Sometimes there’s something you can’t wait to write down. This is one of those times.
Just rejoice in the long-suffering of God. He IS long-suffering, not willing that any should perish! Jesse Partridge and his son, Jesse Neal, were baptized into Jesus last night. Jesse has been coming to West Huntsville for many, many years. If you know the people at West Huntsville, you know that many have encouraged him through those years to become a New Testament Christian. Now Jesse is 93 and pretty ill. He is in remission from cancer. Remission from cancer, for Him, was a chance for the other, better remission— of sins. The second kind of remission is infinitely more valuable than even the first. But it took the first kind of remission to give him another chance for the most important second kind. We are so very joyful. Our new younger brother is 93
Jesse’s son, Neal, is suffering with stage four lung cancer. He’s been watching the livestream with his parents, now, for some time and he has been a great, great influencer of his dad. He determined that they both needed to become Christians and he did not stop discussing this with his father. Jesse, Sr.’s family had been very instrumental many years ago in beginning a congregation of a denomination, donating the land and the cemetery to this group in the state of Mississippi. It was very hard for Jesse, though he could see truth, to step away from that family involvement. He waited. And he kept hearing gospel preaching. God was waiting, too. I’m so thankful for his mercy.
Finally, last night, around 8:15, we all met at the building, along with Paul and Tami Owen, the Barber family, Tony Anderson, and a few relatives of the Partridges. Paul and Tami worked hard boiling huge pans of water (because our baptistry water was frigid. Got to get that fixed post haste!) while Glenn discussed the power of the burial in that increasingly warm (but still cold water. Within a few minutes, father and son became brothers. These baptisms were labored. There was a wheelchair at the top of the steps and a chair placed in the water. Three men were in the water with both of these men. It took more than one attempt to fully immerse them, but they were determined to be saved and God was providing a way. Ali’i Barber led our little crew in some songs beginning with “I have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Their decisions were firm and their lives have been changed. I have never seen anyone any happier standing beside the waters of baptism than Jeanette Partridge It was a relatively quiet little singing, but we could hear with faith the rejoicing angels. On nights like this one, I always come home with renewed zeal and deep gratitude to our God, who is “long-suffering, not willing that any should perish.” In the days of Jesse, God waited.
Every now and then, I receive word that someone has decided to become a part of the kingdom of Christ, having been baptized to wash away her sins, as a result of having been a part of a Digging Deep group and learning the gospel there. If I only had heard this once in all my years of Digging, it would be a hundred-fold worth every bit of time and effort that all diggers have expended in Digging Deep…and so much more. One soul is worth more than the whole world (Mark 8:36).
This week was one of those blessed times. Sandi Coccari, a woman who has done much good in her life and is, as the women in her group characterize her “just the sweetest thing,” looked seriously at the study of the “grace space” and decided that she needed to ask some questions about her own baptism. She studied baptism with Cindy Street and her husband Jay. Cindy is the humble but deep Bible student who had invited her to the Northeast Mississippi study facilitated by Sami Nicholas. (I think Song Nicholas is also probably a pretty big help in this group meeting.) On Saturday July 22, she was baptized, by Cindy’s husband, Jay Street. I know Cindy, Sami and Song and all the ladies in that group rejoice with the angels and we all rejoice from afar. If you want to send a card and rejoice more “in-person” send me (Cindy Colley) a FB message and I will shoot you her address. I know that would be a great source of encouragement to her as she begins a new walk.
In any case, I hope you will be inviting your friends to dig with you beginning September 1st as we begin a brand new year of Digging Deep. This is a good evangelistic tool. This year of study will be our 13th. It will not be an unlucky 13. It will not be a lucky 13, either. It will be a blessed year 13 of Digging Deep. The reveal of the topic, about which I am so excited, will happen on August 19 at approximately 1:00 pm. EST. Women who are at PTP will hear it live in the “Sandwich Session” that day. It begins at 12:30. In that session, those finishers of the “Comfort” study will be recognized and the new study will be introduced.
Those who are watching from home will get your own reveal video broadcast to you on the Digging Deep FB page simultaneously with the PTP reveal. Then the PTP session recognizing the finishers will also be available to you a little later. We hope this works for everyone. We’re trying hard with limited bandwidth in our convention center to get the word out in one traditionally fun moment.
It’s surely one highlight of my year. I hope the new study is, for you, as enriching as the writing has been for me. I always leave so much for myself–to dig and find later. I will be digging right along with you!
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev. 7:14
It could have been anybody. This is not about the fact that I was the person who handed Charles a card asking him to study. I did nothing brave at all. We just got stuck in a line with a long wait and started talking about how this particular WalMart is our favorite Walmart, despite the long wait that day. When I handed the real person who was checking me out (That’s why I sometimes still like to actually go through a check-out line) a card inviting her to study the Bible, I just turned around and said “Here’s one for you, too.” It was nothing hard or heroic at all about me. (And I certainly did not intend for Glenn to mention my name as he talked from the baptistry.)
But Charles is just about the most excited new Christian I’ve ever seen. At the lunch table at Nothing but Noodles yesterday, I watched him nearly glowing with the joy that is evident when someone knows he is now part of a family headed for heaven.
I just want to list a few reasons why we hesitate to do tiny little things that might lead to a knowledge of salvation in someone who crosses our path. (I know these things because I am so very guilty. I am certainly, in no sense, enough. I am, in every sense, inadequate and struggling as I try to tell the good news.)
- I am not good at keeping those cards in my purse. They are always in the car.
