Elephants and Rhinos and Fatherless Boys

Elephant portrait

If you can spare about fourteen minutes, watch this documentary. It will make you think. It’s about elephants and rhinos, but it’s about something else, too. It’s an illustration of, if not a scientific parallel to what’s happened in our culture. It really needs no commentary, but maybe this injunction from the Holy Spirit fits, at least for our human species: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

The video is found at the bottom of the following article: https://www.kotafoundation.org/the-delinquents-in-pilanesberg/



Sister to Sister: What Happened Under the Tree? (Part 1)

tree_fjsyakid_lThe devil first did it in the Garden of Eden.  Eve knew the fruit was forbidden. She knew that God had promised certain death if she picked and ate.  But somehow the devil got Eve all mixed up about good and evil. Maybe what she thought was bad might actually turn out to be okay–even good.  All this time she thought she would die if she ate the fruit. “But I’m getting smarter now,” Eve thought. “ I can listen to this other point of view from this talking serpent. His message gives me hope. I like the sound of wisdom and especially the ability to discern between right and wrong. Maybe what I thought was the absolute truth was not absolutely true after all.”  

You know the rest of the story. Eve took a big bite of this subjective thinking and plunged the world headlong into sorrow, disease and death.  The ironic thing is that the devil used the ability to discern between good and evil as the bait. He promised her this wisdom to know right from wrong. Did you ever stop to think that this ability to distinguish with certainty right from wrong had been given by God in the very beginning?  When God gave Eve the commandment to refrain from eating the fruit of that particular tree, He graciously gave her absolute truth. He presented the choices to her. He told her which choices were good and which choice was bad. He even prescribed the consequence of the wrong choice.  When God revealed his wishes to her, she had all she needed to know about right and wrong. She had, in those early  garden days, wisdom on loan from God. That’s still how we get real wisdom today…from revelation. “The fear of the Lord is (still) the beginning of wisdom” (Psalms 111:10).

But Eve chose experimentation rather than revelation. She, like an infant with a will to disobey, decided to try the Father and see if he was as good as His word. Experimentation is the basic exercise in proving science. My kids did it in school. You know, first you develop a hypothesis. That’s just a big word for “your  best guess at what will happen if…” Then you come up with a test or a series of tests to prove whether or not your guess was right. After enough testing to reasonably show consistency in the results you have proved or disproved your hypothesis. This process is known as the scientific method and all of the real facts in the science textbooks have been proven this way.  Sometimes kids still use this method to prove the principles of buoyancy or the laws of thermodynamics. It’s a good scientific exercise.

But what if you heard that the scientists at NASA were spending one million of your tax dollars this month to prove the law of gravity?  “Why that would be an awful waste of tax money!” you’d say.  “That law has been indisputable for centuries. The law of gravity is no longer in need of being proven.  We already know the consequences of jumping from a ten story building. Let’s use that money on some other research.”

And so it is with God’s laws of good and evil. When God revealed His laws to us in scripture, they were not hypotheses. Since they came from the omniscient One, they were just as sure the moment they were written as if they’d been proven ten million times over. We don’t have to read and then test. Men’s hypotheses need testing. God’s laws are inherently right because He is God. But in the year 2016, we have the written infallible Word of God and several thousand years of testing to prove God was right in the first place. And yet we’re still standing under the tree, if you will, taking that big bite of subjectivism and deciding our ways might work out better than His ways. We’re still hypothesizing on our own, questioning His predicted outcomes, and finally (and, all too often, too late) learning that He knew the facts all along. The scientific method need not be applied to God’s spiritual laws. He is the supreme Scientist. He designed every law of nature. He set in motion every principle upon which our universe operates. His rationale, His wisdom, His instruction is far above our human processes of reasoning. When God instructs, we are not about proving. We are about moving.

(The article above was largely taken from a portion of a chapter I wrote for the Fort Worth Lectureship Book at the Brown Trail School of Preaching and the Brown Trail Church of Christ, 2006)

Mama’s K.I.S.S #45–The G.I.F.T.S. Projects

thAs you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 45 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

This one’s a little different, in that, rather than making a single suggestion for serving, this time I’m recommending a resource that has lots of ideas for serving and growing in Him. The book G.I.F.T.S, by Hannah Colley Giselbach, is a thirteen chapter book for teen girls. Including a myriad of topics like evangelism, influences of the media, Bible study, prayer and dating, the book is Scripture-filled and practical. When Hannah wrote the book, she was sixteen years old, so her perspective was that of a peer rather than merely that of an instructor.

What makes the book fit into the Mama’s K.I.S.S. series is the projects feature included in each chapter. Every chapter concludes with a list of potential projects for girls to complete alone or in groups. These projects range from organizing spiritual events to participating in evangelistic studies. It’s a great way to organize the service efforts of teen girls in your own home and in your congregation. The book encourages fellowship and group completion of many of the activities. Because serving together is more fun than serving alone, this approach will leave teen girls enthusiastic about filling needs in congregation and community.

