Sister to Sister Archives: You Just Can’t Appreciate Jesus Like I Do

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Things just aren’t like they used to be in reference to morality in our country today. Homosexual advocates have a champion of their cause sitting in the Oval Office. The icons of our teen girls are a sad lot of extremely immodest, fornicating, pro-choice, feminist and/or vulgar-mouthed screen stars. Television sit-coms would have us believe that there’s a homosexual man or woman living in every third household in America and that conversation is incomplete and flavorless without cursing and taking God’s name in vain. We kill 1.2 million of our innocents every year and we often pay for the murders with tax dollars. Our schools are battlefields in this culture war and, as a result, our kids are often safe from neither physical harm nor molestation of their values systems. There are many schools today which have outlawed student-led prayer through Christ and/or prayer around the flagpole, but which grant excuses from classes at certain times of the day so that Muslim children can pray toward Mecca. More and more, children need the solidity and emotional safety of parents who can always be depended on for real answers to social issues, for values that are unchanging, and for the provision of a real home; a haven where they can count on being protected physically and emotionally, but most of all spiritually.

And our own “Christian” teens are living in this moral vacuum. More and more of our children raised in “Christian” homes are coming of age and leaving home without the moral underpinnings that they need to make wise choices. Many have already made serious mistakes before high school or even middle school graduation. Our kids are experimenting with pornography, alcohol, and sex of various kinds during high school. They have often been indiscriminate in their television and movie viewing. They have allowed their minds to become subtly controlled by the materialism of television and the movies while becoming anesthetized to blatant sin. They’ve slowly come to laugh at what should make them, as Christians cry. They’ve incrementally given their real allegiance to the world while giving only a token Sunday/Wednesday nod to the things of God.

And then, with a little hope, thankfully, many find their way to the Christian university. At Freed Hardeman University, where my son and daughter have both attended, there are some amazing faculty members whose lives are wholly given to the Lord. There is a Bible faculty, on that campus which, in my opinion, is second to none in the world. And, many times, thank God, those students, who arrived as freshmen in a very weak spiritual condition, find themselves growing closer to God, wanting to know the freedom from guilt, and finding joy in heartfelt service to God. Sometimes these kids have the will to truly change during these college years and many of them will be faithful for the rest of their lives. Praise God.

But there is a sad phenomenon that sometimes occurs in this college scenario. Sometimes, those students who walked away from God during high school and became dangerously involved in alcohol abuse, sexual sin or pornography, etc., somehow feel that they have the spiritual edge over those kids who made the better choices in high school. You may be wondering, “Now where could she be going with this?” Let me explain.

More and more I am hearing college devo leaders say things like “If your life has never been totally messed up with sexual sin, then you can’t fully appreciate Christianity like I can.” Or, “I am not going to stand here and tell you that I have led a sexually pure life. You wouldn’t believe me if I did, since there probably aren’t two out of every ten people in this room who could say that. I’m going to tell you I’ve done about everything you’ve done, maybe as much as several of you put together and He still reached down for me.” Or, “I wouldn’t trade places with any of you out there who always walked the straight and narrow because I love the Jesus who came to the wide path and rescued me.” Or, “There may be those of you who think you made all the right choices through high school. You may have. But, if you did, I doubt you really know a lot about reaching the sinner with His forgiveness.”

What’s wrong with this sort of message in a devotional talk? Well, I can think of some definite dangers. First, let’s take this sort of teaching to its natural conclusion. If I can eventually put the greatest appreciation of the Savior in my kids by encouraging them to participate in sin, then shouldn’t I just provide the alcohol for their high school parties? Shouldn’t I encourage fornication and experimentation with homosexuality, porn, vulgarity and lewdness? Shouldn’t I get the raunchiest forms of satellite TV and download the most explicit computer images for them to view? Second, there are many lifelong consequences that come with various forms of sin (even forgiven sin). You can think of lots of these off the top of your head. With fornication comes the fear of STDs and/or the effect that this behavior has on your later marriage.

