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Baptism

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mariah…New Lyrics in Her Life’s Song!

Walking through the secretary’s office to my husband’s office a few Sundays ago, I noticed a visitor’s card on the desk. I’d been seeing this pretty young mom come in with a tiny toddler, a beautiful little girl named Lyric. They’d sit on the very front row and the baby was as close to perfectly behaved as they come. I finally got the chance to meet Mariah on a Wednesday night and told her I’d love to study the Bible with her and answer any questions she might have about the church. I gave her a card with my name and contact info. She thanked me and I really wasn’t at all sure I would ever get the chance to have that conversation. 

But there, on the office desk, on the card she’d filled out, was a big check mark on the box: “I’d like to become a member of this church.” Her full name and phone number were right there on the card. So I texted Mariah. She quickly responded that she’d like to study together. I got that great blessing among all relationship blessings: to study the plan of salvation with Mariah. We studied that  gift of grace whereby we are saved, and how we receive it, at length in our first study together. 

The best day of Mariah’s life came sooner than I expected. On the second of our study times together, she asked a simple question—one that’s been at the center of religious confusion in ”Christendom” for many years: “Whenever I am baptized, can it be true that I will always be saved, no matter what I might do?” 

As you can imagine, I saw a huge door opening, and together we walked through that door to passages like Acts 8, where we discussed a man named Simon, who clearly was saved and only a short time later was told he must repent and pray for forgiveness, lest he should perish. We talked about how that Paul, himself, even acknowledged the possibility that he could be a castaway from the faith (1 Corinthians 9:27). We looked at the first half of Romans 6 and how that powerful exhortations and warnings were given to Christians about abstaining from sin. Conversely, then, we examined the scriptures to give Mariah comfort in the knowledge that, as long as she offers God her best, walking in the light, the blood will continually cleanse her soul (1 John 1:7), making her constantly ready to meet the Lord. 

As I got ready to pray with Mariah before she left the little office that day, I asked if she had any more questions I should think about before our next meeting. She said “Yes. There is one more thing. What do I do to be baptized. I know I should do that.” 

I asked her, then, to tell me why she’d like to be baptized. Her answer did not take a lot of thought at this point:  “I need to die to sin. I need to put on Christ, to be a Christian. I need to be washed.” Those, of course, are perfect answers from Romans 6, Galatians 3 and Acts 22.  

I then asked her a very sober question: “Mariah, if you were to die before this baptism, what would happen to your soul.” 

She answered, “I would be lost.” 

It was a short conversation then about all of the reasons that, once a person knows the gospel, NOW is the time to be washed. We quickly went and retrieved my favorite preacher from his own Bible study, found a sweet mama to watch little Lyric, spent a minute in the changing room and Glenn immersed Mariah, after she sweetened her lips with the great confession of faith in the Christ. It was among the sweetest wet hugs ever, and that night, I took Mariah to the sweet communion table with Jesus himself. It was a great Sunday!

Well, I had a taping for Digging Deep that day, and I was driving to Florida that evening to help with grandchildren. I had to pack, study a little for the recording and try and cook a meal for my husband to carry to some aged people who were counting on me. But none of that mattered anymore. When a person gets to see salvation—up-close-and-personal— when she gets to be the wet babe-in-Christ hugger, it just precludes, excludes, and disseminates all stress from that day. I sat on the front pew with Mariah and Lyric that Sunday night and I cherished the thought that sweet, tiny, Lyric will never have to know a moment when she does not have a mother of faith guiding her sweet soul to the throne room of the great Redeemer. 

As we found a quiet place to give thanks after the baptism, my husband said to Mariah, “You are just as washed–just as much a Christian–as anyone in this church.”

