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Faith

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Zig-Zag

How about we start a new week?  And for mine, I’d like to stay at home for 24 hours straight at least once in the coming week. I went from Huntsville to Dallas, Texas to Huntsville to Chattanooga, Tennessee to  Corinth, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee to Huntsville to Chattanooga to Huntsville to Chattanooga to Huntsville between the last two week-ends. If anyone looked at a map with this trajectory, she’d say I zig-zagged my week away! She would be right. 

Sometimes it seems that way spiritually and mentally, too. When schedule obligations collide with time limitations—when unexpected and close-to-catastrophic events are suddenly added to an already minute-to-minute schedule, we adapt a survival mode that’s nothing like normalcy. (We go places without combing our hair. Pajamas are okay for Dollar General. Brushing our teeth takes about 20 seconds. We thank God for fast food that we try to avoid , otherwise. When cleaning for company, we say “Oh well, it’s just a cabin; not the Ritz.”  If holes and dirt and stains are hidden on the little people we are dressing—or if they can be—then we pretend they are not really there.) We’re just trying to get through things—funerals, procedures, croup, ear infections, stomach flu, ladies days,—in one piece and with lots of prayer, albeit prayer often spoken while moving quickly. 

About that zigging and zagging. I think a lot about how to combine or even avoid trips to the same proximity. But, despite best efforts, my life map looks like a child’s scribble back and forth in the same spot on a piece of messy paper. Thinking about this last night, I realized that it’s often the zig-zag here on earth that makes the straightest line toward heaven. It’s the going back and forth from crisis to crisis on this planet that best prepares, tests and grows me toward a perfect place of stability and rest. Sometimes the zig-zag is the direct route to peace. 

These earthly routes are tests. (Sometimes I know my “grade” is not a passing one. So thankful for grace.) Going over and over the same ground in my little world is preparation for rest in His big world. He never meant for me to be “at home” in this life. (Good thing!) He’s placed me in the perfect realm for testing. He gives me the scenarios that give me choices. His Holy Spirit said as much in James 1:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Can I keep doing the ‘next right thing’ even when it becomes extremely challenging, physically and emotionally? Can I say with confidence that I’m going to be okay through this survival mode, no matter how long it lasts, because He is my strength and refuge…the ever present help, no matter where I am on the zig-zag (Psalm 46)? Can I even treat other people with kindness and generosity, when I’m feeling like someone or some ones are not being kind to me? All the angst of the zig-zag is to be expected. The way of life is constricted. The gate is narrow and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14). I’ve got an idea that most of those who do, will have done some zig-zagging in survival mode. 

Life is ultimately a test. The quicker we learn that reality, the easier the trials will be. My focus must be passing the tests of my faith; the short-term challenges that will, in one eternal day seem like nothing. The trials are but for a moment, and we should praise Him that we are being “processed” for heaven through them!

One last thing. Have you ever thought about the fact that Job never knew about that day that God encountered the devil and said “Have you thought about my servant Job?” (Job 1)? Job did a lot of zig-zagging from that point on in his life. He went over and over and over exactly why all of this was happening. He walked into doubt and back again, several times. He walked into the valley of the shadow of death and back again, with multiple loved ones. He walked into extremely poor health and back again. He walked into frustration with those who were his accusers, and back again.

Through all of His changes, Job knew that God had none. When I can come to understand this, the zig-zags of this life will not be wasted on me. They will be purposeful, even powerful, in the deliverance of His grace. 

Job 23:13-14 – “But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?  What He desires, that He does.  For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind.”

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Living Influence of a Great-Great Grandmother (and of some in-between)

Last weekend, we celebrated Colleyanna’s birthday. It was a fun time at Serenity and, although there were just a half-dozen of us gathered in the dining room, Colleyanna could not have loved it more if we’d been in the presence of royalty at Buckingham. She and her siblings were excited from the moment they woke up in the morning till the moment the last game was played before bedtime. 