With abortion comes the hauntings of guilt and the cry of the dead baby that you may hear for the rest of your life. With alcohol comes the possibility of alcoholism. With porn use comes the addiction you may have to fight till you die. The high school student who had the foresight, fortitude and faith to leave these sins alone should never be tauntingly stereotyped as the pharisaical, righteous one as I often hear in college circles. Third, It took a lot of courage and conviction to avoid the typical high school sins. It was not an accident that this purity of life was maintained. In fact, it was the same Christ who offered you His forgiveness that reigned in the heart of your friend there, as she worked so hard to never let King Jesus down. Did he ever need his forgiveness? Oh absolutely. Can she appreciate that forgiveness? Definitely. But he or she doesn’t have to walk away from the light to know the power of darkness. Fourth, we have to be really careful not to make a lifestyle of sin appealing to young people. Many—no, most young people who become enamored with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life during the very young teen years, do not emerge on the side of the Savior as adults. We are losing huge percentages of our kids as they experiment with the sins of the devil in high school. Parents and mentors who are really focused on eternity will do all that’s within their power to enable their kids to get in the safety of His will and to stay there every single day as they face the huge challenges of life in high school. Just one time, be on the receiving end of that phone call from a grief stricken parent informing you that a teen has been prematurely snatched from this life while under the influence of alcohol and you will desperately want your child to be among the number of pharisaical righteous ones on that college campus one day.

I understand that the one forgiven of much will love much (Luke 7:47). I know, from the life of Paul that the chief of sinners can be the most devoted to the cause (I Tim. 1:15). But there is a real sense in which each of is chief of sinners. There is a sense in which we all have obtained the ultimate forgiveness. We cannot afford to make the depth of depravity to which one has slipped the barometer of perceived spirituality. Let’s stop viewing those who remained faithful to God through what was arguably the most difficult years of life as some sort of self-righteous, sub-Christians. Let’s look to their examples and perhaps even to wisdom they gained for encouragement. I know many of these heroes. Among them are Joseph, Daniel, Samuel, Esther, Mary, the mother of the Lord and Timothy. And I know many of them who are now in college, as well. I can look at the short inexhaustive list above and know that God has a special place in his heart for those who stood relatively alone for truth and right in the high school years.

Today I Was Uncle Billy…

 

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Happy Christmas Eve!

Today, as I write, it’s actually a couple of days before Christmas.  And today,  I was Uncle Billy from that very famous Christmas Eve story, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. (That’s our very favorite Colley Christmas movie.) I went to the bank early this afternoon to make a transaction for my father. I had neither deposit slip nor check.  It’s “customary” to bring those along.  I was glad when the bank clerk  said, “We know who you are.” Perhaps they know because I am the one who is forevermore trying to clean up a banking mess from afar…as in… “How can I quickly get enough money from his savings (in another bank) to his checking account without coming all the way from Huntsville to Jacksonville?” …or… “Does he have to personally come in to do this or can he just sign and send one of us?”  Somehow when you’re the oldest and probably the most forgetful (He’s the oldest and I’m the most forgetful) customer at an institution, they remember you. Today that was good.

So they did give me the two hundred dollars that Daddy wanted me to withdraw to finish out his Christmas (although from the looks of those 19 stockings and that pile of gifts under the tree, he should be done….And from the looks of those bruises he’s sporting from a recent fall at his grandson’s wedding, he is about done!).

Leaving the bank,  I zig-zagged all over Jacksonville doing his errands and mine for a couple of hours and then hurried home to check on him. He had been excited for me to go to the post office and check his mail. He loves to get Christmas cards. True to my absent-minded  form, when I got there, I’d forgotten to bring his box key, so I waited in line to ask my cousin, Robert, the postmaster, if he would get Dad’s mail for me. There were 4 or 5 cards for Grat, who lives in the little apartment part of Dad’s house, but none for Dad. So, when I got home, I hurried into the utility room to put Grat’s cards on the dryer for him. I did not want Dad to see them and ask if he got any cards.

Then I put up the refrigerated and frozen items. Then I went to the car to get Dad’s money. I remembered where I’d laid it, still in the bank envelope—the envelope that had a handwritten “Merry Christmas” in red ink on the outside— in the passenger seat. That’s where I was sure I’d laid it. But it wasn’t there!

I searched and re-searched all over the car, his house, the yard. Then I told Dad I needed to go back to town and check one more thing. In Uncle Billy style, I tried to think of every place I’d been. I talked to the cart patrols on both sides of Walmart. I asked at the service desk. I talked to the cashier at register 8. I looked under cars and on top of counters in restrooms. I went back to the bank thinking IF there was an honest person who had found the cash in the envelope that said “Compass Bank” that might be the place it would be left. But it was a couple of minutes after four o’clock and the bank was closed. So I came home once more and fixed Dad some pizza for supper. He asked me if I had thought to go to the bank. I did not tell him, “Yes, twice.” Instead I said, “Well, I do not have your money. I’m sorry. I will get it first thing in the morning. We still have two more days before Christmas.”

