Browsing Tag

Faith

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Looking More Like Home

Tonight, I am not where I want to be at all. I’d like to be in Texas with my husband as he mourns, there, the death of his sister, Laura Jenkins. I’d like to be there, not because it would be enjoyable, in any sense, but because it would be my honor to get to personally listen to the sweet tribute that will be her memorial service and to personally hug her husband and children and her parents who have meant so much to our family though the years. I’ve known Laura, of course, for as long as I have known my husband—over 40 years—and I have laughed harder with her than almost anyone. We laughed so hard that night I went sprawling across the WalMart parking lot in a mammoth fall, my feet right out from under me, sliding across wet pavement for several feet in a monsoon. (I’m still laughing just writing about it, but her laughter always exacerbated mine, particularly if we were in a place in which we were not supposed to be laughing.)  I’ve laughed until I hurt at stories Laura told about ordinary people in her congregation, community or work place, because she could imitate funny people doing outrageous things better than almost anyone I know. I laughed when she wore her Christmas sweater inside-out to an exclusive Christmas event. I laughed when she accidentally gave a very expensive Christmas gift to a friend at a party where she intended to give a pair of socks, because she had wrapped the two gifts (for different people) in identical boxes and placed them in the same closet. She lived, laughed and loved just about as well as anyone I ever knew.   I wanted to be there to see her face one more time, hug her neck and say goodbye to her. I wanted to hear that infectious laugh once more, even if it was quieter and softer. But this time, for reasons over which I had no control, it was not to be. I’m glad Glenn made it to Texas in time to converse with her and to see her smile before she won this battle that all the faithful, one day, will win. I want to be faithful and win like she did. 

I personally know (with amazing precision) the hurt through which her daughter will battle on her way to be with her. I was 33 years old when I lost my mother to the same wretched disease. I think that’s exactly the age of Laura’s daughter, Amanda. My children were the ages of hers. My husband was a minister, like hers. It will not be easy. But it will be bearable because of Calvary’s sting removal. Jesus took away the sting of death that’s hopelessness. An old rugged cross made all things new for Laura. The pain on that hill took her’s away–for good–in the valley of the shadow of death. An empty tomb rolled away that one big stone for millions to come; those who’ve been buried and raised with Him. 

I’m not where I want to be today. But Laura is exactly where she wants to be. I well remember standing beside the grave of her tiny firstborn with Laura and Jeff. Her words have echoed in my heart over and over. She said “But I want to go on to heaven now.” 

While, I’m sure that, with the birth of her daughter and later, her second son, she had strong desires to stay and mold and watch as their lives unfolded (and I’m absolutely positive that her inner Lolli was hoping to watch three beautiful and talented grandchildren all the way to adulthood), she never stopped wanting to ultimately go to heaven. 

 I often thought about my own mother and how that, no matter how much I missed her, how hard the days were when I needed her counsel or her affirmation—affirmation that I was doing okay at things that mattered—I still would never have wished her back. How can anyone wish for the return to life—life with sin and dirt and sickness and pain and tears and sorrow and loneliness—for a loved one who left prepared for the place where nothing’s ever been dirty and no one has ever hurt? ( I sometimes think Lazarus must have been pretty frustrated when Jesus called him back to Bethany.)

Instead of wishing her back, you turn to life again and just start wishing yourself and your spouse and your children to be there, in that sorrow-less place. You start wishing it so much more than you ever did before and you wish it more with every new day than you wished it the day before. Oh, you don’t want to go right now. But you REALLY want to go.  You start wishing it so much that every day is a series of decisions that inch you closer and closer to really being there. Friends turn into souls right in front of your eyes. Get-togethers turn into evangelism. Kids’ tournaments and plays and parties turn into golden chances to teach little hearts Matthew 6:33 in myriads of ways. Houses turn into temporary tabernacles and colors and clutter, square footage and styles start to matter less and less as time goes by. Chance meetings and introductions are open service doors and worship assemblies are vestibules of heaven. You see more clearly the median between the narrow lanes of life and the wide way that leads to destruction and your mother-wings are exercised in keeping children out of, not just the broad way, but even off the shoulder of that road. You are intentional about your kids and heaven and the memory of the one who was so intentional with you is a constant affirmation of your life’s work in little hearts. 

