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?

Womens-bible-study

 

What Paul Suffered so I Can Read the Last Will…(an Incomplete, but Compelling List)

  • Saint_Paul,_Rembrandt_van_Rijn_(and_Workshop?),_c._1657Tonight is the Digging Deep Podcast. Join us at 7 CST here: http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women . It’ll be a discussion of the persecutor-turned-persecuted hero, Paul—the apostle, the missionary, the servant, the writer, the prisoner, the teacher, the mentor, the one with the thorn in the flesh. Surely you find yourself somewhere in those characterizations of this great man. He is relevant to me in so many ways. Of course, the chief relevance is that He was the great mind   and pen through which the Holy Spirit revealed a large portion of the last will and testament of Jesus Christ. That testament is the key to my inheritance in heaven. The study tonight is relevant!

So here is the list from Acts of the persecutions he faced. I’ve added his immediate reaction or response where applicable. Take a look at these days in the life of the spiritually rich and famous. Realize with me that you and I can be elite in the palace of the King of Kings, if we are willing to suffer for His name. He that is the greatest is servant of all. I read that in a Book somewhere. So here is the Acts account of Paul’s persecutions:

  1. Elymas, the sorcerer, withstood Paul and tried to “undo” his work (13:8).  Paul, full of the Spirit, rebuked him and blinded him,
  2. The Jews stirred up the people to persecute Paul and they expelled him and his companions from their coasts (13:50). They “shook the dust from their feet” and traveled on.
  3. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles to think evil things about Paul and his companions (14:2). They just kept speaking boldly and performing signs in the name of Jesus.
  4. Both Jews and Gentiles assaulted and attempted to stone them (14:5). They became aware of it and fled.
  5. Took time for and endured dissension and disputing about circumcision (15:2). Went to the elders in Jerusalem to seek counsel and a solution to the dispute. 
  6. Because Paul healed a girl who had a spirit of divination, those who were making money off of her affliction were angered. They took Paul and Silas to the magistrates where, as a multitude rose up against them, they were beaten with many stripes and placed in stocks in the inner prison (16:19-24). Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in this jail. 
  7. Lewd fellows in Thessalonica assaulted the house where Paul was staying and demanded that Paul surrender to them (17:5). The brethren, protecting Paul and company, sent them away secretly.
  8. Thessalonians followed them and stirred up the people in Berea, the town to which they had escaped (17:13). The brethren sent Paul away again. 
  9. Philosophers in Athens mocked him and took him to authorities (17:18). Paul preached the great sermon on Mars Hill.
  10. That sermon resulted in more mocking (17:32). Paul left Athens.
  11. The Jews rejected his teaching in Corinth, blaspheming (18:6). Paul shook his clothes and told them that their blood would be on their heads. He said “I am clean” and determined to go to the Gentiles with the gospel.
  12. The Jews made insurrection against Paul in Achaia and brought him before the deputy, Gallio (18:12). Paul was ready to answer, but Gallio, frustrated with the Jews, would not hear the case.
  13. The Jews in the synagogue at Ephesus spoke evil of His teachings and “the Way” in front of the crowd (19:9). Paul separated the disciples and reasoned with them in the school of Tyrannus for two years.
  14. Demetrius, a silversmith in Ephesus, angry that Paul was hurting the Diana silver-image business, called together a craftsmen’s union and incited them to anger against Paul. Paul was ready to enter the chaotic arena and speak, but the Ephesian Christians, as well as some chief officers, persuaded him to stay out of that theatre. 
  15. The people of Ephesus cried out for two hours “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” to directly oppose and endanger Paul (19:34). When the rioting was over, Paul embraced the Christians and left for Macedonia.
  16. The Jews in Greece “laid wait” for Paul, obviously purposing his harm (20:3). Paul changed plans, avoiding their trap.
  17. Tears, temptations, and trials were involved in all of this service (20:19). Paul did not shrink from speaking the whole truth.
  18. Paul was told by the prophet that he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles in Jerusalem (21:11). Paul responded that he was ready to be bound and die for the name of Jesus.
  19. Jews of Asia stirred up the people in the temple of Jerusalem who were listening to Paul to rioting so that the people were beating him. The chief captain took him and bound him with two chains (fulfilling the prophecy in #18). The soldiers carried him into the Roman castle for questioning because the crowd was violent against him (21:27-38). Paul gave a lengthy defense in which he told of his Jewish heritage and his conversion to Christianity. 
  20. At the close of this defense, the Jews cried out for him to be put to death. The chief captain commanded his scourging (23:22-25). Paul responded, by revealing to the centurion, who was about to beat him, that he, himself, was a Roman.
  21. Paul was brought to give his defense before Jews and Romans in Jerusalem (22:30). 
  22. Ananias, the high priest commanded that they hit him on the mouth (23:2). Paul, not aware that Ananias was the hight priest,  called Ananias a “whited wall”, accusing him of breaking the very law he was commissioned to uphold. 
  23. There was a great dissension and the chief captain was afraid the crowd would tear Paul in pieces, so he brought him, again, into the castle (23:10). The Lord stood by Paul, telling him that he would survive to teach in Rome.
  24. A group of Jews took a hunger vow, saying they would not eat till Paul was killed (23:12). Paul’s sister’s son revealed this plot to him and Paul got this word to the chief captain, who sent 200 soldiers with Paul to deliver him to Felix, the Roman governor in Caesarea.
  25. Paul stood before Felix and Tertullias, an orator, who painted Paul to be a leader of revolt among the Jews (24:1-9). Paul answered with the gospel and was committed to the keeping of a centurion.
  26. Felix left Paul in bonds till his term as governor was over and the Jews besought the new governor, Festus, to send Paul to Jerusalem, so that they could kill him on the way (24:27-25:3).
  27. Festus brought Paul before him for questioning as the Jews from Jerusalem accused  him (25:6,7). Paul appealed to Caesar.
  28. Festus mocked Paul, calling him a mad man (26:24). Paul defended the gospel saying “These things were not done in a corner.”
  29. Paul was sent in chains to Rome where he remained bound (28:20). Paul, from his Roman lodging (imprisonment in a house), taught many people the gospel (28:24-31). 

