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Evangelism

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Praising His Power (Read to the end and be blessed!)

There are so many things about which I wanted to write at 4:00 am this morning. Jet lag is real and exacerbated when you have a spouse who’s also experiencing it. You’re wide awake at 3:30 a.m. You’re pretty sure he is, too. His movements are restless and his breathing includes an almost audible sound of frustration every now and then. You’re almost sure he’s awake, but you still don’t say anything in the darkness, just in case he has stolen a few moments of sleep in the wee small hours of the morning. 

I thought a lot about the trip to the Bible Lands (https://www.biblelandpassagetours.com) this morning. It was a tight travel with 46 other people, only a few of whom I’d ever even met. Glenn and I spoke, in studies and devotionals, a total of 21 times and this schedule counted as an annual vacation?! We walked (much of it strenuous hiking) a total of about 60 miles. We packed and unpacked a large bus several times a day. We ate some pretty unfamiliar foods and I’m told that I did eat camel tongue, but I’m in denial about that. I permanently lost my cell phone in Jericho. I did some difficult counseling (or problem-talking is really a better description)  along the way. The plane rides were long; the nights were short. The temperatures were topping out at around 100 degrees several of the days and most restaurants don’t serve a glass of ice with anything you order to drink. I didn’t see a single store that compares to Publix or WalMart, though I’m sure they must be there. I left a bunch of my clothes in Jerusalem because my niece was on her way to do a similar tour and her luggage never made it to Tel-Aviv. There were bumps and adjustments and rigor and sweat. 

And it was the best trip of my lifetime! I will treasure the memories and savor the rich teaching for the rest of my days on this earth and maybe even carry a larger bucket into eternity! I will remember the bodies of water: the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. I will be thankful for the water of life. I will remember the ruins of Bet- Shaen and of first century Jerusalem and of Dan and be thankful there’s no ruin in heaven. I will think about the passionate wailing at the Western Wall and be thankful there is no wall of separation between me and the One who ministers in the Most Holy Place for me. I will think about the Jews who still cling to the observances of a system that has no blood of redemption and ever praise Him that the law of Moses was nailed to the cross and that I do have blood.  I will remember the intensity of the Arab/Israeli struggle around the state of Israel and be prayerful for the simple gospel and its attendant blessings to permeate and, one day, powerfully affect the spiritual climate there. I’ll think about the world-changing gospel, likely first preached on the steps of the temple where Glenn was privileged to proclaim them again a few days ago, and just praise Him that the forceful words of Acts 2 have found their way into my heart two thousand years later. I will work to help them find their way into the hearts around me. 

I will keep working and praising (and stumbling and failing), but I will do it with an added dimension of thanksgiving. A woman who is enjoying the blessings that are inherent in Christ—a woman who has entered the Holy Place and ministers in the service of the High Priest —is blessed beyond comprehension. May those of us who are those women make daily choices that reflect hearts of utter dependence and extreme gratitude! 

So some simple lessons will be forthcoming in some subsequent posts. 

But for today, I want to tell you about something I heard last night over the dinner table at Zaxby’s as we sat there with some of our younger couples and singles from the West Huntsville church. One of our couples, Stephen and Brenna Anderson, had just returned from a trip to Washington, DC. Searching out the church there for a Wednesday night assembly, they found that the prospects of Bible study with Christians inside the city were more difficult than they’d thought. They finally found a single congregation inside the city and made their way via the metro to a spot within walking distance. They arrived early and, when they knocked, were admitted by a young man who told them that the ministers were out of town, but welcomed them in. The Bible study was to begin at 7:00 p.m., but 7:15 came and it was still just the three of them. Finally one more brother arrived and, as they began to sing together, just the four of them, two men wandered in from the street. One of the men was obviously very inebriated; the other listened intently to the prayers and praise and, at the end, asked for prayers as he made his way to a destination in Virginia. He indicated that he really didn’t know exactly what he needed, but he knew he needed prayers. The prayer was offered and the service ended. While the local people tried to help the drunken man to safety as he left, Stephen approached the man who’d asked for prayers with a simple life-changing question: “Would you like to have a Bible study?” 

The man answered “Actually, I would.” 

It took a while for the local man to “handle” the situation with the disorderly man, so Stephen spent that time in study with this visitor. The man, whose background was Muslim, had already come to believe in the Lord Jesus and was already searching the scriptures  for salvation’s path. He knew a lot about the Bible.  After a while in the Word, the man’s next question came: “Could I be baptized now?” 