The last game before bedtime was a game of “house”.  Max (Ezra) was my husband and I was Lilly.  Our “house” was the master bedroom.  I worked at a restaurant (my kitchen…that work was real) and Max raced a motorcycle. Our next-door neighbor, Snowdrop (Colleyanna..she’s always picking a name with flair), was always dropping by, uninvited, and bringing her cat, Oreo. (It’s funny how there was more than one  new board game and more than one toy received at the birthday party, but their favorite game, by far, was still the one that just involved people and pretending (and not those toys). 

As I was thinking about the half dozen years that Colleyanna has been on the planet, it was not lost on me that last weekend also marked the birth of someone else who, not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, was left alone with three children between ages one and seven. She was left to have to find childcare for her children while she worked hard to make ends meet in a tiny little house. She was, though under great duress, a woman of great faith and prayer. She was resourceful. And her children were blessed.  

That woman was my grandmother (Colleyanna’s great, great grandmother) and her birthday was last weekend, too. Born on September 10th, 1898, she was, when she left this life in 1980, Mattie Lee Louise Abernathy Smith Duncan. That’s a lot of name for such a humble and meek woman of God.  She taught me how to play house, and rock school and hop-scotch and she could make a doll out of a handkerchief and a chalice out of gum wrapper.  She took me to beautiful springs that bubbled out of a rocky hillside near the graves of some of our ancestors.  She was the one in that lineage who came to know and obey the gospel first. Converting her second husband to the Lord, all told, she (they) raised two faithful gospel preachers, an elder in the Lord’s church, another son and my mother, who was one of the greatest examples of Christianity I’ve ever known. All of those five children, to my knowledge, died as faithful Christians. 

Two of those children were profound influences on my spiritual development. How does one ever overestimate the power of motherhood in the molding of a soul for heaven? My mother’s power in my life is, even now, strong and vast. But one of the preachers my grandmother raised, Bobby Duncan, was the local preacher in the church in which I grew up. He baptized me and I am quite sure I do not even fully know the extent to which he shaped my love of the Word and my desire to serve God. That shaping is palpable every time I take out the Word to study. 

I often remember specific things Bobby Duncan said when I am studying a particular topic or text. I love the fact that my husband was blessed to “inherit” the preaching files of my uncle Bob. In my basement there is a file cabinet that is more valuable to both of us than any material treasure he could have ever left behind. He wrote almost every sermon in very complete outline form, though he never read his sermons. He had them so very well-learned by the time of delivery that  no one would have known that much of what he said rested on the pulpit in front of him. Here are a few samples of quotations I’ve recently read from his files in that cabinet: 

On the faith: “The faith is constantly under attack. It is under attack by the forces of atheism, agnosticism, existentialism, liberalism, anti-ism, radicalism, and every other “ism”. The gospel cannot defend itself against these attacks. It has no voice of its own. It must utilize our voices for its defense. I have about as much respect for one who would stand idly by and watch a defenseless old lady get mugged, and not lift a hand to defend her, as I have for a gospel preacher who will stand idly by while the faith is being attacked , and not say a word in its defense (Phil. 1:17). We must contend for the faith.”

On marriage, divorce and remarriage: “Brethren, let’s not be stricter than the Lord was in these areas. When a man puts away his wife for fornication, and marries another woman, he only has one wife. We ought not to penalize that man for doing what the Lord said he could do (Matthew 19: 9; 5:31-32)  When a man puts away his wife for a reason other than fornication, then he is living in adultery and should not be utilized in the services of the church, but should be forewarned and disciplined.’

On adultery:  “Well, what is to be done about the sin of fornication? What is to be done to obtain forgiveness? If one is guilty of the sin of fornication, then what is he supposed to do? Of course, if a person is not a Christian, in order to be forgiven of any sin, he has to obey the gospel of Christ. He has to hear the gospel and believe it, repent, confess, and be baptized. But now notice, repentance means getting out of sin. It means giving up the sinning business. If a man is a thief, he has to quit thieving. If he is a bootlegger, he has to quit bootlegging. That is what repentance involves. If he is committing fornication, then he has to quit committing fornication. And that would involve that adultery that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19:9 where it says ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for fornication and shall marry another committeth adultery.’ If a man is in an adulterous relationship, when he repents, that means he has to get out of that relationship. He can’t just keep on committing sin and get God’s forgiveness.”