Below is an example of some of the many projects from which teen girls choose as they progress through the book:

  Send five encouraging notes to five different younger girls during each week this

      month. Include praise for positive attributes and a verse of scripture in each.


   Ask a younger girl, or a group of younger girls to sit with you during each

       service  during the next month.


  Take a stack of index cards, a marker, and a role of double stick tape to school

      with you one day. Encourage at least twelve people by placing encouraging

      “way-to-go-notes” on their lockers, desks, text books, etc. Include scripture

       when appropriate.


  Find five instances in scripture when lying or deception led to more sin. Bring

      your list and Bible references to the next study sessions and discuss with mentor. 


  Write a children’s fable or fairy story about someone who gets in big trouble

 because of a lie. Ask one of the young children’s teachers in your congregation if

 you can visit a children’s class and read your story. Be sure to apply the story to

 the children’s lives when you finish reading.


   Check the newspaper0r a news website every day for a month for current events or court cases

       that include deception. Compile these in a folder or scrapbook and turn them in 

       to your mentor at the next meeting.

It’s important to remember that our kids need to keep serving right on through the teen years rather than becoming self-absorbed as the culture in which they may matriculate tends to be. G.I.F.T.S. is a rich resource for teen service.


You can find G.I.F.T.S. at www.thecolleyhouse.org.


Sister to Sister: Q and A…Can Someone Be Good Enough?

Questions Or Answers Directions On A Wooden Signpost

Question: “I don’t really believe there is a God; But let’s just say there is, and you live your whole life for him and nothing was up to his standard’s and just not good enough to get you into heaven? What if you do all that work for him, for nothing? Most ”christians” to me are fake anyways! I was once a member of the church of christ, and everyone was just so rude and unfriendly and have cliques, that they only allow certain people to be, if you don’t met their standards, you’re not welcomed. It’s such a turn off! So… How perfect does one have to be, to live up to god’s high expectations?! If we can never live up to them, then no one is going to heaven, right? Anyways…. There are too many contradictions in the bible for me to believe there’s a god almighty.”


Response: Of course, I do not have all of the answers. I believe my Father does, but since you do not believe in Him, we have to go at your second question from an angle that’s very labor intensive. That’s okay, of course. But let’s look at your first observation/question first. I’m glad you said, in that one, that we can assume there is a God. When we do that, we get to look at His Word for answers. You further posited that it’s possible to serve Him to the best of one’s ability for all of a  lifetime and then, at the end, to find that, in spite of it all, “good” just isn’t good enough. So, I think you are asking for my thought about that scenario.


Well, first, it matters not even minutely what I think about that. All that matters, since we are assuming there’s a God—an all-powerful final authority over my life and yours—is what He says. And His Word is in absolute agreement with your theory that we cannot be good enough. Not one of us can be good enough…that’s just a fact. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and even one transgression is enough to damn our souls.Romans 5:12 tells us that we are all subject to death (hell) because we have all sinned. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) so, since we have all sinned, the payday for every one of us is eternal death.


So you’re right. No matter how we try, we cannot be good enough to escape hell and enter heaven. But Christ, who died FOR me (taking my punishment for sin) was good enough. He is sinless, so God accepts his death in the place of my death. While nothing I can do is good enough to deserve heaven, nothing but nothing can negate the sacrifice He made so I can have it. A “propitiation” is a payment or offering done by someone in place of or in the stead of it being done by the one who owed it (Rom. 3:25; I John 2:2; I John 4:10). That’s what Jesus did for me and you. He died so I would not have to. Calvary occurred (was planned and executed by God) so that I will not arrive at the judgment scene and come up “short”. It is not my goodness that insures that, but God will look at me and see that I am inside of the one who IS perfect and paid the price for my sins. So I have to be sure I am in Him (Rom. 6:3,4 and Galatians 3:26, 27 tell me how I can know I am in Him) and strive to walk in His ways. If I am trying to be faithful, He just keeps on making me clean and I have nothing to fear regarding the final judgment. I John 1:7 is very clear about that. John said he wrote the book so that we could be confident in our salvation. I John 2 (the whole chapter) is a great confidence builder for His children. He says he wrote the letter so we can know we are right with Him and have confidence for the judgment day.


You are so right…living without confidence that, in the end, I will have heaven, would be tormenting. I’m glad I already know the outcome of that dilemma. No one is good enough. But Jesus is. He gets to have heaven. That means I automatically get to enter because I am inside of Him. I got into him when I was baptized. I stay in Him by keeping the heart of wanting and striving to be like Him. So as long as I stay faithful to him…not good enough, not perfect, not worthy of heaven…just faithful to Him, I am sure I am heaven-bound. Just as I know how to stay faithful to my husband, I know how to stay faithful to my spiritual husband. I love Him and want to please Him. I can do this through Him (Phil. 4:13)!