Stephen said, “Well, let me see about that…I’m a visitor here, too, but let’s ask if we can make that happen.” 

And it did. The baptistry was filled. The man’s sins were washed away and he went on his way rejoicing. 

Stephen and Brenna left him, the infant Christian, in the care of the man who baptized him. They went on their way (hurriedly, because the metro was closing) rejoicing, too. 

God’s people searching out God’s people. Two or three (or, in this case, four) of them gathering in His name and knowing He is there. God’s Providence working mightily. A powerful combination producing the very best thing that could possibly happen on a vacation! 

How can you not be encouraged to begin your work-week with His name on your lips? Let’s do this week for Him!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Flying Through the Storm: A Lesson Learned

The flight to Dallas had not been on time from any perspective…delays texted to me before my airport arrival, more delays after checking in, and even more delays at the gate. Further waiting occurred on the runway and then evaluation delays before landing. My arrival time to the wonderful home in which I was staying was delayed from around 8:30 pm to 11:00 p.m. But the warm hospitality of this wonderful couple in rural Briar, Texas made it worth the wait. They could not have been more kind and they situated me most comfortably in this land of beautiful bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes. 

The ladies day was a soul-refresher, too—renewing old sisterhood relationships and forging new friendships that I am sure will last a lifetime. Watching young teens ( and some older ladies, too) using their talents to lead our worship gave me hope for the future of our great sisterhood. Our study of the sower and the soils in Matthew 13, Luke 8 and John 4 was a refresher course in evangelism that I needed. The peace of this study of the Master Sower and His Seed was almost palatable enough to make me forget that the lightning was flashing, the thunder booming and  the rain crashing down on the outside of that old country church building. I heard about the baseball-sized hail that was falling nearby, but my mind was focused, for the entire morning, on the serenity of trusting Him.

Until I got in the car for that mad dash to the airport and realized that my flight had been canceled. The text message had come while I was speaking. Not only that, but the flight on which I’d been rebooked was taking off before I could possibly make it to the airport. The estimated call-back time from American Airlines to try and find sufficient information for booking yet again were over 2 hours. Updates online were slow coming. Word was that over 80 planes had been grounded at DFW due to hail damage. and most of the ones not grounded were having a pretty hard time exiting the stormy Dallas/Fort Worth atmosphere. There was a 9:10 pm flight that was still posted as “on-time” and that was my only choice to fly back without missing Sunday worship. So I asked my sweet hosts to drop me at the airport and let me see if that flight really could get me home. 

When they dropped me off at the BNA, I exited a car full of warmth and real hospitality. My every need had been met with extreme consideration. I’d marveled at the secret cellar door Brother Bradberry had constructed—a bookshelf that magically opened to a stairwell. He’d played the violin for me and even given me some violin and harp music to enjoy in my car. (His music teacher was, to my surprise, a former member of The Sons of the Pioneers.) They’d fed me breakfast and taken me out for dinner. They’d patiently waited for my incoming flights and given me a cozy place to sleep. They’d shown me lots of bronze sculptures by an amazing artist who had lived his life as a member of the church there. His pieces were showcased in public arenas around Dallas. Sister Bradberry has shown me gorgeous quilts that she had designed and pieced and quilted. All in all, I felt as if I had a VIP pass to a museum of culture and art. And it was all there in a sweet little house in a rural spot just between Boyd and Azle, Texas. 

And then I went into the world. There at the curb for departures, I left genuine fellowship and concern, warm handshakes and hugs and walked into chaos and havoc, anger and disgust— on faces, in audible snarls and in cursings of the weather, of the various airlines and of airline representatives who could not have possibly been responsible for all the mayhem. It was kind of like exchanging a security blanket for a muleta at a bull fight. I think I have never heard so many profanities, expletives and gutter words in one thirty minute period as I did during my check-in process at the airport. Police had just handcuffed some drunkards who’d had a little too much time and drink in that airport that day. Angry travelers who’d survived long flights 24 hours ago had then spent the day, unexpectedly, waiting…and waiting…and wandering from switched gate to switched terminal …and waiting some more. Frustrated airline representatives were snapping back at rude customers and sometimes even at entire groups of passengers waiting at their gates. The storm on the outside had made its way into the airport and the explosive tempers there made for a choleric mood in every crowded terminal passageway. People were hungry and had been drinking too much and many had spent far more than they’d ever intended, leaving themselves wanting for provisions for the rest of their journeys. To put it mildly, people were mad.  

