Vegas: Every Face a Soul

I just watched the slideshow of the faces of those killed in the mass shooting Sunday night in Vegas. It’s just more than you can handle emotionally to think of the young lives (almost all of them young) taken violently, senselessly in that horrible scene. It is WAY more than you can handle emotionally to think of the destination of many of those souls who were unprepared to leave this planet. This much we can rationally know: If one soul–the right soul– had been taught and had embraced, early on, the precepts of HIS gospel, these people would be home with their loved ones tonight. We cannot know the potential good that is done each time we share the Good News. We are debtors to Christ, but also to all potential victims of sin’s destruction, to share the gospel at every opportunity.

As I left Shreveport on Sunday afternoon, only two gates in that little regional airport, were full of people. I did not have a gate number on my boarding pass, so I walked up to the first gate and asked the attendant if this gate was for Atlanta. He said, “No, these folks are on the way to Vegas.” I looked around for a moment as I walked away. I actually looked into faces, thinking about how many of them were probably going to go and spend money, …money that people somewhere needed badly, in gambling casinos. I had seen, on my way to the airport that Shreveport is a gambling mecca. I wondered how many of them were addicted. Perhaps some in that large airport crowd were flying into Vegas to attend concerts…maybe even the concert or music festival that we all saw on Monday morning. It’s certain that almost everyone waiting to board that plane would soon wish they could be anywhere but Las Vegas. Every face at that crowded gate had/has a soul. I thought of that as I looked into their preoccupied eyes.  More correctly, though, every eternal soul has a passing face. It’s just that we don’t know the date of passage from mortality’s smiles and fun and plans and flights to eternity’s final destination. May I be more cognizant of life’s frailty, death’s certainty and eternity’s finality.

And may those who lost loved ones in the Vegas tragedy be led by his people who may know them to look to the Word and find the peace that passes understanding.

Sister to Sister: God Can Find Lost Opportunities

Song then…

 

Yesterday I sat beside my sweet niece, Song, during Bible class and morning worship.  The lesson we had just heard was largely about opportunities, so in the intermission, she shared something that had been in her heart for the last few months.

Song had a close childhood friend. We’ll call her Anna Beth. They had been in lots of the same activities as young children, but Song’s family moved several hundred miles away before they entered the teen years. They exchanged a letter or two, but drifted apart and lost contact for the next ten or twelve years. Song, from a strong Christian family, became a Christian shortly after moving away. Anna Beth’s family, however, was not part of the body of Christ.

Song now…

Song grew and grew as a Christian and so did her sense of responsibility to the lost. She thought about Anna Beth and how that she had lost contact with her before she, herself, had ever really had the maturity to know the full importance of even speaking with others about their souls. But Song had loved Anna Beth and she wanted to make a connection with her again and tell her about the way to heaven. She wanted to share eternity with this sweet “old” friend.

She looked on Facebook, but she could not find her, so Song just began to pray for Anna Beth. She prayed that, even if she was never able to reconnect with Anna Beth, that someone would connect with her—someone who could share the gospel with her. 

After several months of praying about Anna, Song was looking through her Facebook birthday wishes from friends on the evening of her birthday. She noticed a friend request from someone listed simply as  Anna Elizabeth. Her heart skipped a beat as she wondered “Could this be Anna Beth?” Clicking on the friend request, Song recognized the profile picture immediately and excitedly accepted the request. Then she noticed that Anna Beth’s profile said “In a relationship with” and named her boyfriend. We’ll call him David Price.

“I know him!” Song exclaimed. “He’s a Christian and he goes to Bible camp with me every summer!” Song and David had grown up in Bible camp together and now they are both counselors in the camp.

Song called her Dad, who directs the camp,  to tell him the good news. He, of course, remembered the dear little friendship of so many years ago and took great joy in the news that Anna Beth was once again connected to Christianity. And then he remembered.

“Wait!” Song’s Dad said. You know one of the camp counselors told me that David Price’s girlfriend was recently baptized and that she will be coming to help at camp this year!” 

So that was that. As I spoke with Song, the two girls had just enjoyed an amazing week reconnecting, not just as friends, but this time as sisters.  Song’s words as she finished the story were these: “It wasn’t anything I did, of course, but it sure shows what the One Who is hearing our prayers can do!”

I know you are praying for new opportunities. I hope we all remember to pray for old and lost opportunities, too. Because we never know what the One Who is hearing our prayers may be doing!