I got him settled in bed and told him I was going to run to town just one more time to check on just one more thing. This time I was thorough. The post office parking lot, the lot at McDonald’s, inside McDonald’s where the cashiers and the manager stared at me in disbelief to think that I would actually suggest that someone would relinquish cash for the sake of integrity. I knew the odds were not in my favor. I went to the square where I had been momentarily in the coffee shop, the drug store and the boutique. In between stops I was listening to a lesson from the Polishing the Pulpit thumb drive. I’m listening all the way through the 2015 lessons and, coincidentally, today’s lesson was one of my husband’s where he details the trial and crucifixion of my Lord. I really have a hard time listening to this lesson without crying. Today, though, it gave my weary spirit peace, while I wept. Every time I got back in the car, I thought, “This money is so inconsequential in the scheme of things. In fact, there was one very dark day in history that made, for me, all material things of very little consequence.”

I thought on this, but still, I went on to the bank parking lot and back home to retrace steps again in the yard. It was inconsequential, really, but it was not mine. Exhausted, I came back in the house where Grat was cooking his late supper. He was sympathetic when I told him I’d lost two hundred dollars. I was telling him about how I remembered having laid that envelope with the red “Merry Christmas”  in the seat beside me.

His eyebrows arched sharply. “I know where it is!” he said. “It was in the middle of that stack of Christmas cards on the dryer! I haven’t opened it, but I thought that was a sort of funny envelope for a Christmas card!” Just like Potter, Grat had gotten something extra in his stack of papers.

Isn’t it funny how holding something in your hand again that gave you absolutely no thrill a few hours earlier can give you a surge of excitement? I wanted to just kiss that red “Merry Christmas” and dance around with that envelope! I wanted to call my neighbors and say “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost” (Luke 15:9).

Maybe most of all, I was glad my friends, like Grat and all of you who take the time to read, are not like Mr. Potter (although I am like Uncle Billy). You are more like Clarence, the angel. I know that if I ever really do get in a jam, there are lots of you who’d rescue me (and some of you have!)  Merry Christmas to you all! God bless you as we all get ready to serve him in 2016.

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!” …Clarence, the angel.

He Wouldn’t Have Done It for the World

I can’t begin to fathom the parental pain of knowing you had just accidentally killed your child. Yet that’s what happened on my street this week when a dad accidentally backed over his 8 year-old-son with the lawnmower. The parent’s were then hurrying behind the ambulance that was heading to the hospital with their dying son in tow, when the car in which they were riding was involved in a subsequent accident, sending the young boy’s mom to surgical ICU, where she remains at this writing. The little boy loved sports of all kinds and he excelled at them, was extremely loving toward his big sister who is away at college, and, in general, just endeared himself to all who knew him. I drove past his house a few minutes ago and got a sick feeling in my stomach. I cannot imagine the emotional pain that will ensue in the days following the return of that mother to that house, if and when she does get to come home. It is just unthinkable to this mom. And to consider that daddy, who will have flashbacks and nightmares for long and painful days to come… He will relive the day and think, “If only I had that one moment to replay…” My prayers go up for him as he tries to get on with his life. He wouldn’t have done it for the world.

And yet, that’s what God did. His son died a heinous, bloody death on that hill far away. But it was not an accident.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son… (John 3:16).

For God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

To personalize, but do no damage to this verse, I can put my own name in the blanks (Gal.2:20):

For God so loved Cindy Colley that he gave His only begotten Son…
For God commended His love toward me, in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.

I can’t wrap my mind around this kind of love. I have sometimes tried, since I don’t know what Christ’s physical appearance was like, to picture the face of my own son on that body on the cross.  I have done this in an attempt to feel, in a small measure, what God must have felt when His Son cried out to him from the cross. What if it were my son crying out to me as I withdrew my assistance at the time of his death? But it’s more than I can bear. I just can’t fathom loving anybody enough to subject Caleb to that kind of excruciating pain and agony. When I attempt to think about allowing my son to be placed on that cross for anyone, much less those who are sinful and unworthy, I am quickly reduced to tears. I just can’t think about that very long. And yet God thought about it for thousands of years. He planned, prophesied, and executed every detail of His own Son’s death for me.

I just couldn’t have done that for the world. But God did.