On taking the name of God in vain: “Technically, what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in Vain? 

  1. It means to use God’s name to back up a lie.
  2. In Isaiah 59:4 “They trust in vanity and speak lies….”
  3. The word “lies” is the same Hebrew word “shav” translated “vain” in Exodus 20:7.
  4. (Hosea 10:4  “They speak vain words, swearing falsely in making covenants…”
  5. (Exodus 23:1) “Thou shalt not take up a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” 
  6. To take the Lord’s name in vain means, therefore, to use the Lord’s name to back up a falsehood or a lie.”

What I love about studying these files is that there’s no mincing of words. I love that he was bold and compassionate, powerful and plain, rich and relevant. (What he wrote 40 years ago still helps me make practical decisions.)

What I also love is that I know it was the power of the gospel that touched the heart of a young woman, married at 15 in 1913 and deserted by an adulterous husband by the time she was in her early twenties—It was the power of the gospel in a broken heart that indirectly gave me sound teaching through this great man of God. Taking in washing and ironing, working at the cotton mill just to survive with three small children, my grandmother put something in three  hearts that led them all to respond favorably to the gospel when presented with it. She then met and married my grandfather and she (and others who helped her), led him to the Lord eventually, too, along with the two children they had together. They led some of my grandfather’s family members to the Lord. In the end, there have been about 20 faithful ministers (in various capacities) and elders, who are descendants of or who married descendants of this praying woman.  I could have quoted from several of them, who have written various works. I chose the one who has impacted my life most deeply (except for Glenn, of course.)

Just marvel with me at this simple woman’s legacy. She’s still speaking through her children’s children. If you find yourself in a place of challenge—even brokenness; if you find yourself feeling hopeless or alone, remember 20 elders and preachers/ministers in the kingdom from a destitute mother of three. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Be empowered by it, for it is the “power of God to salvation”(Romans 1:16).  It’s the power of God to salvation to the single mother who is doing all she can to put heaven in the hearts of her children. It’s the power of God to salvation to the child who is growing up in a world in which the devil is fighting hard for his soul. It’s the power of God to eventual salvation for the little girl who is turning six and pretending to be “Snowdrop” just as it was for her great-great grandmother who was “pretending” with three young children in a shotgun house in the mill village in Jacksonville, Alabama in the early twentieth century. 

If you are doing hard things for Him, you may be doing more for His glory than you can imagine! Pray for the little souls in your charge and keep your eye on the goal! I’m keeping the faith!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

All I Need.

He’s my refuge, sword and buckler

He’s my rock and He’s its cleft.

He is enough—sufficient

When there is nothing left. 

 

He is promises delivered 

He is future victories won

He can pity like a Father 

Empathizing like the Son.

 

Bearing burdens till He lifts them

He stays near till struggles cease

With His own He condescends to dwell

Exchanging fear for peace. 

 

I cannot comprehend this love

When I am so undone

I cannot fathom boundless grace

For me, the filthy one.

 

But certain can I be of it

There’ll be no fitful tossing

As I approach the end of time 

And face the Jordan’s crossing.

 

I’ve laid the hands of those I love

In His, at end of day.

I, too, can grasp that gentle hand

And quietly fly away.

 

Angels, then dispatched for me

Will give my soul protection

Guiding me to “things above”

On which I’ve set affection.

 

Praying, praising, pleading more

The vigil I will keep. 

Till my spirit takes its journey

And my body lies in sleep.

 

He’s my refuge, sword and buckler

He’s my rock and He’s its cleft.

He is enough till one sweet day

On gentle wings —-I’ve left.  

c. colley

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Christian Courier…a Good Sleep Aid

It was 4:38 am and I was having a ridiculously hard time sleeping. It was a specific question with which I was wrestling in my mind; a question about our being created in the image of God and exactly how that creation translates into our being “like” God. The class in which I was going to discuss that topic was just six hours away. 