 

Guest Writer: Caleb Colley on Norma McCorvey

 Today I hope you will read from Caleb Colley if you haven’t already read this. Caleb’s been an advocate for babies in the womb since he was about six years old when he stood in his first pro-life chain in Roanoke, Virginia. He started a collegiate chapter of National Right to Life on the campus of Freed Hardeman University while he was a student there in 2003.  This week, he writes about the death of Norma McCorvey. (you can subscribe to Caleb’s blog at http://www.calebcolley.com.)

In 1973, nine men in black robes made a decision that resulted in the legalization of elective abortion in the United States. Somewhere in that judicial picture, as that case began, there was one…just one little life hanging in the balance. That baby was born due to the extended period of time it took to complete the court case. But, as a result of Roe vs. Wade,  5o-plus million other little beating hearts have been stopped. There are many sad truths and lessons to be learned from the American massacre that continues today. But here are two important lessons for Christians from a look at Norma McCorvey, the mother who started it all back in 1971. Here’s Caleb:

Norma McCorvey, better known by the pseudonym “Roe” in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, passed away this week due to heart failure. She was 69 years old.1

McCorvey was the plaintiff in a case that challenged Texas’ anti-abortion laws in 1971. By the time the Supreme Court decided the case, it was too late for McCorvey to have an abortion, and she had given up her baby for adoption. But the Roe v. Wade decision legalized elective abortion in the United States, and has led to the murder of over 50 million innocent babies.

Ironically and thankfully, this very woman, whose pseudonym was used in the legalization of elective abortion, later learned that abortion is murder and does great harm to women. Norma McCorvey confessed Christ and publicly fought against abortion. She spent the last years of her life speaking out on behalf of the preborn, unprotected children of America, writing a book about her transformation and founding a nonprofit advocacy group called Roe No More. She even filed a motion in Dallas in 2003 to have Roe v. Wade overturned. (Unfortunately this motion was dismissed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004.)

Here are two important, biblical lessons we can learn from McCorvey’s fascinating story:

  1. Even those most opposed to the truth today may change tomorrow. If Norma McCorvey can make a 180-degree turn on an issue as fundamental as the sanctity of all human life, do you suppose that your neighbor or friend can make a 180-degree turn toward Christ? “The Lord is … patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The anti-Christian Saul of Tarsus can become the great apostle Paul (see Acts 22).

  2. We may be unable to fully reverse the impact of our choices tomorrow, so we must serve Christ today. While McCorvey’s change from pro-death advocate to pro-life advocate is laudable, we cannot help but be saddened by the fact that she could not change the outcome and many effects of the Roe decision in her lifetime. Undoubtedly the pro-death movement would have found another plaintiff to use in the fight for abortion rights if McCorvey had not been there, and yet she did play a role. Many effects of her influence were irreversible, and the effects of our sins today may not be reversible tomorrow. Recall that Judas threw the blood money back at the chief priests and elders, but could not reverse the betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-10).


  1. Details from this article taken from Eliza Collins, “Norma McCorvey, ‘Roe’ in Roe v. Wade, is dead at 69,” USA Today (2017); Nicholas Frankovich, “What Motivated Norma McCorvey to Defend Unborn Children,” National Review, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445095/norma-mccorvey-dies-roe-v-wade-christian-catholic-conversion-abortion-prolife-dignity-human-person (2017). 

Do You Need to Write this Love Letter?

The following is a letter originally drafted for a woman I met rather coincidentally in a small southeastern town in which I was speaking not too long ago. She was a spirited young woman who made my day by giving me a beautiful cookbook. I had to leave quickly and was unable to study with her at the moment we met. Perhaps the letter below might help another soul somewhere who is yet in sin, or perhaps it might help you as you approach a friend who is coming near to the kingdom. I know I do not always make the most of opportunities to love people in the way that makes an eternal difference. I hope I can do better.

Dear Valerie,

It was really a joy to get to meet you a couple of weekends ago when we spoke in ____________. I am so pleased with my cookbook. Please forward my small donation to the charity about which we spoke. Thanks so much for thinking of me. I love to cook and I love new cookbooks, especially this one with potent reminders of the spiritual bread of life.

I am always refreshed and thankful to meet people who have a zeal for spiritual things and whose lives have led them down a path to a grateful realization that God is so merciful and good. That was definitely you! I know you’re very thankful and amazed by his care and that He has allowed you to overcome so much and come to this good place in your life where you finally have a chance to glorify Him with blessings that he bountifully gives to you.