And your daddy. That’s a different story. You want him to be happy so badly that you’ll travel almost any distance to let him put his arms around your kids on any holiday, birthday or any day that ends with “y”. His happiness. You want it, but you can never figure out how to make it happen. Nothing, at least for a while, makes him seem truly content. That’s because His center of contentment has relocated. You keep reminding yourself he’s on his way there, too.  And  you rehearse the comforting truth constantly that, when we don’t know what to do, we serve a God who always does know what to do. You find yourself giving up and giving to Him more often and with more faith than you ever thought could grow in your soul. You pray harder than you ever prayed before. You give your daddy over and over to the care and providence of a God that knows the end of His story and Who is already holding and protecting half (maybe even the better half) of that great man.

And  one day, you wake up and, somehow, you are relieved that some of the hardest pain of life is behind you. You look in little faces and see pretty accurate images of your mother’s characteristics; not necessarily her eyes or her nose or even her expressions, but you start to see her humor, her ingenuity, her selflessness and, most importantly, the faith that made her the silent anchor of so many people all around her. And, in that transfer, your children become the precious commodity that you most want to place in heaven with her. 

By and by, your home starts to look more and more like heaven. It becomes an anchoring moor—a  haven of stability and faith— for kids, then teens, then young adults, and finally, grandchildren– who desperately need those staples in this crazy world. You think about how proud your mom would have been of her grandchildren who are bringing glory to the One who’s taking care of her. You think about others who’ve known and loved your kids—people who’ve died —who just might be over there telling your mother about her grandchildren—about their faith, about their baptisms, about their first little sermons or the way they are influencing others for Jesus.  

She’d be happy to know your home is looking more and more like heaven. But really, heaven is looking more and more like home. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Calling Her Blessed Again…

As I am writing it’s Mother’s Day week. This year marks the 27th year since my mother won the battle over cancer and went home. She’s victorious and happy–even blissful, and I would never will her back to the struggling lifestyle that I try to tackle every day. But, still, I miss her like crazy–even now, twenty years hence. The children of the Proverbs 31 woman rose up and called their mother blessed. I know my mother is blessed, especially now–with the Lord, but I don’t know how to call her blessed. As I look back over the chapter, though, I see some things that made the children of Proverbs 31 call their mom blessed. I wonder how, exactly, they called her blessed. Did they tell their friends about the way God worked through the good deeds of their mom? Did other people look at her children and say that those kids were a blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman? Did her children write posts about how blessed their childhoods were because of the mom that made sure they were getting the maternal care they needed both physically and spiritually? If so, where did they post these notes? I do not know exactly how her children called her blessed, but today is my attempt to call my Proverbs 31 mother “blessed”. One thing’s for sure. The ultimate blessings are in the place in which I fully believe my mother is cognizant, rejoicing and awaiting my coming. She is blessed, now, for sure.

The heart of my father trusted my mother, that she would do him good and not evil. I do not remember ever having the first inkling of an idea that my dad ever thought Mother was lying to him, that she might be having an affair or that she was tricking him into getting things her way. In fact, the whole idea of any of those things seems preposterous. My mother never asked me to lie to my father. In fact, she would have spanked me in the “spanking place” if she thought I had lied to him. Not only did he never doubt her honesty, but he trusted her judgment. He trusted my mother to clothe us, to buy Christmas gifts for all of us and the extended family, to buy the groceries and to stock the freezer. He did not have to be a micro-manager. He trusted her.

My mother sought wool and flax and worked willingly with her hands. Her candle did not go out by night. If I close my eyes, I can see her hands. They had a couple of little age spots on them. Her fingers were long and thin and she never had a manicure. They were hard working hands. She had a sign in the little bedroom that doubled as her sewing room that said, “Whoever dies with the most fabric wins.” She won. See, she really did seek wool and flax and polyester and cotton and rayon. She could make anything on that Singer and so she did. I remember coming home from school one day for several weeks in November to a lot of white fur all over the carpets and bedspreads. I wondered if she was having bunnies over to play every day while I was at school. That year on Christmas morning, there were three precious little white fake fur coats for my sisters and me.

