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)

Quote of the Weekend

“Christian take heed what books you read, if you would have a sound and steadfast ground of hope, peace, and comfort, nay not only have the joy of God’s salvation, but salvation itself.” – A quote from the Marrow of True Justification by Benjamin Keach found in By Common Confession edited by Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, and James P. Butler

(Sound doctrine is so important!)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: First Christmas in Greenhome

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Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

 

The trees were trimmed and the halls decked. Good Christian men and women rejoiced, and all the stockings were hung on walls and over fireplaces in several homes. A few days before Christmas, nine cousins gathered together to cut out snowflakes and draw pictures with Grammie while eating more sugar than their mommies really approved of, but it was the holidays. Cookies, fudge, and pie filled the house.

Tired, slightly grumpy, and played out, they gathered around the lighted tree for a story:

Once upon a time, Aunt Abby started, there was a little town east of Fort Worth called Greenhome. It sat out in the middle of flat Texas plains surrounded by a hedge of white roses that bloomed year around. A tall tower stood near the gate in the Hedge with a loud bell ringing and ringing from its tippy-top. An old olive tree guarded the way into Olive Hall where boys and girls ate three meals a day.

See, the boys and girls in Greenhome were orphans. They had no mommies and no daddies. They were all alone and they didn’t know anything about Christmas.

“That’s so sad.” Imogene frowned.

Remi and Shannon nodded in agreement.

“I’m glad I have a Mommy and a Daddy,” Jules stated.

“I have a Mommy and Daddy too!” Ellie shouted with her eyebrows raised.

“And I bet all of you know about Christmas?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes. It’s when we get presents,” Bruce said.

Joshua grinned. “Lots of presents.”

“And toys,” grunted Jude.

“And,” Constance said. “It’s about Mary and baby Jesus.”

“Sunday school answer.” Grandpa interrupted from the couch.

They didn’t know, Aunt Abby continued, that the King had come. They didn’t know he had humbled himself so that peace could come between him and sinners. They didn’t know about Christmas. They didn’t know that what was important about a babe in a manger wasn’t the sheep and the donkeys, but that God, who created everything, became man to save the worst people in the world just like he’d promised.

“What did they know?” Constance hugged Shannon sitting in her lap.

Well, these children in Greenhome were very special children. They weren’t just orphans. They were also specifically chosen to live in Greenhome.

“Were they the kind people?” Jules asked.

“I bet they were very brave,” Bruce guessed.

“I bet they were very obedient,” Ellie joined in.

Joshua and Jude waited with Imogene and Remi to see what made these children so special.

Nope. They weren’t kind, obedient, or even brave. They lied. They stole. They hit and kicked smaller children. They were horrible, awful children. They were children who were so bad that they were about to be thrown in prison.

But! Just as the prison gates opened, the adults from Greenhome came. They paid the cost for all the children and then adopted them into their homes.

“Oh yuck!” shouted Ellie. “I wouldn’t want those bad boys and girls in my home.”

“Me either.” Jules crossed her arms.

“Awww,” Aunt Abby said. “But see, that’s what Christmas is really all about. Jesus came and paid the cost for sinners who believe in him and then adopted them into his home. See, even though the children didn’t know what Christmas was they had experienced all the magic of Christmas already.”

“So, did they find out about Christmas?” Bruce wanted to know.

“Why yes they did!”

“How?” Imogene leaned forward.

“That’s another story. Would you like to hear it?”

“YES!” Nine cousins agreed.

“Let’s try again, and no interrupting,” Aunt Abby instructed.

From the tallest to the shortest, biggest to littlest, all the cousins scooted closer around their Aunt.

Once upon a time, a long hot summer faded into a wet fall around Greenhome leaving puddles in the streets and leaves in the gutters. Children studied history and math with no end in sight. In a house in the back near the Hedge an old man grunted as he sat down. He knew winter was coming and had spent all day gathering fuel to keep warm against the wind and snow. In his big chair he rested, alone and lonely. His wrinkled boots sat near the fire and his battered hat hung on a hook. His knurled hands ached, and his bushy white mustache hung limp around his mouth too tired to curl up around his face.

Someone knocked on his green front door.

“Who is it?” he called grumpy at a disturbance so late in the evening after a long day.

“It’s Soul.” A clear voice answered.

Grumbling, the old man climbed to his feet and made his way through his messy house to the door.