I searched the Christian Courier website and found just what I needed. I printed off a portion of an article from my dear brother Wayne Jackson. He was a friend to Glenn and me in life and He  speaks to us still, being dead. I have a couple of books with which he and his dear wife gifted me. One particular one was a birthday gift gave me several years ago while I was on a speaking trip in Northern California. He took us for dessert at a Stockton ice cream parlor and it’s a memory I treasure. 

The good thing that He is to my life is still good. I thought about the words from his article and went right back to sleep. Just knowing it was waiting for me on the printer when dawn came and I was up for the day was a big blessing. Sometimes it’s articles by one of his sons, Jared or Jason. Sometimes it’s a textual question and sometimes I need comfort from a passage. Sometimes he chastens me and sometimes he is deeply encouraging. But always, Christian Courier is a staple—a go-to—when I have questions about the most important things in life. The answers there are always both Biblical and logical. Here’s a sampling.  It’s a treasure chest. (This is the current home page): 

I love the Bible and I love people who love the Bible. Some of them awe me with both intelligence and wisdom. Last night, Christian Courier was a better sleep aid than Melatonin. The funny thing is that waking up to visit with Wayne Jackson for a few minutes about a passage is not even a rare thing. My husband doesn’t mind. In fact, he sometimes visits with him in the middle of the night, too.We also spend lots of time in this site behind our desks and as we drive along in the car. We’re addicted in a good way!

You can visit the Christian Courier here: https://www.christiancourier.com 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Come Study with Us.–Digging Deep 2022-23

The new Digging Deep study kicks off from Polishing the Pulpit in just one month! I hope you are planning to study with us again and I hope you are telling others about Digging Deep. I always say this, but I do think I’m more in need of this study than any to date. If I have learned anything during our last study about the Calvary week, it is how badly I need Calvary; how easily and often I sin and how egregious are the consequences of that sin. I do not want to issue any spoiler alerts, but I believe this new study will be a great one to follow the conviction of “The Hour Has Come.” Here’s an excerpt. The passage under consideration is Romans 8:28. It is the most hope-filled text in the New Testament for me.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

It is just a simple statement. Almost all the words are small. Any child can understand it. But it is the most profound statement in its effect during the dark times of life in all of Scripture.

I love the word know. It means I can count on this promise.


I love the word
all. It means that, not just the good things, but the good things and the bad things are both going to be included in the promise.


I love the term
work together. It means that the good things and the bad things that are occurring in my world are both useful to Him in the weave that makes this promise a reality.

I love the word good. The good events and circumstances and the bad events and circumstances are woven together by the master weaver to produce something that is no longer even partially bad; it is all good. It is what is best for me as His child, in its end result.

I love the promise recipient descriptions: those who love Him. Oh, how I do love Him! While I was yet a sinner, He gave His life for me, He commended His love for me all the way to the death (5:8).

…and those who are the called according to His purpose. Those who have accepted the invitation, the appointment, to glorify Him.

Ladies, this orchestration of the events in my life, through providence, to make all the circumstances work out for my ultimate benefit is valuable to me in an immeasurable way.

On rare occasions, my friends in Pentecostal churches have chastised me for a “lack of faith” in miracles today. Some believe, since I am convicted that God has pushed the “pause” button on miracles today, that my faith is weak. For the record, I believe every miracle recorded in Scripture occurred. I believe it will be miraculous when we fly away with Jesus. It will be miraculous when the graves are opened again. It will be miraculous when we put off mortality. He is not done with miracles.

But I would add that this orchestration of all the natural events in my life, to my ultimate benefit, while He is orchestrating all the events in all the lives of all His children everywhere to their ultimate benefit, is nothing short of amazing. It is not miraculous, because it is done within the confines of His laws of nature. But it is just as amazing to this girl as is the miraculous. I have faith. I believe He is currently doing this in my life, even in the most difficult of circumstances. I praise Him for this!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Family Bible Week–It’s about Eternity.

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: cindycolley@gmail.com.

https://westhuntsville.org/sermons/the-conversions-of-lydia-and-the-jailer/

https://westhuntsville.org/sermons/cornelius-conversion/

https://westhuntsville.org/sermons/the-ethiopian-eunuchs-conversion/

Saul’s Conversion