I remember many summer mornings when I would awaken to find that she was already out in the hot sun. I would look out the back kitchen door and down the hill I would see her bent over in the butter pea patch. I would try and be quiet, because I knew if she saw me, I would either be picking with her or washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen. If I was ever bored, I did not say so. I knew better. No one in that house ate the bread of idleness.

We did eat well, though. My mother gave meat to her household and a portion to her maidens. I cannot remember ever going hungry. My mother knew what day the meat would be in the marked-down bin at the market and she was willing to get up very early to be there. We did not go out to eat often because that was expensive. Our favorite Sunday night place was called “Traveler’s Rest” and it averaged a full six dollars for our family of six to eat burgers there. But there was always plenty of food on the table at home and it was always delicious. My brother was allergic to chicken, so when we had chicken, we had a small dish of some other kind of meat for him. Everyone was considered and everyone counted. My mother did not carry a couple of dishes to the fellowship meal, either. She carried a huge meat casserole or a couple of fried chickens, several side dishes, some cornbread and a big cake or banana pudding. If my mother ever had a maiden, she would have had plenty to eat, too. And I can never remember one meal around that table when we did not bow our heads and thank the Lord for the food.

My mother considered her purchases and used them well. She was frugal. I actually remember her sending us through multiple lanes at the store, so we could each be a customer and take advantage of “one-per-customer” savings. I remember buying fabric from the remnant bins and canned goods from the dented bin. I remember making our own popsicles and culottes. (Does anybody remember those?) She saved and redeemed green stamps. She sold encyclopedias and she taught school in our little Christian school for our tuition and we all went to school together. She saved the remnants of bars of soap and Daddy melted them down and made big new multi-colored bars. Free outings included the library and window shopping trips. Our shoes came from a little hole-in-the-wall place called “Salvage Shoes,” but we loved going there! She made everything fun and there was no place the kids in her Sunday School class had rather be than in our yard. One of them said one day, “I love going to Johnnia’s. She’s got a gallon of kids!”

She stretched out her hand to the poor and reached out her hands to the needy. My mother sent shoes to the prison where a neighbor boy ended up after his mother left home and he turned to drugs. I remember frequent walks up the street to Mrs. Brackin’s house, when she was feeble, to carry food from our kitchen or garden. I remember how Mother cared for Kathleen and Chris and Patrick when their mother went a little crazy and left them. I remember a little girl we picked up for worship services. She lived in the basement of an old upholstery shop on the Pratt Highway. I remember she didn’t smell good, but she loved coming with us. I remember another man who often rode with our family to worship and two older women, too. I remember Mother finding a place in a Christian orphanage for some children up the street when their parents left them destitute. Most of all, I remember the years and tears and fears of her caring for my grandparents. I remember when that small sewing room was converted to a sick room for them. I remember Mother’s sacrifices of travel and time with my dad. I remember the crowded conditions and the worry about their health. I remember my mother’s attendance at their hospital beds and their death beds. I remember the agony she suffered when they left empty spaces after her years of care.

My mother made tapestries and coverings. She used quilting frames suspended from the ceiling. They made walking through the small living room next to impossible. She made at least four quilts and coverings for my babies’ nurseries. As I write, I have company up in my guest room and she is sleeping under one of those quilts. My mother was keenly interested in making all kinds of things. She embroidered and smocked and made dolls and aprons. She made sweatsuits and curtains, stuffed bears and potholders, purses and pajamas. We wore handmade dresses and coats and bonnets. We had the best halloween costumes and great parts in school plays because the teacher knew she could count on our costume designer. Christmas spilled out everywhere in our little house. We, in short, had it made. We had it all made by our mother.