I praise Him! I can never be a savior. I cannot redeem. I cannot purchase one single soul. I am, in fact, as helplessly, hopelessly lost without Calvary as any person with whom I ever get the opportunity to study. (Some days I just know that, except for the cross, I’m the most lost of all.)  But every time I get even the possible chance to be the wet-babe hugger, I want to be there. Those are the best moments of life, because they reach into eternity. May God give us the courage to just say, text or write the words “Can we study together?” It takes a moment of faith that even someone as weak as Cindy Colley can muster, but, every now and again it might, because of Calvary, start a chain of events that leads to eternity with Him. 

If you’d like to encourage Mariah, that would be a capital idea:

Mariah     
℅ West Huntsville church of Christ     
1519 Old Monrovia Road
Huntsville, AL 35806

And, by all means, keep her in your prayers. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Opposite Directions

 

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Today I’m traveling south and east to get my arms around some pretty sweet grandchildren, one of which is just under two weeks old. Since tomorrow night’s the podcast and I’ll be doing it live and remotely from a distant location I feel like I’m almost moving mountains to make this trip. 

We are the sandwich generation, so my husband is traveling west and north to do some much needed tasks for elderly parents. He’s moving mountains, too (or at least trying to) after a very long time of their inaccessibility to groceries (and almost everything else) because of extreme cold and ice coverage in their area. 

So last night after worship, we parted, Glenn and I, and began making miles in the exact opposite directions from one another to give hugs to people we love who are at the exact opposites of the spectrum of life. For a good bit of this week, we will be about 12 hours apart from one another. 

When God says he removes my sins and casts them from me as far as the east is from the west, that’s profound. I move, in human increments, as best I can, TOWARD God and my sins are moved in divinely amazing proportions BY God to a far away and irretrievable place in the opposite direction of the one in which I am moving. 

Earlier in the day yesterday, I had a chance to study with a young woman I’m growing to love very much. She asked me about her sins. “When God forgives me, is it impossible for me to ever be lost again? Am I permanently saved?” We went through passages that teach us what to do about sin after the original east-west casting done by God. We talked about Bible characters who did sin impenitently and rebelliously after baptism and what was required for their restoration and subsequent salvation. But we also talked about the continual comfort of 1 John 1:7 for those baptized believers who are walking in the light (doing diligence to be followers of Christ: 

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

I explained to her how that the word for “cleansing” here is a verb of continuation. It means “keeps on cleansing.” She got that and she loved it. 

I asked her if she had other questions about the gospel she’s learned in recent days. She said 

“Yes, I have one more….Like, how can I be baptized…because I know I need to.” 

I asked her to explain to me her reasons for wanting to be baptized. She had a little list in her heart. 

“To be born again, to be dead to sin, to be washed from sin, to be saved.” 

I spent the night (or part of it anyway) in a hotel room near Atlanta, Georgia. And I slept soundly with a very grateful heart for the waters of baptism that washed away my friend’s sins yesterday…that removed them from her, as far as the east is from the west. I spoke with three sisters at West Huntsville who are going to check on her while I’m in Florida this week. One of them already invited her to our local Digging Deep study which happens tonight. On this, her first full day of being a Christian, I am praying very hard for her. Yesterday was the best day of her life. But the devil loves to give big challenges to those who are babies in the Lord. 

I’m so glad we serve a God who can put sin wherever he wants it to be; and, barring my choice to be close to sin again, He can keep its guilt far, far away from me…as far as the east is from the west. 

I’m going to spend a few miles today praising Him for this game-changing reality!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Bennington, Vermont: You Did More than You Know!

God can take a little and make a lot. Remember back in the very beginning of what we thought would be a short Covid season, when we tried to encourage that little church in Bennington, Vermont?  Well, it’s their turn to encourage us and they are doing that now in a powerful way!

Back in the spring we heard, from Sarah Floyd, the preacher’s wife at this small congregation, that members were struggling. A difficult mission field in any season, it became particularly difficult for the little group at Bennington church of Christ to remain cohesive and encouraged as meeting together and blessing each other with fellowship became more difficult. Some were having health issues and others were new Christians. Younger members were feeling isolated and funds were often in short supply. 