Lesson one from that stormy night: In times of distress and anxiety, there’s a vast difference between the dispositions of the few people who have chosen the narrow “rural roads” and the multitudes who are crowding from gate to gate through the broad “terminals” of life. When I see them in clear contrast, I’m so happy to be a part of the family of God. And may I see them in clear contrast; not just on the stormy days, but every day. 

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)!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: “Mammy, I want to tell you…”

Ezra, my 4-year-old grandson, just called to tell me about the baptisms that are occurring tonight after a Bible study that his parents have been conducting with a couple that visited the marriage seminar at Edgewood recently. This is blessing my world tonight in so many ways and on so many levels. 

The obvious and most important is that two souls are being washed tonight. Two precious souls added to the body of Christ. Two souls saved by the mercy of God and the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4)

The second reason that what’s happening right now is pivotal is that these two people being baptized are parents of very small children. That means that these kids, from this night forward, will be parented by intentional, devoted Christians—people who are directing them with eternity always in the forefront. It means that whatever brokenness or spiritual poverty may have existed in the former generations, no longer has to exist. Tonight is the forging of the first link in a chain that can be unbroken—each generation forging its own link and each generation guiding the next to faithfulness. These small children will never have to remember a time when their parents were walking away from the Lord. 

The third thing that’s wonderful is that I’m basking in the joy that a mother gets in knowing the next generation is evangelistic. It’s not always easy and pretty to be conducting Bible studies with a two-year-old and a four-year-old in tow. It’s not always easy to offer hospitality, to make sure that your children and those who belong to the ones who are hungering for the gospel are quiet enough, so that concentration on truth can occur in the next room. It’s not always easy, but it is always eternally gratifying. 

And that’s the part that makes a grandmother’s heart sing: “Mammy, this is Ezwa…. I want to tell you that Mrs. Kiki and Mr. Lavardo and Jo-Jo and all of them are going to get to go to heaven now. Dey WEALLY are. It’s because I been so good to dem and Cohweenanna has, too. We been teachin’ dem about God. Dey have already been baptized tonight.” 

Well, you and I know that they will not go to heaven because Hannah and Ben’s son has been good to them. They will, just like you and me, get to go to heaven because God’s Son has been so good to them. All the same, I’m happy that Hannah and Ben are putting joy into Ezra and Colleyanna when souls are reached with this good news. I’m glad she is showing them that they can have a part in someone coming to know the Lord. I hope they will get to experience this ultimate bliss over and over in their lives.  

It is ultimate bliss for this lifetime. Only heaven can be better than this. 

Tomorrow, I am going to go and teach women lessons from Titus 2. Because of tonight’s little four-year-old testimony of the power of parenthood, I’m going to speak the truths about motherhood with a little more conviction…perhaps with a little more clarity. The future of the body of Christ is dependent on what parents are putting into the hearts of their children. I’m so thankful for parents who are serious about the transferral of their families to that eternal home around the throne. And I’m supremely grateful for that sweet couple in Georgia who woke up this morning in an unwashed and lost state. Tonight, they are going to bed washed and heaven-bound. What blessed children will be sleeping down the hall from them!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Marriage and Evangelism

This past weekend, Glenn and I were privileged to speak for the Edgewood Church in Columbus, Georgia, for a marriage seminar. We do these seminars frequently, so I was anticipating a weekend much like many others we’ve experienced. But, when we got in the car to head back home after the seminar concluded, we both looked at each other and said, almost in unison, “Wow. I’ve never seen seminar quite like that one.” 

It was not our teaching that made this special. It wasn’t food or games or hand-outs. This seminar was unique in that the visitors from the community outnumbered the folks from the congregation in the listening audience. At one point, I was sitting near the local preacher, Ben Giselbach, and I asked about the member/non-member ratio in attendance. He pointed to an entire large section of the auditorium and said “I don’t know any of those people in that front-middle section.” 