She opened her mouth with wisdom and kindness. Time and space constrain me, but let me just say that profundity is when an adult can think back and still remember phrases and their intonations—phrases that were spoken forty-plus years ago. Things like:

“Cindy, if you read your Bible and find out that I have taught you something that’s not right, you do what the Bible says. Know that doing that is what will make me happy.”

“Cindy, people who make fun of you for doing the right thing are the same people who, really, deep down in their hearts, respect you for it. One day you will learn that.”

“Cindy, you had better be very careful about everything you do, because there are two little sisters who are watching every move you make and they want to be just like you.”

“Cindy, don’t ever let your boyfriend give you money. that’s just not respectable.”

My mother feared the Lord. I really believe this was the trump card that made all of the above so evident in her life. She had this amazing way of boiling all of the decisions of daily life down to the question, “What is most pleasing to God?” The question was pervasive and invasive, and we visited it and revisited it on a daily basis. Conviction took us to every service and to run the children’s bus program an hour before each service of the church. Conviction had her sew a gym uniform for me that met all the class standards but had extra length for modesty. Conviction had a class full of middle school girls learning about fearing the Lord. Conviction had her spending time with them outside the classroom in cook-outs in our yard and in flower-picking trips to make bouquets for girls who were leaving for college. Conviction had her opening up that worn-out Bible and showing us passages relevant to some raunchy attitude she was seeing in us or some discourteous remark made. If we weren’t careful, she was assigning us long passages to learn; passages that she deemed appropriate to help adjust our attitudes or demeanor (and we weren’t even home schoolers). The Bible was just like a giant magnet in the middle of the metal of our lives. It was the control, the draw, the reference point.

I cannot remember anyone ever commenting that my mother was charming. But many people of all ages filed by her casket in October of 1992 and commented that she was the best Bible teacher they had ever had. They cited that she had made the Bible come alive or that she had made even the outcast among them feel worthy. That night I was glad for the fulfillment of the prophetic proverb: Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

This has been long. If you only could know how selective I have been, you would appreciate the post for its brevity. My mother was not perfect. She was often weakened by sin, but then strengthened by the power of His might. She struggled with evil, but overcame with prayer. She sometimes fainted, but was renewed by the Spirit. See, though she was larger than life to this little girl, she was only human. I had to grow up to know she wasn’t really perfect. And, just about the time I began to see her human-ness, the possibility that she had flaws, her mortal limitations, she went and put on immortality. My mother really is sinless now. She is perfect, flawless, completely invincible. I can truly call her blessed.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Have you ever heard of Green Berry Holder?”

We’ve worshipped together for 15-plus years now. The Mark Holder family has been dear to the Colley family for all of those years. Mark is the deacon in our congregation who keeps our tract ministry going. I love his wife Susan and they have three faithful Christian children now (all of which were very small children when we first moved to work with the West Huntsville church). Mark has a voice that’s James Taylor-esque and it’s every bit as smooth and rich. He and his sweet daughter, Emma, performed together at our West Huntsville holiday party again this year. It’s a highlight for us every time I get to hear them. 

I’d often go to the mailbox when little Katie Holder (she’s in the middle of the photo), Mark and Susan’s oldest, was growing up and find letters written in pencil to our daughter, Hannah, who was about seven years older than Katie…sweet notes forging a friendship that was encouraging to Hannah, giving her a bit of a mentor responsibility to Katie (who is now in grad school, by the way). Katie attended the guest table at Hannah’s wedding. Emma Holder, the youngest daughter of Mark and Susan, is now a college student and, just this week, met me at the church building to give a sewing lesson to a couple of girls in the youth group, so they could complete their Lads to Leaders Keepers projects. Emma is beautiful, talented, and, best of all, faithful to our Lord. Ethan Holder, the youngest of their three children, is active in a busy youth group, loves baseball, and has a dry sense of humor. We love the Holders.