“What do you want? Can’t you see it’s dark out?”

“I need you, Claus.” Soul held up a lantern lighting up his bald head and bright eyes.

“What for?” Claus didn’t like the sound of that. Need? He didn’t want to be needed. He wanted to go sit in his chair.

“He’s not very nice,” Imogene said.

“Shhh.” Constance hushed her.

“Shhh.” Joshua hushed Constance.

“Be quiet.” Grammie ended the argument before it started.

“I have a boy that needs to be saved before he gets sent to prison,” Soul said softly.

“What? Me?” sputtered Claus. “I’m an old man Soul! What would I do with a boy under foot?”

“You’ll feed him and let him play with those snow globes you’re always making. Someone needs to play with them.”

“No. A boy from the prisons will only break my snow globes.”

“He’s selfish,” announced Remi who had just learned the word ‘selfish’. She caught Grammie’s eye and quickly shut her mouth.

“He might, but you could teach him to make more.”

“Go bother someone else.” Claus started to shut the door.

Soul stopped him, hand on the doorknob. “There is no one else, and I’ve chosen this boy to be saved.”

Muttering, murmuring, grumbling, complaining, and whining, Claus put back on his wrinkled boots and his battered hat. He slipped into his old sheepskin coat and stomped out to the shed in his backyard. Old Tell, his longhorn bull, turned his head and stared at him with one eye while he chewed his cud.

“Come on, you old monster,” Claus said. “Soul says we have to go save a boy.”

Old Tell flicked his tail and backed out of his stall so Claus could hitch him to the wagon with a bell-covered harness.

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Cold night air gathered in the dark around Claus as he flicked the reigns and drove Old Tell towards the prison. Bells jingled and jangled. Claus hunched down and wished anyone other than himself had been sent to pick up some wild urchin who probably didn’t even know how to eat or speak properly. Why him? He wondered. Why would anyone, especially Soul, send an old man to save a boy?

Late in the night, he arrived at the prison with a ringing twinkle of happy bells that only grated on his nerves.

“Who’s there?” The prison warden called.

“It’s Claus. Soul sent me to save a boy about to be sent in.” His voice came out muffled from his numb lips and frozen scarf.

“Come on down.” The warden waved. “I’ll take you to him.”

Claus stumbled from the wagon, patted Old Tell, and stepped into the warden’s well-lit and warm office.

“Here he is. They say his name is Haze.”

A tall little boy with a cut by his eye and a bruise on his cheek stumbled into the room. He straightened up and made fists of his hands. His clothes were too small, showing ankles and wrists. He looked skinny and hungry and cold.

Bruce leaned in closer. “I had a cut like that.”

“Yes, you were my inspiration, now be quiet.”

Something in Claus cracked. All his grumbling and complaining mocked him. He had a warm home, work to do, a nice fire, warm boots, and Old Tell with his bell-harness. He had friends like Soul and little Ms. Carolyn who lived next door and baked him pies. He had all that and more and he complained because Soul asked him to help a little boy with nothing.

The crack grew until all his selfishness shattered down around him. Claus knelt down in front of the lost little boy and held out his hand.

“My name’s Claus. Would you like to come live with me?”

A puzzled look came over Haze’s face. His eyebrows wrinkled. His fists relaxed.

“Claus? Like Santa Claus?”

“Santa Claus? Who’s that?”

Haze reached under his threadbare shirt and pulled out a small red book. On the front was an old man in a red sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer.

“Santa Claus brings presents to children,” Haze recited, “in honor of the greatest gift given to mankind: salvation.”

“I’ve never heard of Santa Claus.” Claus paused shocked to realize that that one little red book may have made Haze richer than he ever could be. This little boy had a story about salvation, and what did Claus have? Nothing but wanting to be left alone. He was a selfish old man. Wiping a tear from his eye, Claus said, “Will you come home with me? I have snow globes you can play with, and a little room you can have. We’ll get you some boots and Ms. Carolyn can make you a pie.”

Haze’s eyes widened. “You’re my Christmas present. I never got a present before. Why would you give me one?”

“Because the salvation you talked about is given to people who don’t deserve it.”

Haze threw his arms around the grumpy old man. Claus stumbled back not sure what to do with a hug. Then slowly, he wrapped his arms around the little boy. “And I think you’re mine.”

Nine cousins cheered.

Grammie smiled, a twinkle in her eye.

