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Christianity

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Digging Deep Israel–First Stop: the Dead Sea


The Dead Sea is on the eastern border of the nation of Israel. It was our first stop.  As we traveled south and east from the airport in Tel-Aviv, I was taken by the harshness of a desert region like I’d never seen before. The farther south we went, the less vegetation we saw and the more barren sand and limestone—craggy and desolate mountains—enveloped us. When I had envisioned the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness prior to entering the land of milk and honey, I’d never pictured this harsh and inhospitable wasteland. With the blessings of God promised and attending them already, their murmurings about being thirsty and hungry were inexcusable; however, I could see the great temptation to be fearful about the source of the next drink of water.

Sometimes we are like that, spiritually. We live in a wilderness of sin. God’s already promised us the living water that assures us the victory, the promised land. He’s promised a way of escape for every temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). But we fear. We doubt. We complain. We look at the desert instead of the Deliverer. 

When we finally arrived at the shoreline of the Dead Sea, I realized that we were in a commercial resort area. Built around the Dead Sea were fine hotels with spas and pools and restaurants and people were flocking to “experience” the Dead Sea. 

Situated at the very lowest point of the earth’s surface (1412 feet below sea level) is this body of water with the highest saline concentration of any water on the earth. Bordered by Jordan, the West Bank and Israel, it’s just over 30 percent salt and cannot sustain any complex life forms, plant or animal. It’s truly dead because of its salinity. If you touch the water with any open paper cut or scratch, you will quickly feel the burn of the salinity, but the salt content also promotes cleansing and healing.

Sometimes the salt of the earth, spiritually speaking, is that way. When it touches the wounds of sin, it burns. It’s painful to touch a life that’s been marred by sin with the healing power of Christianity. Healing often means the burn of rejection by former friends, separation from activities that I once enjoyed, and, most certainly the burning pain of guilt realized. But it’s the healing remedy for the sin that cuts us!

The “Dead Sea Experience,” for which the area is famous, is floating in the salty water. SO we did it. Our group of bathing beauties made our way to an isolated area of the Sea and waded in to our knees. Following instructions, we tried to just sit down in the water. But we just bobbed right back up! Then we just laid horizontally on top of the water and, with no effort at all, floated around in the Dead Sea. We laughed at each other, took photos, and generally had the best time making fun of each other as we lost our balances in attempts to stand back up. (You just can’t get your feet back on the bottom! When the men had their turn at the experience, Glenn even sustained a pretty good little cut on the palm of his had as he tried to lift himself back up in the water by placing his hand on the jagged, hardened salt on the bottom of the sea….But he healed quickly in the medicinal waters.)

The sea is receding and projects are ongoing to bring in more water to replenish the shrinking sea. Water is definitely being pumped into the area in large quantities to maintain the resorts that have been built around the Dead Sea. After all, they don’t have a Moses to speak to the rock in that desert, anymore!

The largest lesson from the Dead Sea has been famously recorded in a song we often sang in worship as I was growing up. I cannot improve or expound on the words of this song. They are perfect! May we all strive to be like the rushing Jordan rather than the Dead Sea. May we, those who have been given the gift of the water of life, be channels of spiritual life and blessing to those to whom the living waters can flow through us! May we give Him glory as we share the water of life!

 

 

There is a Sea

by Lula Klingman Zahn

There is a sea which day by day

Receives the rippling rills

And streams that spring from wells of God

Or fall from cedared hills

But what it thus receives it gives

With glad unsparing hand

A stream more wide, with deeper tide

Flows on to lower land

There is a sea which day by day

Receives a fuller tide

But all its store it keeps, nor gives

To shore nor sea beside

It’s Jordan stream, now turned to brine

Lies heavy as molten lead

It’s dreadful name doth e’er proclaim

That sea is waste and dead.

Which shall it be for you and me

Who God’s good gifts obtain?

Shall we accept for self alone

Or take to give again?

For He who once was rich indeed

Laid all His glory down

That by His grace, our ransomed race

Should share His wealth and crown.

Words public domain 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: A Good and Defiant Heart?

Yesterday at the conclusion of a ladies seminar at which I spoke, I was in conversation with a schoolteacher. She described having been involved in a meeting prior to the school year in which she was told she was not allowed to tell the students she was a Christian. I could go on and on about how twisted this sort of gag rule is; about the absurdity of such a misapplication of the Constitution’s provision for freedom of religion; about the fact that there are other teachers in her school who wear the Islamic scarves called hijab; about the amazing boldness of the devil in our education system today.