…And about those “Christian hypocrites”…let’s revisit them soon in another edition of Bless Your Heart.   Unfortunately, they will still and always be around.

Sister to Sister: Feedback from an “Orphan” Sister

Two women outdoors hugging and smilingPerhaps you read the recent post called “Orphans Among Us”. If not, you may read it here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-orphans-among-us. This reader response made me want to be more like Christa (and more like Christ).  I hope it will encourage us all to value our family in the Lord more than even our physical families.


Hi, Cindy!

I hope all’s well with you. I just read your article “Orphans Among Us” and I really enjoyed it! I was raised half in the church. I was born into a Catholic family. My parents divorced and my mother remarried (unscripturally) to a man who attended (a very permissive and not wholly biblically sound) church of Christ. While that congregation had some issues that eventually led to my whole family walking away from the faith, I know God had me in the palm of His hand. When I got older and started looking, the local church of Christ is where I started (and fortunately that one was sound). While my family growing up is still lost, I’m thankful that the process resulted in my husband becoming a Christian and my children being raised in a Christian home. All the backstory was just to say this: I’ve had an amazing experience with other women stepping in to be my surrogate mothers in the faith. I’ve been blessed with several wonderful women who have been wonderful friends and tasked themselves with teaching me as their own. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I got really nervous when we moved to a new place because I was losing my physical family, but also my surrogate family in the faith.

Last year was especially hard for us. We were still relatively new in town. I’m a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. I lost two babies last year, and some wonderful women helped me through that. The doctors thought there was an ectopic pregnancy. I was desperate and scared. We’ve since been been “adopted” by an older couple at our congregation. They have my little boys calling them Gigi and Pawpaw. Once, I was at their house and one of their actual kids called. They’d come in from out of town and were telling them where they were. Lloyd and Christa, who had “adopted” us, told their children that they had company and would have to see them later. When I offered to leave so that they could be with their kids, they told me that my family was closer than theirs. As Christians, we’re closer to them than their blood family (who are lost). When I lost my second baby, Christa had been acting as my mother the whole time (my blood family wanted me to have an abortion because I have a history of difficult pregnancies). When we went to the ultrasound and the doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat, Christa was the first person I called. While my own mother wasn’t willing to look at the ultrasound photos (they were all I had, but our baby isn’t alive in them), Christa came over and cried with me over them. When I hemorrhaged at 5:30 in the morning (and my husband, after rushing me three blocks to the hospital, had to leave me there to get back to our kids–who we didn’t have time to wake up), I called Christa. She wasn’t angry that I woke her up (but said she would have been if I hadn’t). She sat with me all day, held my hand, and prayed with me. I know that it’s so very true that there are orphans among us. I just wanted to share my experience as one who was adopted.

Sister to Sister: Where’s the Joy?

unknownIt’s unconscionable. The language…the view of women…the perversion of God’s plan for sexuality…the profaning of the marriage covenant. It is unholy. It is lewd. I am saddened. But I am still going to do what I can to keep the murderers of innocent babies out of the Supreme Court. There is very little I can do. But I will keep speaking against abortion and my vote will still have to reflect my position in that battle. She promises to strengthen the forces against the babies. Pence is loudly and logically fighting FOR them. He does not control the ticket, but he was chosen by the candidate. That says something she would never, ever say. I’m prayerful for our country. But I have never been more thankful that my truest citizenship does not lie in my American identity.

That’s the long and short of how I’m still planning to head to the polls. That doesn’t mean it’s pretty. There’s an awful lot of negativity that’s just necessarily accompanying our plans for November’s voting.  I find myself easily discouraged and, on the worst of days, even despondent. So, tonight, as I write, I’m beginning a short personal study in preparation for an upcoming lecture I’m giving on our eternal joy. He always seems to provide the needed topic at just the right time.


The following list, published in The Bible Friend, of various places where joy cannot be found, is an apropos beginning to a study of eternal joy; for we, who believe He exists, cannot even write or talk about the joy God offers without simultaneously embarking on a quest for finding that joy for our individual lives and families. History verifies the findings of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes—that searching for happiness outside of full submission to the Will of God is vanity. Here’s a partial list from history in answer to the question, “Where can joy be found?”

Not in Unbelief — Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born.”

Not in Pleasure — Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.”

Not in Money — Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”

Not in Position and Fame — Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”

Not in Military Glory — Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, “There are no more worlds to conquer.” 

Knowing where it’s not is a great motivator for searching where it is. I’ve got that book open right now to Jeremiah 15:16: Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Have you found His Word for your life? Are you devouring it today? Is there joy and rejoicing in your heart? Are you called by the name of the Lord of Hosts?