Claus bundled little Haze up in a blanket and hurried out to Old Tell. With many a jingling bell they drove back to Greenhome. Haze told Claus all about Christmas, Santa, Presents, and the real Christmas Story. They reached Claus’ home as the sun rose on a crisp white morning. Haze smiled. Snow edged the gingerbread house and smoke curled up out of the chimney.

“Today is Christmas day!” Haze flipped to the back of the book and showed Claus the calendar.

“Then come on!” Claus jumped from the wagon like a man far younger. “Let’s give someone a gift in honor of our gift of each other.”

The two hurried into the house where Claus chose his favorite snow globe from a high shelf.

“What is it?” Haze gazed at it in wonder.

Claus turned it upside down. Snow swirled around an oak tree and a pine, settling on their limbs. Beneath them a man walked carrying a lantern and an umbrella.

“It’s a snow globe, my lad. And we’re going to go give it to Ms. Carolyn right now.”

And that is how Christmas came to Greenhome. In going to save a little boy who needed him, Claus was saved as well. He gave out many gifts that day, and by the next Christmas, he was called Santa Claus and had married Ms. Carolyn, who became Mrs. Claus.

Haze had many rough days as he learned to live in Greenhome, because, if you remember, he wasn’t a nice little boy. He’d been about to be thrown in prison when Clause rescued him, when he was shown grace. But he always had a friend in grumpy old Claus. Haze grew into a strong and good man, and he always celebrated Christmas with a full heart remembering the year Santa Claus came and gave him the greatest gift of all: salvation.

One day, when he was much older, Soul came to him with news of save several little boys about to be thrown in prison. Just like Claus had done for him, Haze saved those kids and was the better for it.

The End.

“Well,” Aunt Abby asked, “what did you think?”

“Who did Haze save?” Bruce bounced up and down on his knees.

“Well, that is a whole other story.” Aunt Abby ruffled Bruce’s hair.

“Will you tell it?” Joshua gave her his best smile.

“Sometime soon.”

“Happy Christmas,” Imogene said softly.

“No, it’s Merry Christmas!” Jules corrected.

“Merry Christmas!” shouted all the cousins.

“And God bless us, every one.” Grammie gathered everyone into a hug.

The End

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My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

 

Thanksgiving 6: God Meets all our Greatest Needs

You are the hope in our despair,
The light in our shadowland,
The justice in our law-breaking,
The mercy in our damnation,
The innocence in our guilt,
The covering in our nakedness,
The truth in our lies,
The love in our hate,
The impassible in our passibility,
You are all that we cannot be,
You are all we need.
Praise and Blessing to God, three in one, forever and ever. Amen.
– Abby Jones

I am thankful God richly supplies all our needs!

Sunday Thoughts: Why I’m Not a Roman Catholic

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“It is finished.”

Those three words, fleshed out by other scriptures like those found in Hebrews, are why I’m a Reformed Baptist as opposed to a Roman Catholic.  I believe that the scriptures are abundantly clear that salvation is humble and simple.  The glory of the salvation of sinners is all of Christ and none of us.

I don’t practice, nor will I ever practice Lent, confessions to a priest, mass, have a priest, or wear a crucifix.  Why?

“It is finished.”

All.  100%.  Every bit of the work that needed to be done for the salvation of the church has been done.  Christ is no longer on the cross.  He is no longer in the tomb.  He is SEATED at the right hand of God.

To understand why this is so important you have to be willing to stomach a little gore, and even if you can’t, you need to.  When God chose out a people, the Israelites, He set up a system of sacrifices.  They were required to lay their hand on the head of an animal as a symbol of it taking their sins upon itself.  Then, the animal was slaughtered, disemboweled, and dismembered.  Blood had to be spilled by an innocent creature to cover sin.  We see this in Genesis when God Himself took an animal skin to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness after they sinned.  We see this in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and we see it in Christ’s crucifixion.  Sin requires blood.  Just imagine the sheer number of animals that gave up their innocent lives in the Old Testament era.  Thousands.  Over and over and over.

Hebrews 9: 19-26:

18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

What does this mean?  It didn’t work.  The blood of animals didn’t take away sin or they would have slaughter only one animal.  If it had worked, Christ wouldn’t have had to come and die.