Lots of you sent cards, just to encourage them. As the minister, Jason Floyd (shown here), explained to me, he and his wife, Sarah, became a mini post office for a while there, unpacking boxes of your letters and making deliveries to the homes of the various members who are spread out over a large area around Bennington. The Floyds covered a lot of miles as they, and perhaps others,  hand-delivered your encouragement to the members. 

On one of those runs, Jason met a house guest of one of the families which attends the congregation. She answered the door when Jason delivered your mail. As Christians do, Jason engaged this lady, whose name is Sally Bristol, in conversation, which eventually resulted in a Bible study, and another and another…

Yesterday, this lady put on the Lord in baptism (Gal. 3:27) and became your sister in Christ! Our little cards helped, in a teeny, but important way, to produce something that was beyond what we had asked or imagined, according to His power that is working within us and especially is at work in Jason (Eph.3:20). If you were among the many who sent cards to encourage this family of His people, I hope you will bow before the throne and praise Him for using those little cards as tools of evangelism even when we were unaware of that occurrence. He is so good and His word is exceedingly powerful. I hope this baptism will make you want to continue to offer support to mission work and keep sending cards when you see those in God’s family struggling. I hope it will make you believe even more strongly in His providence for us as we pray for the gospel’s full effect on lives we may reach, even across hundreds of miles. It is doing all of that to my heart!

You might even want to take the time to drop Ms. Sally a note to let her know that you are praying for her life in Him and for continued influence for good as she now has a chance to take the message to others. You can send it to this address:

Sally Bristol

℅ church of Christ

 524 South St

 Bennington, VT 05201

And, if you have children who helped make the cards, be sure to tell them about this amazing day that THEY helped facilitate! Visible results of service projects WILL appear and they do wonders in growing the faith of kids.

What a glorious God we serve! I praise Him today in the words of the Spirit through Paul: 

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:20,21)

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“She did not wash away her sins…”

Tonight,Maggie, my grand-daughter who just turned two, prayed that “Mammy will be baptized so her sins can be washed away.”

Her mother told her immediately that “Mammy has already been baptized.” Apparently she thinks my sins are still there because she replied “ But she did not wash away her sins.” 

When you are two, it’s a big and daunting theological world. When you are 61, it is even more complicated and daunting. When you are two, you cannot understand exactly what’s washed away in that water. When you are 61, you can’t understand how. When you are two, you’re afraid of the water. When you are 61, you are afraid of challenges of the path you walk after the water (Romans 6:4). Maggie is two and she can’t wait to be baptized “to wash away your sins” that do not yet exist. I’m 61, and I just praise Him ceaselessly for the constant washing of sins that I wish did not exist (1 John 1:7). 

I’m so thankful Maggie’s parents are putting the Word in her diligently and directionally. This week she’s told me about the father of the twelve tribes, the faith of Rahab, the man in the big fish and the one in the lion’s den, the small man in the Sycamore tree and the apostle to the Jews and the one to the Gentiles. I’ve heard her say the books of the New Testament from Matthew to Colossians and I’ve heard her talk about Moses the lawgiver and Jesus, the triumphant Savior, as he rode over palm branches and heard the words “Hosanna in the highest.”  The biggest blessing of spending a week with their little family has been watching their sweet family Bible time. Tonight was a scavenger hunt outside finding and praising God for the items on the Creation cards from Apologetics Press (https://store.apologeticspress.org/products/apcmst001). There have been various games and challenges, lots of laughter and reverent prayers at least five times each day. 

When I look into those big brown eyes and think about the world in which Maggie will grow up, I am profoundly grateful for her mother and daddy; for the church of which they are a part in their community —an eldership and a body that supports their family in the greatest ministry on earth. Most of all, I’m so thankful for the great gift of the Holy Spirit: the Word, that we open each day to find the keys to victorious living in a spiritually war-torn world.  As Maggie, said her “Bible words” for this week, I reflected on how very central they are to the work her family is striving to do in the Lord’s church. She really summarized the plea that encompasses their work:

“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

May Maggie always hear with child-like faith what the precious Holy Spirit says to the churches!