By the end of the lunch hour on Saturday, when we were leaving, I had overheard a couple of Bible discussions about salvation going on between non-members and Christians; one in the auditorium with a speaker and one in the foyer with one of the sweet women of the church. We knew of two Bible studies that had been set up and one commitment to participate in the  Digging Deep study. By the end of the day on Saturday, one attendee who had been very vocally pro-choice had studied her way to advancing a pro-life position. I keep hearing more and varied positive responses from this very spiritually eclectic group. I am privileged this week to pray for the several attendees who are moving toward a clear understanding of God’s will for their lives and eternal salvation. This weekend was enough to dampen and smother any smoldering discouragement I’ve been feeling. 

Someone may be wondering what exactly was the difference between this marriage seminar and all of the others of all of the other weekends. Although I know our God is uniquely powerful and there was a lot of prayer that preceded this event, I believe the unique variable for this one was that this church went into the planning of this marriage seminar with a very evangelistic focus. I believe their primary goal was not that of strengthening the marriages within their congregation, though that’s a very worthy goal and I’m sure it occurred. But this church placed beautiful billboards created by a qualified designer in a couple of prominent places in the city of Columbus. The billboard advertised a free marriage workshop including childcare (About 50 children of non-members were registered before the day began, and they attended fun Bible classes, watched Digger Doug and made related crafts. They practically had a VBS going in the kids’ hall and the nursery!) The graphics used on the billboard were splashed all over social media, along with other eye-catching designs. Members were encouraged to stop and photograph the billboards and share their photos on social media. They did. City security was engaged and visible so that the community felt protected as they attended and walked between the two buildings where sessions were held. Greeting crews were designated and trained prior to the event date. Handsome schedules were printed out and free snacks were always available.

All of that to say this: Sometimes our seminars and workshops have an inherent appeal to a very wide audience. The interest in marriage and parenting themes in our culture is perhaps at an all-time high. Since we have the answers in a very trusted Manual, maybe we can do a better job of advertising our seminars to the community. If we get them to attend because their marriages and families are needing answers, that’s a very good place to begin showing them their need for salvation and the church of God. 

One non-member attendee put it this way: “You all have a beautiful, welcoming spirit. I can’t wait to fellowship and learn more. I know that I’m going to have to join the body of Christ and get a closer relationship with God, so thank you.”  That, sisters, is a great start. I hope this church’s focus in planning can help other groups. I know it has already helped us and plans are in the infant stages to do a very similar workshop in our home church. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Sweep in Heaven Peace”

Matthew 25 is one of those rare passages containing a glimpse into the world beyond this one. The curtains of the judgement scene are pulled for a few brief verses and we are clearly taught from those judgment verses that, when we do good things for the brethren, we are doing them, in essence, for the Lord. 

So, on the way to the crisis pregnancy center, where my daughter was volunteering on that Thursday morning, she explained to her kids that, when Ezra and Colleyanna were in the playroom that she would be attending (a place where siblings, of mothers who were being encouraged NOT to abort their unborn children, would be entertained and watched) that they would be doing an important job. She explained that they would be helping mothers learn how to be better mothers and take good care of their babies; that it’s a great day because they would actually be doing something for Jesus. Ezra, who is four, took the job seriously.

Following their time at the pregnancy center, they headed to Chik-Fila, where they were meeting my son-in-law, Ben, and their friend, Carina, to study the Bible. Hannah told the children about the importance of the Bible study and that, when they were playing nicely during the study, they really were getting to do yet another thing for Jesus. 

The best part of the day was yet to come. At the conclusion of the study, Ben told their sweet friend that he and Hannah were always available should she decide she wanted to be baptized into Christ. She responded “Could I just do it right now?”

In their excitement to take her to the water, Hannah hurried the kids into the car and began to explain to them that Carina was going to be baptized for the remission of her sins. From the back seat, Ezra smiled a huge smile and said “You mean we get to do something for Jesus AGAIN?”

It had been a long and full and very blessed day. On the way home, the radio was playing “Silent Night.” Hannah was thinking about other things (good things) and didn’t even notice the song on the radio until she heard the little voice again from the back seat:

“I wuv this song. You know why? Because it says, ‘sweep in heaven peace’ and Carina gets to go to heaven now. I think this is a God song. A God song for Carina.”

May you and I have that heart…a heart that loves getting to do things for Jesus…a heart that wants “heaven-peace” for people in a troubled world… a heart that wants a “God-song” for all the people who could use His music in their lives!