Sister to Sister: I’m all out of “Nice”.

 
nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuits_M156zYu__LI was in a coffee shop the other day, trying to get some work done while waiting for my husband, when a group of thirty-something and forty-something women came in. They congregated and visited near my table. I wasn’t getting much work done, but they were loud, so I got a lot of eavesdropping done. I overheard one of them say this:
“So I’m just about done. I mean yesterday was the worst day at work and I was SO nice to customers all day. ‘How can I help you?’…’I’m so sorry you’re having difficulty.’…’Here, let me help you with that.’… I mean, by the time I got home, I was all out of ‘nice’. My husband started in about one of his little issues and I just said ‘You better just go to bed because I am fresh out of nice. My nice is just all used up.'”
I hope we never run out of nice, as God’s women. This woman’s perspective surely was not a holy one born of a meek and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:1-5).  Her spirit, rather, was one completely divorced from and opposite of kind and long-suffering toward her husband. She really had used up her nice in a context of earning a paycheck and, at the end of the long hard day, she had nothing left for the one who should be the most important person in her world.
I hope we are different as Christians. As God’s woman, I should see my home as my first responsibility; the place that gets the very best of me–not the leftovers. I want my husband to get the best of my nice–not merely because he could demand it, but simply because he’s my husband and I love him (Titus 2:3-5) and because my God has demanded that of me. Even should my husband be having a bad day or, as is the case with some sweet sisters I know who are married to non-believers, even if he’s having a bad life, my commitment is to God to give my husband my respect (Ephesians 5:33).
Where is your nice going when you really think about it?  Maybe you have enough nice to go around. But if you are using it up outside of your house and life with your husband and/or children is suffering as a result, priorities need to be rearranged and adjustments made. This woman at the coffee shop was truly very nice to her friends as she sipped her latte . She had time for them. One or two of them asked her questions and she responded with a smile. It made me wonder if she was going to use it all up again that day before she got home to the one that God has made to be her head (Ephesians 5:23), the one she is to be loving with phileo–friendship love (Titus 2:3-5).
 Surely the hearts of His daughters are refillable. Nice is a commodity that we restore over and over again when we continue to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness and goodness is the natural harvest of a life lived in Jesus (Galatians 5:23)…a life transformed by the Word and from  the world by a renewed mind (Romans 12:2). But if you constantly find yourself struggling to be nice where it consequentially matters most, then contemplate and eliminate, reflect and deflect, consider life carefully and change it prayerfully, trust and adjust. Get your nice on!
A woman can tear down her house with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1). Maybe some of us are building relationships at the coffee shop, the office and even in the church building, while destroying the most important one. If that’s you, let me encourage you to stop right where you are and vow to do whatever it takes to bring nice home to your most important earthly relationship.