The burden on my heart now is to be sure that you are in Christ and do have that hope of heaven. I carry this burden with me to every place I speak and I see it in every new face I meet. I just had to write and be sure about this because I am going to stand before the same judgment bar one day that you will and I just want to tell as many people as I can. It’s not that I have any secrets about the will of God that you don’t have. It’s just that the devil is very busy deceiving in our world today through the hundreds of denominations out there all teaching different and opposing plans of salvation. The devil really doesn’t care how religious we are if he can just keep us outside of Christ. He doesn’t care what good hearts we have if he can just deceive those good hearts into accepting false teachings. He doesn’t care how many good things we do for our neighbors if he can just keep us out of Christ. He knows that forgiveness and redemption and all spiritual blessings are found only in Christ (Eph 1:3, 7). So he loves to make people think they are in Christ when they really have not done what the New Testament says to do to be in Christ. I don’t know about you personally, but I love your heart of submission and I want to be sure that I help you if these are things you have not thought about before. I think you are right about something you said to me. When people really want to do the will of God, He can bring people into their lives for a reason. I hope that he can use me in a small way in your life. I am praying as you study the things that are in this letter that you will want to be sure that you have followed his will and that you are in Christ where forgiveness is.

About 98% of the world of “Christendom” today teaches that all you have to do is pray the sinner’s prayer in order to be saved. Something like, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Thank you for loving me and saving me right here and right now…” The problem with that is it’s just not found in the Bible anywhere. It is true that he loves us and that he is willing to save every last one of us (II Peter 3:9), but as with all of his blessings, his salvation is conditional on our obedience. It really bothers me that the devil uses this “sinner’s prayer” that is nowhere in scripture to deceive so many people into believing that they are saved, when, in reality, they are still in sin.

It is true that belief in the fact that Jesus is the son of God is a prerequisite for salvation. Without that faith it is impossible to please him or be saved (Mark 16:15,16, Heb.11:6). It is true that we have to repent or put away sin from our lives. If we keep on sinning on purpose, we will perish (Luke 13:3). We have to confess that faith in Jesus as God’s Son (Romans10:10). While all of these things are essential steps toward salvation, the Bible nowhere ever says that these things put us into Christ. It’s just not there.

But the New Testament does tell us what it is that does put us into Christ: Look at these clear teachings:

Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

According to this verse, it is baptism that puts us into Christ. Look at another:

Gal 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Again, God just made it as plain as day how we put on Christ.

We can ask the same question lots of ways:

How do I wash my sins away?

Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

When am I forgiven?

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What do I do to be saved?

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved;

Exactly what saves me?

1Pe 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

In fact, in every case in the book of Acts where people desired to be saved, they clearly were immediately baptized for the remission of their sins(Acts2, Acts8, Acts 9, Acts 10,11, Acts 16). In one case the man actually risked his life in the middle of the night to leave the jail and go be baptized. If he had been caught by his Roman superiors, he would have surely been executed (Acts 16). Each time I read and reread all of these passages, I get so upset at preachers who are reading the same Bible I am reading and yet are willing to ignore these plain teachings about baptism and teach that it is not essential for salvation…that it is just a symbol of your salvation. Romans 6:3,4 teaches us that baptism is the very place where we contact the death of Christ. If we don’t go down into those waters with a heart of submission, knowing that we desperately need his salvation, we do not even come in contact with the death and blood of Jesus!… and that is a scary reality to take to judgment.

The point is this. If I was baptized because I thought I was already saved, then I was not coming to God on his terms. I was not being baptized for the remission of sins like they did in Acts 2:38. I was not doing it to wash away my sins (Acts 22:16). I was not doing it to be saved (Mark16:16). It was not a step of faith if I did it as a symbol that I was already saved. I was putting my will above his. I was saying, “Lord, I was saved without ever being baptized into the death of your son, and now I will be baptized to show that I have already been saved without doing what you said I must do to be in Christ.” If I am a member of a church that teaches baptism is not essential to be in Christ, then I am a member of a church that is misleading people into a false security of salvation.I said all of those things because I could tell your heart was an open one to His will. I am praying as you read this that you will just want to be sure that you are doing and teaching what the Bible (the only word we have today from God) says about salvation. There is no more important subject. I have already been praying for you and for the good things you are doing already. I just pray that now that you have this letter in hand, you will look carefully at these passages in the context of the whole New Testament and be very careful not to be led astray by any person (including me!) I have nothing personally to gain by telling you this, except to know that I will not have to look into your face in the judgment day and know that I was silent about this very important subject. Just be sure the church with which you are working is the church of the New Testament, teaching the same thing that first opened its doors of salvation to the world in Acts 2. If we do what they did on that day, we will be what they were…Christians. But if we become involved in a religion that leads people astray we will be accountable for that, too. Remember, the devil doesn’t mind religion at all. In fact, since he is the father of lies (John 8:44), he loves false religions. Not every one that says “Lord, Lord” (i.e. not every one who is religious) will enter the kingdom (Matthew 7:21,22 ), but he that obeys the will of God. I could go on and on…
…And I will, if you have any questions at all with which I might be able to help. I’ve thought of you often and prayed for you. Again, let me thank you for my gift. I hope that this letter finds your heart open to do and teach all of his will. You can be a great minister for His cause to other ladies. So many are searching for these truths and so many are being led astray. Let me know if I can help further.

