’t change, but he does gently stoop down to his children.

I found this quote interesting as a storyteller because we plan the suffering, change, and growth of our characters without, on a human level, changing ourselves. Everything may change in the character’s life, including death, and I’m the same me. I had a character who was the worst of reprobates, a betrayer of friends, who was forgiven and redeemed. He changed, not me. I planned his salvation from the beginning. (Obviously, this analogy breaks down because I change and I change my mind, and sometimes out of the blue, I’ll think of something for my story, but it still helps me to grasp the idea of Impassibility.)

The more I contemplate Divine Impassibility the more beautiful it becomes. One, I’m secure in a God who doesn’t change and can’t be change. Two, I have Christ. Oh, the beauty of God who became man with all that we are, without sin, and died for me. Christ suffered. Christ felt. Christ died. He did all that we long to have in a Savior. Why try to change the very nature of God, making him passible, when we have Christ? What more do we need? We have divine God, who is impassible, and Christ, who in his human nature, is passible.

Christ is our mediator. He bridged the gap between God and Man, and in him, in the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility I find heart. I find great love beyond understanding. I find all the emotion I could ever want because God became Man and dwelt amongst us.

If you wish to have a better, historical sense of Divine Impassibility I suggest God without Passions. It may be weighty, but it is good and worth the work.