So you can understand, since my maiden name is Holder, how that, fifteen years ago, when we moved to West Huntsville, I quickly tried to determine if there was a relationship between my family and Mark’s. Sadly, our ancestors seemed to be from different areas of the country, and Mark had no knowledge of any links to connect our families. Still though, the Holders, were among our biggest spiritual encouragers. Watching the girls grow from smocked bishop dresses to formals at the senior banquets, watching them graduate from kindergarten and then, seemingly the next week, from high school and, one of them, even from college, has been a surreal witnessing of the quick and sweet evaporation of childhood. 

And then, one Wednesday night, this year, Mark came up to me and said “Now, have you ever heard of Green Berry Holder?”

Well, “Green Berry” is not just a name you’d find multiple times in a genealogy search. It’s not like Mike, Jeff, or James on a document or a tombstone, of course. He had my attention as I replied, “Yes. Green Berry Holder is my great-great grandfather, and there can’t be but one Green Berry Holder…”

“And he is MY great-great grandfather, too,” Mark said. 

And so we are cousins. Our common ancestor is only four generations back. Green Berry Holder was married to Mary Rhodes and they were the parents of twelve children, one of which was Jabus, my great-grandfather, and one of which was Josiah, Mark’s great-grandfather. Records indicate that Josiah was the firstborn and just a year or so older than Jabus.  The brothers  and the rest of the family had some hard times while their father, Green Berry, served in the Alabama Infantry during the Civil War. It was after he fought in several battles that he was wounded near Atlanta in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek and returned home.

It was wonderful fun for me to find out that Mark’s great-grandfather grew up with mine during those days prior to and during the war between the states. It’s fun to think about how many colloquialisms we might share in our speech or what similar genetic traits might still influence our kids due to our common ancestors, Green Berry and Mary. It’s fun to talk about the stories of individuals on the family tree and to think about how my grandfather, who often held me on his knee when I was a very young child, had likely known Mark’s grandfather and maybe had mourned his recent passing, even though Mark’s grandfather was living in Tennessee at the time of his passing.

Most of all, I’m extremely blessed to think about how it is that each Sunday, Mark and I sit in the same room and sing praises to our Father, even though our branches of the family tree came about knowing His truth in very different ways. My grandfather, John Franklin Holder, learned the truth and became a faithful man of God. I am not sure when or where he learned the gospel, but I know he was a member of the Lord’s church by the time the family lived in the  sweet old Peaceburg community in the early part of the last century. One of my siblings has the original bell that rang when it was time for the services in that little building. Mark, on the other hand, is a first-generation member of the church of Christ. He first attended with a classmate in college and searched on his own, finding the way to lead his family to heaven. 

As much fun as it has been to discover an earthly kinship, the truth about family is not lost on me. What I love most about the Mark Holder family did not deepen or change or evolve when I learned that we descended from the same great-great grandfather. It’s the heavenly Father who gives us the characteristics that make us close. It’s not the facts that you find on ancestry.com that provide your truest kinship. It’s the spiritual ancestry…the fact that we are spiritual children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).  That kinship makes us most similar in priorities, goals and matters of the heart. It’s not what you find on a tombstone somewhere; it’s the connection to our final and real resting place around the throne. It’s not what you find of good or bad  (and we have found both) in the lives of the people on the tree. It’s the good (the complete and perfect good) we both have found in that man on Calvary’s tree that gives us the precious family that means the most in this life. 

I’m eternally grateful for the man on my family tree who first contacted the blood of Jesus. I’m thankful for the one who first invited Mark Holder to study the scriptures. Most of all, I am thankful for the family tree…the one at Calvary…that makes us blood kin in the primary and eternal sense of the word “family.”

As I studied Green Berry Holder, I found that the words below are inscribed on his old tombstone in Jacksonville, Alabama:

I have fought a good fight

I have finished my course

I have kept the faith

I hope to go and see that stone in the very near future. May Mark and I be able to confidently say these same words on another glad day that’s also inevitably in the very near future!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Lillian Howard on Fear’s Paralyzation-Part 2

(Upcoming: The Digging Deep podcast for October is next Tuesday night.I hope you can join us and we would love to have your comments in the live chat. Comments are a great enrichment to the study’s scope, of course. The winner of the international writing contest for kids will be announced here next Monday, so be watching for that, especially if you are one of those who submitted an entry. Every entry represented a great effort and a significant investment of time.)