Because of Calvary!

Sister to Sister: Three Doors

14481964_10153793830326384_7614171791050123724_oThese days, my siblings and I are spending more time than ever at my Dad’s house in Jacksonville, Alabama. I love being there, though the stretches away from hearth and home and husband make me wish I could be in two places at once. And there’s Waffle House. I love the way the servers (Dad calls them “nurses”….He has always called waitresses “nurses”.) are so very attentive to him. They start cooking his meal and setting his steaming coffee on the table when they see our car drive up. They open every little plastic container of creamer or jelly for him when they bring them to the table, knowing that his arthritic hands have difficulty pulling the tiny tabs to open them. Like I said, there’s lots to love about that kind of service. And the food is good…once…or twice…or even three times a week. But that many times a day is a bit much for my palate, not to mention my calorie count. 

Still, it’s not really about me at this stage. It’s about taking him where he would go all by himself, if he could, since we are really trying hard to get him not to be going places all by himself. It’s about a lot more than food these days. Sitting by the window in Waffle House watching the JSU world revolve outside the window with my sweet 94-year-old father is capital fun for me. We watch kids walking dogs and policemen pulling over cars and reflections of what all’s happening at the Grub Mart in the back glass. I show him pictures of his great grandchildren on my phone and he marvels at all the game scores, driving distances and names of famous athletes that I can call to his memory by a simple search on such a small device. The man who waited for the automobile to become a common mode of transportation marvels as I explain to him what exactly is a podcast and how women can interact during a podcast discussion—women from all over the world. 

So last Wednesday morning as he laboriously climbed the stairs at the entrance of Waffle House, I noticed a middle-aged lady holding the door open for my father. I smiled at her and thanked her for waiting patiently as he approached the door. She looked at my dad and said “Well, today I’ve already eaten, so I won’t get to eat my breakfast with you. But I hope you have a good one!”

I said, “:”Sounds like you’ve met Dad before…”

She responded “Sure did. I ate breakfast with him the other day and I told him ‘Your money’s no good with me!”

I thanked her for being so kind—to share a meal with him and then buy his breakfast. As he ambled on in, she said “Well, I enjoyed it. But really, on that day, I just thought about “what would Jesus do?…What would he want me to do?…and I decided He’s want me to do something good for a sweet elderly man.”

At that moment, I knew that there was more than one open door at the Waffle House. so I took the conversation to the next level: “That’s just so kind of you. I love my Jesus and I love to study the Bible. In fact…” At that point I went on to tell her about Digging Deep, and our study this year about types and shadows. I told her that I would love for her to join us and that my favorite thing to do is to study the Bible with people. I asked her if she would think about joining our group and even studying with me personally. “I’m all about Bible Study…”

“I sure will!” she said. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen by accident,” she went on, as I gave her my card with contact information. “I’ll be looking you up!”

Two doors were open. She thought she’d hold open a glass door for my father to walk through. She really was holding a golden door of opportunity open for me. I’m glad I could walk through it. I’m glad I had my wallet with that card to hand her. I’m thankful for His Providence at this moment and so many others. 

I’m not sure I believe that nothing happens by accident. But I do believe He is constantly orchestrating events to work for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). I hope she’ll pursue her opportunity now. I hope she’ll knock, so her door, too, can be opened (Matthew 7:7).

She Facebooked her Friends and said “Rejoice with Me!…

unnamed-5

…for I have found the piece which was lost!”

Several sisters have asked about the lost dress. Facebook can be a huge umbrella of encouragement even in the mundane.  I know life’s not all about finding Cindy Colley’s heirloom dress, of all things, but I was truly humbled and amazed that so many of you cheered us on as we searched for and found a little dress that I very much wanted to put on BabyG2 next September.  Hundreds of you (literally) and many that I’ve never met have been the sweetest sisters a woman could ever have. I love Facebook for giving your encouragement to me. 