Not only that, but look at the rules set in place to enter the presence of God.  Have we forgotten He is holy???  Guess who got to go into His presence? One man.  One man, once a year.  That was it.  A huge, heavy veil hung between the priests and the place where God was.  Even more space was between the priest and the people.  And, an even bigger space was between where God was and women.

But Christ!  Christ came, the better Prophet, the better Priest, and the better King.  He came, lived a holy life that we are incapable of living, humbly closed his mouth when falsely accused, died on a Roman cross, rose again and by death conquered death, entered not the earthly Holy of Holies behind the veil, but heaven itself where He was accepted by the Father.  And he SAT down.  One sacrifice, for all time, for His people.  He ripped the veil in two and opened the way for me, a woman, to come to God, through His blood.

Hebrews 10:11-18:

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Are we so quick to put veils back up between us and God?  Are we so quick to demand that we play a part in our salvation when Christ opened up the path to heaven?  Why do we run to the shadows when we have been given the light?

We are no longer required to do these things!  Our sins are forgotten.  Why should we repeat them to an earthly priest?  Was Christ’s blood not enough that we are required to do penance?  Is the blood of the Son of God that weak?  Aren’t we freed from the burdens of the law?  Why would we make new laws for ourselves?

It is finished!

Christ paid the price and asked us, his beloved church, to believe in Him.  He didn’t hand us a long list of do’s and don’ts. He told us to love one another.  Instead of abstaining from Facebook for a month, try loving the person sitting on the pew next to you!  We aren’t holier because we abstain or indulge!  We are called to love our church family.

You can go there, but the cross and the grave are both empty.

You can go there, but the cross and the grave are both empty.

I’m amazed at how quickly we Protestants are willing to cave to the pressure to add rules or suggestions to the Scriptures that Christ hasn’t given.  We fought and bled for this truth, are we so fat and lazy we now willingly give it up just a few generations later?  I’m ashamed so many Protestants are unaware of why we don’t practice Lent.  It is finished, people.  The work is done.  Christ is sufficient.  He left nothing undone.  The few things Christ has called us to do – love our church family, develop the fruit of the Spirit, become more like Him – flow from our love of Him.  And, they are hard enough without adding burdens to your load that He never gave us.

What we don’t like about what Christ has given us is that these things start in the mind and heart of the believer and work out in our small local churches.  They aren’t real visible.  They don’t go viral.  The world doesn’t see them.  It’s work and it’s a daily, moment by moment, battle.  No one gets to really see if you’re being holy or not.  I think this is where we slip up.  We constantly want to have a hand in our salvation and our sanctification.  But biblical salvation is simple, not grand.  Its glory resides in a place beyond death.  That humility is so hard for us.  We want the glory here and now on this earth.  Resist the call of the flesh.  Resist the desire to add to your salvation.

Galatians 3: 1 – 9:

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

My Christ, who paid for my sin, isn’t still on a tree.  He rose again!  He isn’t wringing His hands worried about who is and isn’t being saved.  He reigns now, knowing and preserving His people, His bride.  My job is to serve my church starting with the church member I live with and going out from there.  I’ll never wear a crucifix because Christ isn’t there.  I have pastors and teachers, not priests.  I have only One great High Priest who did His job one time and it is finished.

John 8: 31 – 32

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Thanksgiving 3

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I’m thankful for salvation. I’m not a worthy saint. I’m not a nice person. I’m a miserable sinner. I stand in need of a mediator between me and God. I’m so thankful for Christ, who came to this earth, took on flesh, lived a holy life, and died for such a wretch like me. You would think that the older you get the more you acclimate to the miracle of salvation. That it might grow dull due to familiarity. It doesn’t. The longer I walk this world the more precious to me it is. The more I cling to it. This world fades around me, and Christ becomes ever more dear to me. Look at what He has won for me!  Life, adoption, eternity! How I love the Captain of my Salvation!

Thanksgiving 1

I’m going to attempt a daily Thanksgiving blog for the month of November. I’ll post it every day except Saturday and Sunday.  It’s not that I’m not thankful those two days, it’s just that Saturday is the day I devote to my husband and Sunday is the Lord’s day!

They will be in no particular order of importance, just as the mood strikes me.

Today, November 1st, I’m thankful for salvation.  I’m not a good person.  I’m proud, defiant, rebellious, unkind, unloving, ungentle, harsh, and lack discernment.  I am a sinner saved by grace, first and last.  I have experienced the greatest of undeserved rescues.  For this, I’m thankful.