How do we stop fear?

To begin with, remember it’s a growth process. You don’t wake up one day and suddenly have no fear any more than you wake up one day and suddenly know everything the Bible teaches on love. And it does start with courage. You’ll never conquer a fear if you don’t do it, and you’ll never do it without courage.

Next, remember why we don’t have to fear.

… the LORD is with you while ye be with him; and if ye seek him he will be found of you… 2 Chronicles 15:2

… If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

… for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:5-6

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? Psalm 118:6

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 1 Peter 3:12-14

The almighty God is with us. We have our Creator and unfailing Lord on our side! His eyes are over us as we practice righteousness! What really is there to fear? The Lord even gives us a specific promise in Matthew 28:20. He promises us specifically that he is with us as we spread his word!

God is on our side, but he doesn’t just root from the sidelines. He does so much more than that.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Isaiah 40:29

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:14

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2Corinthians 12:9

But the God of all grace, … make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 1Peter 5:10

God gives us strength as we apply our courage. Psalm 46:1-2, Isaiah 12:2, and 26:4 also show that he is our source of strength to help us overcome our obstacles. And part of how he does that is through a magnificent gift.

These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk there in, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means… 2 Thessalonians 3:16

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15

Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

When we walk with him, he gives us peace. He conquered the world, and now we can have peace. He is the very Lord of peace! But my favorite verses from this are in Philippians and Colossians.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7).

But let the peace of God rule in your hearts (Col.3:15).

Peace keeps our hearts and minds from all the cares, fears, and troubles that we give to God, 1Peter 5:7. Peace rules in our hearts, which means it has conquered the fears and troubles that once lived there.

Remember back to our verses against trouble and fear. One definition of the word ‘troubled’ in these verses is ‘causing inward commotion and taking away calmness, or peace of mind’.

In closing, let’s notice 2 Timothy 2:22:

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

We have to follow peace. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t just come to us in this wonderful epiphany. Righteousness, love, and faith come from God. But that doesn’t mean they just come to us. We have to try to be righteous, try to have proper love, try to keep our faith. In the same way, peace is a gift of God, and we didn’t earn it. But we have to let it rule in our hearts. We have to remember that God is with us and give our cares to him.

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. Psalm 37:37

Uprightness brings peace. Let’s remember that as we face this tempting and often terrifying world.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Lillian Howard on Fear’s Paralyzation

I’ve been thinking about how our Digging Deep  study, Authority, is not for the fearful. I have already been called on to do some major self-examination and ready myself for submission in important ways that I have been tempted to ignore.  Recently while speaking in the state of Missouri, I met Lillian Howard. Lilly is still in high school, but she has her own personal arsenal of written defensive missiles against our great spiritual enemy. Listen to her words (and the Lord’s) about the danger of our own fear, specifically about how our fears  can make us ashamed of our Lord. They are convicting. Here’s Lillian:

In Revelation 21:8, God gives us one of several lists telling of those who will not enter Heaven. It has such people as the unbelievers, murderers, and liars. But it is the first one that really catches my attention. Fearful.

In this verse, fearful means timid or cowardly. Cowardice is succumbing to fear. Cowards will be kept out of Heaven. But why? Obviously because God said so, but why did he say so? I think we understand why most of these others are wrong. If you don’t believe, you can’t even begin to do anything else God commands us. Murder is the unlawful taking of a life, made in the image of God. And lying breaks down trust and our influence. But what does cowardice do that makes it so serious?

First, succumbing to fear can make us ashamed.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord… 2 Timothy 1:7-8

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory… Luke 9:26

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven. Matthew 10:33

Clearly, being ashamed of the one who died for us is a serious matter, as is being ashamed of his gospel. It is, after all, the power that saves us, Romans 1:16.