Don’t Do the Bottom Dance!

 12961581_899337245299_646194236159384067_nI have to do one more graduation salute because my extraordinary niece, Miriam Sparks walked across that stage last Friday night at the North Alabama Christian School graduation. I could tell you how proud I am of her writing, but you can see for yourself here: http://www.tomorrowschurchtoday.com. (If you have teens or if you are a teen, you definitely want to be encouraged by this website.) I could go on about Miriam’s theatrical talent and the climactic end of her high school string of plays when she played the Velveteen Rabbit in a production by Carriage House Players. There were a few moments when I felt like I was on the front row of a Broadway production. She was seriously good, especially when they let her sing! I could add that she saved the day for me when she agreed to travel to Clarksville, TN last year to help me decorate for and prepare the rehearsal dinner for my son’s wedding. I did not even know how badly I needed her till we got that preparation underway. I could tell you about how influential Miriam has been as she has spoken in several spiritual venues for women and girls, even traveling to speak in a seminar in New Zealand. I could tell you about how she’s risen to the top among Lads to Leaders participants nationwide.  I’m proud that she’s been awarded at least three scholarships to Freed Hardeman University and that she will be rooming there with another very special niece, Song Nicholas, next year. So many doors opening and so many relationships about to happen. There’ll be tons of decisions in the next four or so years for Miriam, and sometimes she won’t even recognize the crucial moment when a decision will be larger than this life and have ramifications in eternity. 

My favorite thing about Miriam, though, is her perpetual optimism. Favorite phrases are “…but that was really okay, because…” or “…but it turned out better than we thought when…” or “…At first I thought ‘oh no!’, but then…” or  “…Wait, I’ve got an idea how we can fix this…”  She’s just never to be outdone. Satisfaction, for Miriam, is not contingent on circumstances.  Like Paul, she’s determined to be content in whatever state she finds herself (Phil. 4:11). Thus, her days have a happy soundtrack. She sings all the time she’s not talking!…and that’s not as much time for a melody as you might think!

My favorite Miriam story happened when she was just about three years old. I was keeping all four Sparks kids while their mom and dad were out of town. I explained to Miriam that I had to take Hannah to play rehearsal because she had to learn the dance for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Now, I really did not mean a dance at all. It was more like a skip and a hop and a turn-around on the stage, as I recall. But nothing gets past Miriam. She gave me a little sermon right then and there, in a very high pitched little voice with an added thick southern drawl:

“Well, I don’t think Hannah should prob’ly be learnin’ to dance. And I ‘specially hope that she is not going to do the bottom dance ( hear bahhhh-tum day-unce), because the Bible says that people should only do the ‘bahhhtum day-unce’ when they are in their own house with their own family. That’s what the Bible says.”

Well, maybe Miriam didn’t have the exact wording of any Bible passage. But somebody had been doing a pretty good job of getting a concept in her little heart about how some things are just not appropriate for Christians. Every time I’ve presented a lesson that encourages Christians to chastity, I’ve thought about Miriam. So here’s to a song on your lips through every act that’s the musical of your life, Miriam Sparks. And here’s to never doing the bottom dance, unless you’re in your own house with your own family!