I love you, Mags, and I am already missing you! Let’s talk on the phone.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Take it to the Porch!

I had a bunch of people over for supper Friday night….I mean a bunch. Sometimes people refer to this night as “Christmas at the Colleys”, but it’s more like “Christmas FOR the Colleys” because it’s a whole lot of fun and merriment and we are the ones who get a huge blessing from being around our family in Him. Some of today’s most faithful servants for Him were in our house last Friday night. Children brought me little bags of homemade goodness, candles, or ornaments, there was lots of food and laughter and there was even football in the yard. 

But sometimes on this week, we’re a little preoccupied with prep (or even clean-up) and I’m distracted. It was the week I wore my sweater to worship inside out (big tag hanging from my hip and no-one told me till the very end. (…Though I was sitting on the second row. Of course, I was. You have to parade when your tag is dangling.) It was the week Glenn got home from the drive-through with my sandwich…only there was no sandwich for me in that bag. This party prep included old-fashioned glass bottles of Coca-Cola rolling out the back of my SUV onto my driveway and breaking explosively…on three different days. It included the squirrel that went berserk inside our house (https://thecolleyhouse.org/and-prior-to-the-lesson-this-morning). And yesterday, we went to take communion to the nursing home sisters…only we forgot to bring along the communion. 

On the very last day—the day of the party— I was unquestionably out of room. I was out of room in the freezer, the refrigerator, and the countertops. Even more urgently, though, the food that was on the countertop had to find a home in refrigerator temperatures or it would perish. That’s why we call certain foods perishable. Thankfully God had provided a place of refrigerator temperatures; a place where the food could be saved. That place was, of course, the great outdoors. My screened in porch became the food-saving place that day. 

I know it’s a simple analogy, but work with me here. I started carrying food from the counter toward the porch. Just before I got to the porch, I passed a big, long, empty farm table. There was plenty of room there for all the pies and casseroles. My countertop would be free if I set them all on the table. I would not have to go out in the cold. I would save a few steps. My dining room would not get cold. I would not have to lug it all back in later. So many reasons to just move the food from counter to tabletop. But there was one BIG reason why I could not stop short of the porch. The porch was the place where the conditions were perfect for the preservation of the food. It was the place where food would not perish. Further, once I got the food just outside the place of perishing and just inside the place of salvation, I had to close the door. I had to keep the warmth that was in my house from heating up the porch. I had to keep that food in a place that was separate from the place from which it had come. Mixing the two temperatures would have cause the food to perish; to be unclean. I’m sure, to this point, I’ve not shared any light-bulb concept with you. 

But there’s a spiritual lesson here. Has not God provided a place where souls can be saved? Has He given us a place where we can be separated from the uncleanness that makes us perish? Is it okay to stop short of the entrance to that place, although there may be an alternative that seems good for many reasons. If I have moved toward that “porch door,” but not yet walked through it, am I in the place where the conditions are right for salvation or am I still in the place of perishing?  Am I in the place of the saving element? Succinctly, if I’ve not passed through the door, am I saved? 

I want to add, without commentary, the words of the Holy Spirit about that place…a place where the conditions are right for soul preservation. We understand that the porch door is very important when I’m in my dining room with perishables. How much more important is the door when the perishable is my soul? 

He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who believes not will perish…Mark 16: 16.

Baptism does also now save us…1 Peter 3:21.

Arise and be baptized, washing away your sins…Acts 22:16

Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized, were baptized into his death…Romans 6:3

As many of you as have been baptized, have put on Christ…Galatians 3:27

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins…Acts 2:38.

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses…Colossians 2:12, 13

Some have said to me “But, Cindy Colley, you overemphasize baptism.”  