The dress was deep in a closet at Hannah’s (my daughter’s) house. It was in a garment bag hiding behind her wedding dress, which was in the back of that closet in another very huge garment bag. The funny thing was, I had everyone looking for a pink box in which I’d originally wrapped that dress for the gender reveal two years ago…the gender reveal that turned out to be for a boy. Thus, the dress was never opened at the reveal. 

What I had forgotten was that the dress had been removed from the box and used as an illustration at a ladies day in Middle Tennessee a few months after that reveal…the very weekend, in fact, that Ezra was due. (Thus the reason it never got out of my car at my house….It just went straight to Hannah’s house and got hung in a closet there because hospital luggage is not conducive to dress preservation.) That’s just where Facebook became very helpful. You found out I was looking and three of you remembered the dress. You identified where you saw it and the garment bag in which it had left the church building at East Main. In turn, I told my son Caleb (via his Facebook page) to stop looking for a box and start looking for a garment bag. Truth be told, I don’t think he’d done a whole lot of looking for either. (He’s a good egg, though.) But Hannah, being the faithful Facebook follower that she is, immediately saw that post about looking for garment bags. She had moved all the hanging clothes in that closet more than once, laid them on the bed and searched the back of that closet for a box. But this time, she rushed home and actually looked through those clothes she’d been moving  back and forth. She looked for a black garment bag. She found the dress and tried to call me…twice. Unable to reach me, she called her Daddy, who got in the car and drove across town with photos on his phone to spread the cheer.

When he walked in the kitchen door in the middle of last Tuesday, I was surprised to see him. 

“What would you give a man…?” he began. 

“You found my dress??!!”

“I think so. But what would you give a man?…Is this the dress?” He offered his phone and a series of photos.

“You found my dress!!!!” 

“Yes and you should call your daughter on that phone that I don’t even know why I pay for.…She wants to hear from you.”

******************************************************

There are always lessons, of course. Here they are:

  1. If Facebook can find a lost dress, surely we can connect some dots and find some lost souls, too. Facebook is a more personal and encompassing kind of outreach than email or USPS. It’s the kind of networking in which you never know if a click that posts or comments may be the click that does click with some lost soul and opens a door to a relationship, a study, an invitation that could result in a saved soul.
  2. Facebook is a neutral commodity. You get to decide whether your use of it is for the Lord or for the devil. Now, finding a dress is not a work of the Lord. But encouraging each other, as Facebook friends did (and do regularly for me) through this medium, is a great way to get the most good out of something the devil loves to control.
  3. You’re never going to find what you’re looking for if you’re looking where it’s not. That dress was not in all those absurd places (like on top of way-up-there kitchen cabinet and in overflowing trunks where I would have never crushed that batiste and damp basement corners) where I was looking. Sometimes life is like that. We can’t find contentment. We look in all those hard-to-do absurd places instead of the obvious place where the “owner” of truth has put it in the first place. 
  4. You may be own, be picking up, carrying, and moving about the answer to all your dilemmas. But until you recognize that, open it up and really look inside, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Hannah did that with that garment bag. She moved it over and over as she looked other places, to no avail. That’s what we do with our Bibles. We lay them on the table beside our beds. We pick them back up and take them to worship. Sometimes we move them back and forth and back and forth without ever really opening and examining them. We move the book, but we don’t meditate on it, memorize it or mark it. There are many people who own a Bible but do not own truth. It’s very important that we show our kids the difference. The Bible is not a lucky amulet. It’s what’s inside that can bring us joy. But that joy exists for me only when what’s inside the book gets inside of me. Hannah had a garment bag that she was transferring mindlessly back and forth, while what was inside eluded us all. 
  5. Some people are so close to what they really want, but just not quite there. Jesus told a scribe as much in Mark 12:34. “You are not far from the kingdom,” Jesus said. I have many friends who are close to the kingdom. I hurt for them because, of  course, being close to the kingdom of God is not enough. Hannah was near that dress we were hunting each time we talked about it on the phone. It was sometimes right there in the same room with her. Close is not good enough. We have to give people the information they need to identify that for which they search. 
  6. Some news is so good, you want to personally deliver it. I love that about my husband. He loves to bring joy…not just to me, but to everyone in all circumstances. We have the very best news of all. When we understand the wretchedness of that from which the good news— the gospel—rescues people, we can’t be stopped. We are going to those people. We will move heaven and earth to reach them with the good news. In fact Heaven has already moved that they might have this good news. It’s up to us to make the move on earth. We simply must. We are going to tell them that we’ve found that for which they are searching.