Second, fear can keep us from doing what we know is right. Remember Esther? She had the chance to save her entire race from annihilation. But she was scared. It could cost her her life. In a nutshell, Mordecai told her, opportunity + ability = obligation. It’s not as though she didn’t have a choice. But cowardice would have cost her and her family immensely, Esther 4:14.

We are given a similar command in James 4:17-

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Next time: What Can We Do about Fear?

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Lights of Glory

How sweet to hold a newborn baby

And feel the pride and the joy he gives

But greater still the calm assurance

This child can face uncertain days because He Lives.

As we sang these words last night at our service of praise, I just had a huge “catch” in my heart and voice. Realizing the depth  of the uncertainty that lies in our tolerant, morally unfettered world, I know that the newborn I will prayerfully hold this week, will face uncertain days. I immediately thought about how that my sweet father, who left this uncertain world last December, would have loved to have held the firstborn child of his firstborn grandson. (That’s my dad in the picture with Caleb all those years ago.) Their lives on this earth almost intersected. In truth, the lives did intersect. For a few days at the end of Dad’s life, both the brand new heart and the 95-year-old one were beating. Dad just never got to know about this intersection of life. Singing those words—any words, really—about the great hope we share with most of you who are reading, just arrests my emotions, of late. I had to stop singing and cry for a moment.

But then, there’s this last empowering verse and chorus. It’s the chorus that dries tears, replaces fears, and lets me sing again: 

And then one day, I’ll cross that river

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain

And then, as death gives way to vict’ry

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future

And life is worth the living

Just because He lives.

The truth is, by faith, I already know He reigns. Because He has made death His last enemy (I Cor. 15:25,26)…because the angel announced truthfully “He is not here, but He is risen,” (Matthew 28:6)…little Maggie can face uncertain days. She will face them with a fearless devotion to the One who has the last word over every enemy. 

Because He lives, the verses of life that bring sorrow are followed by verses that bring courage and anticipation. Of course, the last verse is the best. After the days in an uncertain world, where persecution surely could be a part of the landscape for Christians, there will be a day when pain and death give way to victory. We will see the lights of glory and fear will be a thing of the past. 

There are actually a couple of families, to whom I am very closely connected in Him, that are almost sure to be holding newborn babies by the end of this week. We will count their fingers and toes and marvel at the softness of newborn skin and try to catch the gaze of eyes that can’t yet focus. Proud fathers and grandfathers will be amazed by features that are most certainly inherited from “our side of the family.” But the real marvel will be the unseen feature housed in those tiny little bodies; little souls entrusted to the care of determined parents, who by faith can already catch a glimmer of the lights of glory…just because He lives!

There’s nothing new in the power of those three words “because He lives.” But sometimes, when I think about the decisive eternal victory that happened when that stone was rolled away and linen grave clothes were folded and left behind, I wonder how people, who have not looked into the empty tomb, can make it through the uncertain days. How can they overcome days of hopelessness when there is no light at the end of the tunnel? How can they bury loved ones and then “get on with things”, when the reality of death, for them, holds such finality? How can they ever “come back” from reeling reversals in health or finances, when they see no larger purpose than remaining healthy and wealthy? How can they suffer through the woes of bad moral choices, when there is, for them, no system of redemption? 

I guess they just function out of “expected normalcy” and take temporary joy from the blessings that our God generously rains down on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But I’m so glad there’s a whole different shower of blessings for obedient believers. I love standing in that rain!

One day, when we’ve been there ten thousand years (if time could even be measured there), the little intersections of life on this planet will seem so momentary. Our lives on earth will be the tiniest dot in an eternal sphere.  But the choices in this brief moment we call life—our reaction to His empty tomb— make the dot remarkable. That makes the week (on the dot) in front of you and me significant. May the transactions, blessings, meetings, gifts, jobs, accomplishments, friendships and family that fill our planners this week be appropriate reactions to the victory He heralded when he walked away from that borrowed tomb.  Some events of the week will seem more significant than others. But life matters, this week, for all of us. Because He lives.

(Because He Lives, lyrics by Bill Gaither, Songs of Faith and Praise)