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.

 

Thanksgiving (Day 13 and 14)

 

As I look around my house early on Monday morning and I see dishes piled up, things in funny places, and all the signs of company over last night, I’m thankful for the ordinary, local, particular church that I’m a member of. I’m thankful for this body of believers that I’m a part of.

We’re not perfect. We get on each other’s nerves. We’re families, singles, young couples, older couples, and generational. Some of us have been working on loving each other for a very long long time. We’ve been filling in for each other’s weaknesses. We’ve seen each other at our worst. We’ve hurt each other and had to forgive.

But over and over, Sunday after Sunday, we gather together to hear the preaching, to again rest from the fight. We soak in the blessed Means of Grace. We rub shoulders with these same ordinary sinners.

I love it.

I love each and every one of you at Heritage. I miss you when you’re gone. I ache when you struggle. I pray for you and each of the ordinary struggles you have: raising children, the failing of the body, growing up and figuring life out, marriage, money, life and death.

Each Sunday I’m reminded that no matter how dark my week may seem, or how loud this world may be, that the gathering on Sunday is eternal. It is the point. All the rest is a temporary, failing world that’s already lost the battle. Sunday is real. My church body is real.

Today, I’m thankful for my Church and for each and every saint in it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ladies Tea

I recently had the honor of co-hosting our Annual HBC Ladies Tea. My co-host and I went for a whimsical theme, with pretty food, cute hats, and lots of fellowship.  Here are some of the pictures I was able to take. My apologies, I’m not the photographer in the family, so some aren’t that great. 🙂

The Lord blessed us with women from four local Reformed Baptist Churches: Sovereign Joy Community Church, Covenant Community Church, Bethesda Baptist Church, and our own Heritage Baptist Church. The woman from Faith Community Baptist Church were with us in heart.  We had many women who wanted to come, (I think I had forty RSVPs), and ended up with 24 women and four beautiful babies in total!

Getting the muffins made!

Getting the muffins made!

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Muffins on the cooling rack!

Muffins on the cooling rack!

Yum! Gluten free Pina Colada, and Butternut Squash.

Yum! Gluten free Pina Colada, and Butternut Squash muffins.

Mugs and teapot at the ready!

Mugs and teapot at the ready!

All the work has been done and now the day arrives!  The Atterholts arrived at 1100 to help set up, decorate, and ready all the food!

Decorations going up!

Decorations going up!

Everything ready for all the special Ladies!

Everything ready for all the special Ladies!

Rachel, on the left, was my co-host! Her sister Arianna sang a lovely song at the tea. Naomi was my right-hand applying all her organizational skills to serve. And Patricia made sandwiches and kept everyone in stitches!

Rachel, on the left, was my co-host! Her sister Arianna sang a lovely song at the tea. Naomi was my right-hand applying all her organizational skills to serve. And Patricia made sandwiches and kept everyone in stitches!

Let the Tea Begin!

(At this point I was so busy meeting, greeting, having fun, and fellowshipping, I kinda forgot to take pictures. Sorry.)

Something unique about each of the Ladies who attended!

Something unique about each of the Ladies who attended!

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Drinking tea, talking about tea, and making new and dear friends!

Drinking tea, talking about tea, and making new and dear friends!

And to finish us off, here are two pictures of me with my little niece who is wearing my baby dress. I’m just slightly smitten. 🙂

She's not as happy as I am. :-)

She’s not as happy as I am. 🙂

Love my little Imogene!

Love my little Imogene!

Thank you to all everyone who helped by bringing food and chairs. We missed everyone who couldn’t make it but wanted to be there! There are rumors floating around about doing it again in the fall…except with a coffee theme instead. God has given us a wonderful church family, here at Heritage, and a wonderful group of sister churches! We are blessed to be a part of this family of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Ladies! I for one am looking forward to many years of fellowship together!