But let me suffice it to say that, if anyone, in any place of employment says that to me, at that point I have but two choices: resign from that position or remain on in defiance of the order, come what may.

II Corinthians 6:14 says this:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Many have applied this teaching to the marriage of a believer to a non-believer. While I think there are marital situations to which this verse may apply, I think the verse is directly relevant to the schoolteacher’s situation. While I can be in the yoke with unbelievers (work for them and with them, live in neighborhoods with them, be in organizations with them and play sports with them), I cannot be under the power of any man or group of men who, in the exercise of that power, would force my denial of or disobedience to my King Jesus. The other force in the yoke cannot overpower my will to serve the Lord.

This teacher told me that she would be telling her students that she was a Christian. She said “ Though I may not get the chance to teach them the gospel while they are in my classroom, I want them to grow up and remember that Mrs. Jones was different in a good way…and I want them to remember that it was likely because she was a Christian.”

She understands the choices before her. First, she can keep her Christianity hidden. Or, secondly, she can quit her job and tell everyone she’s a Christian. Or she can defy the order and risk getting fired. Undercover Christianity is not an option for faithful people. So she has chosen to disobey the order and take her chances. She’s doing what Peter and John did in Acts 3-5. They were ordered to stop teaching about Jesus by those who were clearly in positions of authority over them. They did not stop teaching (option one). They did not move to some other location to do their teaching (option two). They boldly disobeyed the orders, risking, and later receiving, the punishment.

As I continue to be shocked at the intolerance toward Christianity in our governmentally controlled arenas (Which founding father would have thought?!), I’m in prayer for all of the Mrs. Joneses who are standing firm in their professions of Christianity. Some are doing it in schools, both as teachers and students. Others are doing it in governmental and judicial positions. Some are standing for God in situations of social persecution.

I find comfort in the conclusion of this discussion about unequal forces in the yoke:

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (vs. 17,18).

May we come out and be separate, so we can be his daughters.
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: “He’s Family.”

13445308_10153545698711384_8626082806051738344_nIt caught me a little off-guard when the manager at Waffle House In Jacksonville, Alabama called me over to the counter to have a word with him. He asked for my phone number. 

Well, that didn’t sound right. What I mean is, he wanted an emergency number just in case any medical emergency ever comes up with my father who’s 93 and goes to Waffle House almost every single day….Sometimes, he goes two or three times a day. I was touched. He said “Well, he’s like family to us. That’s just how much we think of him.” 

They know what he orders and they give him a little extra of this or that. They open his creamers and his jellies because they know those arthritic hands have a hard time getting them open. They refill and pamper and “darlin” him till he’s full and then they open all the doors wide for his walker as he leaves. 

That’s how they define treating someone like family. And, mind you, I’m very grateful that they’re so very attentive and kind. They are extremely accommodating and most respectful.  And the fact that they cared enough to get the contact info struck a chord inside me. 

But, still, I’m glad that Dad has a real family. Real family, you see, does a whole lot more than taking breakfast orders, delivering the purchased items, and doing it with kindness and extra measures of respect and friendliness. All of that is so much more than you expect, as a customer, but still not nearly what it means to be “family”.  

Being family is doing everything in your power to identify and make sure all needs are met. Family is shared memories and hopes. It’s defending each other while holding each other accountable. It’s rescuing. It’s reminiscing. It’s communicating about the mundane and struggling together through the challenging. It’s being secure, even in your mutual vulnerability. In the Bible, it’s the Greek word “storge” and the absence of this kind of love is included in some pretty heinous sin-lists in the New Testament (Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3).

It’s interesting, in this context, that God calls us— the church—the “family” (Ephesians 3:15). Sometimes I fall so short of the calling of “family” in reference to my treatment of the brothers and sisters with whom I have the truest kinship…the blood kinship that comes from Calvary. 

I’m pretty devoted to my physical family. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for either of my sisters or my brother. I have a pretty constant anxiety about my father’s well-being. The way I miss my mother is deep and, at times, still excruciating. My husband is everything to me, My children and grandchildren are dear to me beyond words. They put the light in my eyes and the spring in my step. I am all about family.

Perhaps the manager at Waffle House really does think my father is like family. But, for me, family is a little bit more. May I work harder to be truly “family” to those who are my siblings in the family of God. May I strive to exhibit the same (or even a greater) care for the eternal family as I do for the physical family. And may I not allow the fact that I can’t keep up with the needs and cares and sorrows of that many people to stop me from doing my best to treat my Christian kin as family; one person…one opportunity at the time.