- It’s just easier on a bad day when I have so much on my mind, to stay in my shell and speak only when spoken to.
- I am in a big hurry. There’s a filthy house at home waiting. There’s company coming this weekend. My cabin needs cleaning. I have to speak this weekend. There’s Digging Deep.
- I am embarrassed to be viewed as one of those fanatics.
- This is a man. He might be dangerous. He could stalk me.
- This person looks like he is going to ask me for money instead of a Bible study. (Profiling the prospects—PTP!)
- I am serving in other ways that are more suited to me. (Digging Deep can be my excuse for not doing personal evangelism.)
- Someone once was rude to me when I tried to hand her an invitation to worship.
- Most of the time people are just not interested, anyway. This is just not the best way to evangelize.
- Even if the person responds and even if she is baptized, the majority of the people with whom I have studied have eventually fallen away.
Now, one reason I have to keep telling myself that those little invitations need to keep happening.
- There may be at least one soul around the throne who, because of the blood—the blood introduced through a little paper square (or other rectangle) with some personal contact info on it—received forgiveness of sin.
That eternal difference, if even for one soul, is the magic eraser that just goes up and erases points one through ten in the above list. They matter none, if just one. They matter none, if just one. They are voided if one soul makes it to the throne through the outreach. I don’t know, for sure, that any soul with whom I have studied will be around the throne. But, I do know for sure that, without the study on my part or on someone’s part, they will NOT be there. That’s enough.
But what’s really enough, is the grace that He has shown for my soul. How can I be oblivious to those around me who need it just as much as I do?
You can watch here: IMG_2910
Family Bible Week at West Huntsville is this week! The Gospel Railroad. It’s at 6:30 through Wednesday night. Dr. Bible is there and there’s a candy bandit. (Right now, the candy jar has been stolen and we have NO idea where that bandit has stashed it!) The kids made FBW photos last night and frames for the fridge. They watched lively re-enactments of conversion examples. They sang their hearts out and they learned songs about what it takes to be saved. They entered contests and they rode a real train through the halls of the building. I heard the conductor asking them questions about the Bible as they rode along and waved at spectators in the hall. They watched a puppet show about forgiveness. This is what spiritually focused memories are made of.
On Sundays, for FBW month, the pulpit has been focused on these four examples of conversion that are the focus of this week. The children fill out sheets during the lessons in our worship that help them listen, too. The examples of obedience to the gospel that are the focus this month are the Ethiopian, the Philippian jailer, Cornelius and Saul. Did you know they all did exactly the same thing to get into Christ? There was a recognizable moment in each of these accounts from Acts when sins were washed away. The moment is described for Saul in Acts 22:16. The jailer went out, at the risk of his life in Acts 16, in the middle of the night, to accomplish this washing. The Ethiopian saw water and said “Why are we waiting? Here is water.” And Cornelius was a good man—a really good man—but still had to have the washing before he could be saved. (Notice verses 1-3 of Acts 10 and then look at verse 14 of chapter 11). While the whole world says baptism has nothing to do with salvation, we have to keep telling the whole world what Jesus said “Go into all the world and teach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
This week is about believing–building faith in little souls. The goal is for their hearts to know what to do about sin when it one day rears its ugly head in their lives. We all encounter and fall to sin at some point (for me, it’s lots of points), and all of us need the grace given in the waters of obedient faith.
I hope you can take the time to listen to one of the following lessons from the book of Acts. I know most readers are secure in the knowledge of salvation and are busy telling others the gospel. If you are not positive you’ve done what the Bible requires of you to have eternal salvation, this listen could be the most important 30 minutes of your life. Here are the lessons. If I can help you become a Christian-secure in salvation and headed for heaven—I’d love to do that. Let’s talk: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t know about you, but it’s a temptation for me to fail to count the blessings when the schedule is overrun with things I’d rather not be doing. But, when I go to God in the hard times, it becomes obvious to me that there are no fewer blessings in the hard times than there were in the good times. God’s still present. He is still doing what He has always done for me–sustaining and making me lie down in the green pastures…restoring my soul. Sometimes, it’s even obvious to me that He grabs my most arrested view of His mercies when I am drowning in conflicts and commitments.
A few months back, you and I wrote letters of encouragement to Christians in a struggling Vermont congregation. When we finished, we got the great news that Sally Bristol had obeyed the gospel. We’d been praying for growth in that church and God was answering and giving the increase. We praised Him and we wrote Sally letters of encouragement. Remember Sally?
Roger on the left and (preacher) Jason Floyd on the right.
Well, the gospel is powerful and now, after almost two years, Sally’s son, Roger Bourne, Jr., has given his life to Christ in baptism and he, too, has risen to walk a new and blessed life! Praise God with me today as He is still hearing and answering. I believe Roger is the second of two men who have been baptized in recent weeks. If you’d like to send a card to Roger, or even another one to Sally, you may do so at this address:
℅ church of Christ
524 South St
Bennington, VT 05201
You may want to encourage the local preacher Jason Floyd and His wife Sarah, as well. Sometimes, those of us in areas with several and large churches forget the enormity of the struggle in cold and sparsely “Christian-populated” places like Vermont. I am traveling to New Hampshire in a couple of weeks to speak to ladies and I can tell you, they are eager for fellowship and learning from the Word. I can’t wait. I know they will bless and encourage me in their zeal and faith.
And, as always, if your kids helped you encourage this church a couple of years back, be sure you show them the newest Bennington brother! Maybe they will want to write again! Here’s the link to read about the baptisms: https://www.facebook.com/214031105408084/posts/2826593250818510/?sfnsn=mo