When you read the words in italics above, can you honestly think that anyone could over-emphasize the importance of baptism? Is it possible to attach too much significance to the place of preservation…of souls? 

“But what about all the other things we have have to do? They’re important, too.”

Yes they are. It was important to clear my counter. It was important to lug each pie and casserole through the dining room. It was important to grab the knob and swing the door open. I could not get to the place of preservation without doing all those things. But unless I got the food into the place of preservation, the contaminants would have compromised the food and (I can tell you for sure) we would not have eaten that food on Friday night. I did some pretty daft things through the week, but that was one thing I was going to make sure I did right. (And, by the way, if it had been hot outside on Friday, I’d have found a neighbor with freezer space. You just don’t take chances with food preservation!)

In life, we will get distracted. We will do some pretty daft things when under the gun. But we’d better get this one thing right. Being on the spiritual porch is being “in Christ.” That’s where spiritual preservation is (Ephesians 1: 3, 7), and the door to the spiritual porch—to being in Christ—is baptism (Romans 6:3,4). 

I’d sure love to help you get to the porch. God’s given every one of us the porch door. And there’s a family of wonderful people waiting for you on the porch!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Joy of a Newborn!

The Ethiopian treasurer went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8: 39). His exposure and obedience to the gospel had given Him multiple reasons for this joy. I cannot imagine his going much farther on his journey without sharing the good news about salvation in the washing of baptism with someone else who needed to know. 

I’ve been reminded in the past few weeks of the overwhelming joy that’s natural for the newly-washed Christian to exhibit. Kiki was baptized about three weeks ago.You can read her conversion story here: https://thecolleyhouse.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=11693&action=edit . She is now spending a lot of time with my daughter, Hannah, in Columbus, Georgia. In the park last week as they were pushing their children in the swings, Kiki spoke openly of her faith, asking Bible questions and drinking in the scriptural answers. In fact, the Biblical discussion was so open that the grandmother pushing a nearby swing asked them about “what church” they were speaking. Kiki was the one who responded without reservation and without timidity.

“Oh, you need to know about this church! I cannot believe this church is not huge, because everyone who visits will recognize that they just teach the Bible. Every question is answered with scripture. The preacher and his wife take time for everybody who wants to study. They have Bible studies in their homes and everyone in this church is welcoming and makes you feel like you’re a part of a family. I am so happy I have found this place!” She said all of this as she was writing down the address of the meeting place on a piece of paper to give to this lady. It turns out this grandmother was baby-sitting for her children who were moving to the area and looking for a church.

I’m sure my daughter could have directed her to the building, but would her recommendation, as the preacher’s wife at the church, have been as objective and well-received as this amazing endorsement from a new Christian? I doubt it could compare. 

Then a few days later, my daughter and Kiki were sitting in a Chik-Fila, when in walked another lady who had visited the same seminar which first introduced Kiki to the church. Coincidentally, she sat at the table next to Hannah and Kiki. Hannah recognized her and began to engage her in conversation, but it was Kiki who immediately jumped in…

“Well, yes. I was at that same seminar where you were and, let me tell you, I am so thankful I saw that seminar on Facebook. It has changed our lives. We are having Family Bible Time. We are studying our Bibles and we have been baptized for the remission of our sins. We are changed people because of that day.” An appointment was made right then for this lady to meet with Hannah and her husband, Ben, later that day in their home. 

I’m saying this: The enthusiasm of a new Christian, when the commitment is real and the change is palpable, is worth more to the cause of Christ than some of our gospel meetings and evangelism classes, especially when paired with the partnership of a sister (or family) who is committed to encouraging and answering questions for the babies in the Lord!

I’m convicted that I need to restore the joy of my salvation (Psalm 51:12) again and again. I’m praying tonight that God will help me have the heart of Kiki, who has changed her focus, her family, and her faith. All three have been directed upward toward eternity with Him and outward with a passion for telling others about what she has found. May I keep that fire in my bones (Jeremiah 20:9)!